IT IS TEMPTING to compare Alan Chaffee and Alissa Leinonen and their five children between them to America’s most famous blended family.
The Bradys, however, have nothing on this bunch. Their house never went to sea. Never sailed off to foreign shores for a new life.
But in 1999 Chaffee and Leinonen’s sturdy Bainbridge Island Tudor — slate on the roof, arches in the doorways, all of it outlined in box hedges, dripping baby-pink climbing roses — did just that. No longer wanted on its prime Medina lot, this home and two others were barged away. All purchased by a Bainbridge developer who had the courtesy to include the custom homes (including Kenny G’s carriage house) for some instant neighborhood patina.
And, oh, what a life the Tudor has found here.
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“Alan said, ‘This is ridiculous. We’re in our 40s. We can’t be boyfriend and girlfriend with all these kids,’ ” laughs Leinonen. She is seated before a proper Tudor fireplace, oversized and built to serve: feudal. And beneath handhewn beams that bear the structure upon beefy shoulders. “We were waiting to get married until we found the house. That was important to me. We needed a big, old house with lots of rooms. And I was determined to get those kids bedrooms all on one floor.
“Oh, no problem, we thought. But it was. It was a big problem.”
Eventually they fell upon the Tudor. It was perfect. Six bedrooms upstairs, three more down, five fireplaces, all wood-burners: 10,000 square feet of room to roam. Chaffee and Leinonen got married in the parklike backyard, a wedding party full of kids. Puget Sound, in blue, across the street.
For a house full of kids 6 to 14, it’s awfully quiet today. “The big girls are in cooking camp, and the little ones are out looking for starfish,” Leinonen says. She owns Gourmondo Catering .(“All of the kids have knife skills, and they all know how to go out and pick the herbs.”) And he, Turning Point, a financial consulting firm.
Leinonen is very Mom-minded. And while their home, built for the Alhadeff family in 1982, includes fine hand-painted wallpaper from Zuber & Cie in the dining room, a pattern 200 years old, every square inch must be fit for all ages. Just as each kid has his/her chores, this one belongs to Leinonen. And interior designer Tim De Clue.
“We were very intimidated when we bought this house. We moved in, and I thought, ‘Geez, where did all the furniture go?’ ” Leinonen says. “Tim has been great. I have a monthly budget, so I can call him and say, ‘Tim can you help me with these three things?’ I can tell him that I need an office rug and I’ve got $1,200, and he’ll find it.”
The result finds the home looking quite Gatsby. The new dignity a blend of secondhand, Craigslist, Ikea, Restoration Hardware and Masins. All done with the kids in mind (entrance-hall tables feature terrariums, not bouquets, that the kids can study and add their own found treasures).
“Tim has saved me money. He’s found deals, and he made it all cohesive,” Leinonen says.
It hasn’t all gone without adventure, though. “We invested in one good rug, Turkish, for our bedroom,” Leinonen says. “Then all five kids got sick at once. We woke up to a kid in our room. Alan said, ‘Who are you?’ He said, ‘Jake. I have to throw up.’ Alan was out of that bed . . . They didn’t quite make it.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.