After years of thinking about moving to Bainbridge Island, a couple finally takes the plunge, building green on an old foundation and taking advantage of open spaces to see the view and create studio rooms to make art.
photographed by Benjamin Benschneider
JOHN AND ANN Livengood took a good, hard look at life on Bainbridge Island back in the early 1990s — pretty place, quiet nights, remote but close. They thought about it, then resumed their previously scheduled lives in a Craftsman on Queen Anne Hill.
Then life began to pile up. And two kids and a getaway house (complete with its own set of chores) later, Bainbridge Island still haunted them.
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“The kids were getting to be at the age when it’s harder to get them out to Cle Elum,” John says, speaking of Grace, 11, and Owen, 8. “So we thought, let’s sell both houses and buy a vacation house we can live in.”
And so they did. But still a little trepid about committing to island life, the Livengoods gave the old “bungalowy thing” they purchased in Eagle Harbor a one-season tryout. If it failed, they would sell.
“It was the best summer of our lives,” John says. “The kids spent it on the water, which is our backyard.”
The Livengoods were at last committed. An architect was called.
“As John said at the time, he wanted to be married at the end of the process,” says Ann, explaining why even though she herself used to design homes for Peter Stoner Architects, the couple sought out Lane Williams of Coop15 for this contemporary but warm family home. Their year-old home, in 3,100 square feet, offers privacy while reaching for the beach outside their door — nothing between themselves and the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry but walls of glass.
“His houses have great scale,” Ann says, sitting on the living-room sofa, the family’s two dogs like canine area rugs at her feet. She is admiring all that she can see around her: the 9 1/2-foot ceilings washed a beachy white, steel bookshelves lining the walnut-stained alder wall, the study for both grown-ups and kids tucked nearby.
Nothing is lost on the architectural-designer client. Nor on her advertising creative-director husband: John was inspired by the process to create a website discussion about building greener, more sustainable homes, www.ecomajority.com.
Introducing it, he writes, “When my wife and I decided we wanted to build a new house, we agreed that we wanted to approach all aspects of the project with sustainability in mind. We soon discovered that it was hard to be green. There were no black-and-white decisions. Every decision was complex — a thousand shades of gray. . . . Some may look at our house and say we didn’t go far enough. Others might say we must have made decisions as matters of principle because they may not make economic sense. In fact, both criticisms are true.”
The house incorporates the old foundation. Materials were chosen for minimal maintenance: Ceraclad siding, triple-paned aluminum windows and doors. Interiors include heated concrete floors, reclaimed maple stair treads, kitchen counters made from recycled composites, alder cabinets.
“We knew what we wanted down to the faucets,” Ann says. “Big, open space that took advantage of the water. Rooms not huge but that functioned well.”
“And room to showcase art,” John adds.
Boy, is there ever. The art walk begins at the front door with a heavenly light-filled hallway. Attached to the garage are his and hers studios: his for painting, hers for metal smithing.
“We try not to leave here during the summer,” John says. “But we do ski other places than just Snoqualmie now.”
Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.