With waves and views all around, a Hat Island home is tranquillity personified. Easy-flowing spaces, a separate bunkhouse and privacy walls outside add to the sense of shelter and simplicity.
ONE HAS A lot of time to think on Hat Island. Close to Whidbey Island and Mukilteo, it’s still a faraway place where the ferry, carrying a crowd of, oh, 16 or so, sometimes runs once a day.
Seems the afternoon’s favorite activity on a warm summer afternoon (after, perhaps, a morning of golfing on the island course) is sittin’ on the deck. Just sittin’. The more motivated might also read or write or take a break to see how far they can throw a rock into the water. But it’s really all about the sittin’, lulled into relaxed immobility by the lap, lap, lapping waves on the beach.
This tranquillity is pure reward because “building on an island is not for the faint of heart,” says Leslie Ruiter. She speaks for many around these parts.
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This, however, was especially true in the Ruiter family’s case; erecting a contemporary house on the quaint Hat Island shore, soil issues galore, all construction materials barged in, all furniture packed flat and hauled aboard the Ruiters’ old 30-foot sailboat.
“We’re from Atlanta, and I’ve always wanted a little lake house,” Leslie says. “When we lived in Georgia we had a fund for that. But we had to use every penny we had to move from Georgia to Seattle and buy just one house.”
That was 12 years ago. Then a Scout trip in 2003 for one of the kids (ages 15, 11 and 8) brought them to this private island west of Everett. The blue heron fishing off the dock hooked Leslie.
“We bought land by the end of the year,” she says. “Then we started looking for Chris.”
“We” is a vacation-home-owner trio. Leslie, a trademark and copyright attorney, her husband, Steve, an actuary, and their friend, Nate DeYoung, who does venting/insulation work. Chris is their architect: Chris Serra of BjarkoSerra Architects (www.bjarkoserra.com).
This was an involved group. Leslie helped manage the project. Steve worked on financing and painting. DeYoung worked with the contractor.
And Serra? “I believe in giving a talented person free rein. We just gave him a few pictures, told him we wanted warm, modern and open, and he took it from there,” Leslie says.
“The only thing I did was give him the dimensions of the bedrooms. Each had to fit a queen-size bed and a pullout. And no closet; nobody packs a closet for a weekend. I learned that from taking the kids to music camp. That’s all you need for a family.”
So Serra ran with that. He designed two separate buildings of CB cement board and cedar channel siding in a small footprint, 2,300 square feet. The beachfront pavilion is low and open: living, dining, kitchen. The two-story bunkhouse behind it is a contemporary den for sleeping and reading: five bedrooms. The entire home looks larger with decks that wrap everywhere and provide flow between the two structures. A concrete wall to the north with three vertical beach-view cutouts blocks the wind and the neighbor’s view.
“All the views from every window are unique. I don’t know how he did that,” Leslie says.
Interior designer Julie Myers of JMD Consultants lent her expertise.”Julie drew up everything, and I said, ‘OK, I can find those,” Leslie says. And she did, often on Craigslist. The dining-room rug, the bamboo dining table with the blackened-steel legs, rattan chairs, bar stools, more.
“It turned out kinda beachy, and that’s funny because we weren’t trying to do that. But it’s still modern. It’s beach comfortable.”
Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.