An Ames Lake couple collaborates with building and landscape designers to create a retirement home with pavilions that connect to each other — and, especially, to nature.

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THERE’S NO PLACE like home. Dorothy might have said it most famously (and repeatedly), but it’s quite possible Paul and Laurie Bride say it most purposefully.

“We weren’t creating a house,” Paul says of the couple’s amazingly thought-out Ames Lake retirement home, nestled in the forest as naturally as a curled-up fawn. “We were creating a living place. ‘Place’ means a lot of things to peoples and cultures. It’s not just where you are and what you do; it’s what you use, how you use the environment — all have a lot to do with a sense of the place where you are.”

The Brides, who met working at Boeing and have been married since 1976, certainly know their place. They knew it so thoroughly, they presented co-creators Stephen Bobbitt (Stephen Bobbitt Architects) and Patrick Leuner (Leuner Landscape Design) with an exceptionally detailed vision of it.

“We had strong desires in terms of what we wanted,” Paul says: wildlife, views, nature; southerly exposure; minimum site disruption; maximum accessibility; natural materials; quiet areas, for reading or listening to music; and more-active ones.

Three of the home’s four pavilions are connected by identical closed hallways (links), all the same width and height. This entry link connects the Commons to the bedroom pavilion, with the home’s only stairs at the far end. (This is the Brides’ retirement home, so the link is outfitted with a wheelchair stair lift in case it’s needed later.) (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Three of the home’s four pavilions are connected by identical closed hallways (links), all the same width and height. This entry link connects the Commons to the bedroom pavilion, with the home’s only stairs at the far end. (This is the Brides’ retirement home, so the link is outfitted with a wheelchair stair lift in case it’s needed later.) (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

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“It’s the most comprehensive program I’ve ever received from a client, down to particular colors in the garden: reds that shift toward the purple end of the spectrum,” says Bobbitt, who worked with the Brides on a previous home in the 1980s. “Good info.”

Even better results.

Inspired by the Cedar River Watershed Education Center near North Bend, and the result of “close collaboration” between owners and designers, the Brides’ ultra-custom home groups and connects buildings — all while connecting buildings, and residents, to nature.

“Stephen created the concept of a set of four pavilions,” Paul says:

The Commons: A grand skylighted great room whose cathedral-ceiling Douglas fir paneling was milled from trees on-site. “For a long time, squirrels and birds were building nests in them,” Paul says. “We’ve used them respectfully again as shelter.”

The Bedroom: A quiet echo of the living room: more native wood, but a slightly lower ceiling. Also a guest bedroom and bathroom, plus the pretty-and-functional office and laundry.

The Garage: That place you park a car is so much more here, forming a pavilion with a lower-level exercise/rec room, mudroom, bathroom and shower.

The Workshop: Across the way, the only one detached, for wood- and metalworking.

Douglas fir milled from trees on-site covers the cathedral ceiling in the great room, with maple cabinetry throughout the kitchen. “None of the design decisions were made without discussion of what fit with the aesthetic,” Paul Bride says: “What’s local? What would give it an indigenous feel?” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Douglas fir milled from trees on-site covers the cathedral ceiling in the great room, with maple cabinetry throughout the kitchen. “None of the design decisions were made without discussion of what fit with the aesthetic,” Paul Bride says: “What’s local? What would give it an indigenous feel?” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

From outside, all four pavilions share the same basic gable appearance and form. The three connecting pavilions are joined by closed hallway links, all the same width, height and pitch all the way through. A grand-piano entryway distinguishes the center link; a short stairway leads to the garage pavilion on one end; and a convertible screened porch, with the exact 12-foot-wide profile and 4/12 pitch of a link, pushes out the other.

“The links are the circulation spine,” Bobbitt says. “There’s a heightened contrast between the links and the pavilions: exposed framing, different roof pitches, glazing. They have much different character than the pavilions to make them feel like a covered walkway.”

The other distinct link: nature, nature — everywhere.

A perfect spot for crossword puzzles and up-close nature viewing, the seating area in the great room looks through expansive Lindal windows toward an “intensively landscaped pond.”  (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
A perfect spot for crossword puzzles and up-close nature viewing, the seating area in the great room looks through expansive Lindal windows toward an “intensively landscaped pond.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“There’s lots of interaction with what’s going on outside: animal inhabitants, environment, weather,” Paul says. “To me it’s just natural to be in and amongst nature. You couldn’t get me to live in a downtown high-rise. I want to be where the critters are.”

This is the place for critters. The Brides’ decidedly non-high-rise home sits on 2.5 peaceful, private acres of a 20-acre parcel that was split into four lots; 12.5 acres in the middle are protected, with a “critter magnet” of a pond hiding in a 50-foot depression. “You can’t see it, but you know it’s there,” Paul says.

You can see the critters, though: hummingbirds, year-round. Deer, naturally. Black bear, right there on the walkway last October. Squirrels of many colors. Raccoons, chipmunks, coyotes. Salamanders, frogs, newts. Ducks, woodpeckers, “pterodactyl-like” blue heron. Sitting areas near windows are designed precisely for wildlife-watching. (Laurie’s favorite is in the master bedroom; Paul prefers a bigger chair overlooking their own, smaller pond or, as Bobbitt calls it, “the training pond.”)

And, because this place is their habitat, too, accessibility — now and in the future — also is a priority.

Paul Bride says the Asian-inspired entry gatehouse conveys “a strong presence that here you cross a boundary. What’s inside this compound is very distinct from what goes on in the developed world.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)
Paul Bride says the Asian-inspired entry gatehouse conveys “a strong presence that here you cross a boundary. What’s inside this compound is very distinct from what goes on in the developed world.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

“This is our retirement home,” Laurie says. So the stairway link houses a wheelchair stair lift, in case. The garage pavilion could function as a separate living area — or a caretaker’s residence.

It’s all “the result of many years’ planning … including features to enable them to age in place,” Bobbitt says. “All of that — along with a quintessential Northwest wooded site — is a part of their somewhat unique story.”

And their clearly one-of-a-kind place.

“When I talk about place, it’s not outside, inside or a building,” Paul says. “It’s always a place for us, and everything outside.”