A couple who met on a blind date makes the most of a second chance in a spalike home with plenty of room for grandkids.
HE LIVED HIGH on a bluff. She had a cabin on the beach. Unknowingly, they shared a love of the Pacific Northwest (generally), Whidbey Island (specifically) and family (especially), along with a history of love and loss (he was widowed; she was divorced). Geographically, categorically, they were strangers — solo islanders separated by 3 miles, and a total unawareness of the other.
Pfft, said Fate; I’ve got this.
“One day I met a landscape guy,” says Gary West, the “he” of the high bluff. “I said, ‘You don’t know any cute girls I could take out for a glass of wine, do you?’ He knew.”
Of course he did: Diane, the “she” of the beach.
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“We had a blind date at Purple Cafe in Kirkland,” Gary says. And even though Diane, a retired teacher, had conspired a just-in-case rescue scenario with a former student who worked there (“Can I signal you if this doesn’t work?”), the only signals sent were divinely green lights. “We got engaged at Café Campagne on New Year’s Eve,” Gary says, “and had our wedding dinner there.”
And now Gary and Diane share a last name, their lives — and, along with places in Kirkland and Arizona, a breathtaking new 3,400-square-foot home on a high bluff on Whidbey, with its own broad beach and plenty of room indoors and out for their combined five children and six grandchildren.
They shared inspiration for this home, too — the “curved roof and stone” of Cave B Inn in Quincy, Wash. — which architect Eric Richmond of Flat Rock Productions and builder The Roth Co. turned into a truly inspired wonder of curved roof and stone.
Inside, the Wests turned to longtime family friend/rug expert Michael Andonian (“We figured a rug guy knows good designers,” Diane says), who did, in fact, know a good designer: LeeAnn Baker (LeeAnn Baker Interiors).
The Wests shared a design vision, too: “We wanted things very spalike, minimalist and low-key — everything a sense of calm,” Diane says. “Just a contemporary minimalist Northwest feel, timeless and casual, with room for everybody.”
The first-level great room — which is so great, it soars up two levels under a spectacularly curved ceiling — sets the soothing tone straightaway. It’s the perfect sanctuary “at night, in front of the fireplace, and in the morning, soaking up sunshine,” Diane says.
“The goal was to have a place to entertain, but the majority of the time it’s just the two of them, so there’s a big room for entertaining and a more intimate second living area,” Baker says. “We wanted to minimize colors and materials, really kind of keeping things tranquil. The majority of the real color is in the artwork and outside.”
Here the Wests used sofas and chairs they already owned, so Baker “focused on cabinetry, material, the fireplace, colors, lighting and rugs” (naturally, from Andonian).
Throughout the home, materials and colors tend to reappear (“Some people get hung up on, ‘Every room has to be different,’ ” Gary says.), as do processes (“The edge detail on countertops and shelves is vertical,” Baker says; “all other is horizontal.”). Substantial customized elements (handcrafted cabinetry designed by Baker, four slightly varied indoor fireplaces) practically and beautifully carry the aesthetic.
“LeeAnn found a fabulous cabinetmaker (Dan Uchytil, of Uchytil’s Custom Woodworking),” says Gary. “Her designs and Dan’s craftsmanship really make the house.”
“We started with Dan just in the kitchen,” says Diane, “and it became one room after another. Anywhere we could put it.”
So for Diane’s office, Baker designed shelving to display photos (lots) of the Wests’ grandchildren, and Diane’s collected children’s books (lots and lots). In the master bedroom, Baker designed the built-in bed, bedframe and drawers, and shelving that stretches all the way up. And in the upstairs hallway (“One of my favorite parts,” Diane says), 12-inch-deep shelves and drawers, of quarter-sawn oak with flecking, create the ideal space for mementos, and splendor.
For the fireplaces, Baker says, “We liked the look of the rusted metal panels Eric used on the outside, but not the prices,” so each uniquely designed fireplace is happily clad in porcelain tile or black granite, incorporating some combination of TV and bookshelves, all calm and relaxed and cohesive, like it was meant to be.
“Everything just came together in this house,” Gary says. “A lot of people who worked on it say this is their favorite house. We developed some great relationships and maintained them.”
Including, of course, the first, most foundational one.
“Gary and I are the poster children for second chances,” Diane says.