LOTS OF folks have lots of reasons for wanting their own piece of land out of town.
This is Sara’s: “I was pregnant, and I went to hear Richard Louv speak at Town Hall. I came out of there and I’m saying, ‘I can’t raise a child just in the city!’ ”
Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” is a child-advocacy expert who links the lack of nature (he calls it nature-deficit) in the lives of the wired generation to some of the most disturbing childhood trends: obesity, depression, attention disorders.
Sara, a zoologist, was horrified. She could not allow such a disconnect for her soon-to-arrive son. “I wanted woods, salamanders and pileated woodpeckers,” she says.
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Sara and her husband, Jed, went right out and snagged nine secluded and thoroughly wooded acres on Vashon Island.
Then they set up camp.
“We didn’t have the money to build right away, so we put up all these tents,” Sara says. “We had a toilet tent, a kitchen tent, a Costco tent and a three-dome, 10-person tent with two queen blowup beds.” The Census Bureau, believing it to be a commune, left them an official-type inquiry asking how many people lived there. Just the three.
The tents are gone now. In their place is the new, timber-frame cabin the family gets away to every chance they get — a place that is open yet compact, contemporary yet cozy, complete with a screened-in “porch” that expands the main living space whether the NanaWall folding-glass doors are open or not.
“Out here, my husband is a full-on Paul Bunyan,” Sara laughs. “He’s out there hacking trails and chopping wood. I’m going to get him a mule!”
(Jed should be concerned. They already have a dog, chickens, three horses and a rather large rabbit. “His name is Winter,” Sara says of the latter. “But Jed calls him We’re Not Keeping Him.” They are.)
Most of the time Jed is very busy not being Paul Bunyan with his all-consuming job in downtown Seattle. “I promise you,” Sara says, “he does not decompress until he comes here. Then he cooks breakfast, he makes dinner, he bakes bread.”
Jed explains: “It’s the ferry. You just switch gears on the ferry. Plus, Vashon’s special. There’s everything to do and nothing.” Standing before the blackened-steel hearth he says, “I’m a big fan of fires. In the city you get up and go to work. Here, I get up and make a fire.”
The home was designed by FabCab (and architect Emory Baldwin), a Seattle architecture firm that advocates environmentally minded homes prefabricated and built for aging in place. It was built by Greg Kruse of Potential Energy. The family’s cabin, customized, is rated three stars by Built-Green (an environmental building program of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish counties) for its structural insulated panels and three-pane windows. Concrete floors have radiant heat, which Sara can control anywhere using her iPhone.
Architect Tamra Groh, who remodeled the family’s Green Lake home, helped with interior spaces. Roche Bobois’ Mah Jong modular sofa system commands the living room in orange, cherry, lime, a pink stripe and a Missoni pattern. Before the fireplace sits Ligne Roset’s Togo sofa in smokey gray. Walls are bravely black (Soot from Benjamin Moore, entry and master) or jade or eggplant.
Cabinets are Ikea, counters butcher block. (“We can upgrade later if we want,” Sara says.) Walls into the woods are glass.
“Literally, it’s the opportunity at every turn to see lizards, salamanders and pileateds,” she says. “I love having this for my son.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.