The house on Vashon Island is jaw-dropping in every room, from the hand-painted murals to the Tiffany-blue dressing room packed with couture gowns.
“TEA AND BISCUITS?”
Donna Baxter looks up expectantly. Full service already waits in the living room; dainty china cups with pink flowers sit on matching saucers. There is jam and clotted cream, fancy sugars, slices of lemon, cookies, scones fresh-baked by somebody on Vashon Island. Napkins are linen.
We sit. We sip. Over the rim of her cup Donna says, “Having to pick up your animal’s poop really grounds you.”
Welcome to the Baxters.
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Donna is explaining why she and husband, Bean, left the lightning-round pace of Los Angeles 15 years ago for the lush and committedly funky wilds of Vashon Island. She herself is a gemologist, and a jewelry and fashion designer. Couture, runways. (Gene) Bean is half of the “Kevin & Bean” morning radio show on L.A.’s KROQ-FM modern/alternative rock station. (Yes, they know everybody.) Linus, one of two family English bulldogs and the reason for her opening salvo, sits at her feet.
Here. Let’s talk about here. Donna says, “We were thinking of doing something a little bit different. A down-the-rabbit-hole spot.”
That’s it! This is exactly where one would expect to find Alice of Wonderland fame if she were a high-fashion, rock ’n’ roll chick. The house itself, 4,200 square feet, is an unapologetic bright blue Victorian crafted by Marty Burns Construction on Vashon. “Tiffany blue. It’s Tiffany blue,” Donna corrects. “It’s a little jewel box.”
Inside is pure glam: “A traditional beach house didn’t seem the right thing to do.” Donna calls it “cozy but regency, a mishmash.” Her plan for the interiors was “that looks cool, we’ll stick it in the house.”
Spring Home Design
Pinks and blues, lavender, gray, black, bright whites, velvets and sheens, chandeliers (seven in the kitchen alone!), all from the finest designers. Bean has a thing for photography. The living room is lined with black-and-white prints from old Hollywood; Marlene Dietrich, Louise Brooks, Marilyn, Grace Kelly. Out on the deck are wrought-iron chairs, pink. Beyond that, the usual Northwest trappings; ducks, anchored boats.
The grand entrance is made very much so with a black-and-white marble floor, sweeping staircase, 17 Tom Dixon pendant lights, and soaring flight-of-chinoiserie-fancy walls hand-painted by Seattle artist Jennifer Carrasco. Critters of every stripe fly and leap and crouch and prowl among other characters Carrasco has included here for the entertainment of her animal-loving employer.
Donna discovered Carrasco’s work at The Ruins, an event space/private club on Lower Queen Anne. (The murals of the royal blue ballroom are a masterwork.) She told the artist, “We didn’t want it to be too pretty. We wanted it to be a little dark.”
Carrasco had never attempted a residential project so vast: almost 100 linear yards of canvas, most of it 25 feet high. “My M.O. is to run around in circles with my arms in the air and say, ‘Oh!! Where do I start?’ Then I settle down,” she says. “People don’t realize how much more goes into a project besides just painting.” Like math. It took a year for Carrasco to finish it.
Though it all looks quite fabulous (even Donna’s closet room; gowns by Oscar de la Renta and Alexander McQueen), Donna demurs.
“Nothing’s too precious. We don’t take things seriously. It’s just my rabbit hole.”