Marc and Trina LaRoche's quest for the perfect house on Blakely Harbor was like Goldilocks and the porridge problem: The first house, a rental ...
Marc and Trina LaRoche’s quest for the perfect house on Blakely Harbor was like Goldilocks and the porridge problem: The first house, a rental, did not belong to them; the second sat on a lot that was too confining. And the third? You got it, jussst right.
“This lot had more room, it was more private,” says Marc. “The house, though, was old, at the end of its life span. One tap by the contractor and it disintegrated into carpenter-ant dust.
“But I didn’t care if it was a tepee, we wanted to live here.”
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It’s easy to see why the LaRoches tried out two houses on the same street in their tucked-away corner of Bainbridge Island before settling down. They live in a 3-D watercolor painting: gray-blue water supporting a cheerful little white boat, remains of a ferry dock poking at the sky with old brown fingers, marsh grasses bowing to the breeze, a white gull tamping the shore with fat yellow feet, firs filling the background. A perfect picture.
All they needed was a frame, a house. Marc is an architect who worked for many years in San Francisco designing homes, restaurants, wineries and commercial buildings even while moving to Bainbridge Island. Trina is an interior designer whose résumé lists similar structures. So, creating their own place would be no big deal, right?
“I studied the site intensively for a good year before we did anything to it,” Marc says. “The neighbors thought I was nuts. But if you miss it there . . .
“You have to spend time up front to get the appropriate response.”
And this is theirs on a long waterfront lot that, at one point, narrows to 80 feet deep: Marc drew up an open home that is one room deep with 3,000 square feet in the main house and 700 square feet in his nearby architecture studio. Bedrooms just for themselves and their two sons; Max, 13, and Ben, 11. South walls are glass. Roof lines open to the harbor; broad overhangs protect from the rain and, occasionally, too much sun.
Marc wanted to make a Northwest home from Northwest materials, sustainable and low-maintenance at every turn. And so there is cedar siding and overhangs, fir exposed roof framing, ground-face concrete block and low-pitched metal roofs all built by Mike Fisher Construction of Bainbridge Island.
Inside, those thoughts continued with fir-panel ceilings and walls, and cabinetry by Andy Caro of Island Design. There’s also bleached cork and thick sea-grass flooring. Paints and fabrics are light and contemporary with a punch of bright orange here and green there. All the artwork is personal, done by family members. Large bluestone tiles, concrete and concrete block carry from his exterior to her interior at key locations. A true marriage of indoor and outdoor, Marc and Trina.
The home suits an active family now, one that kayaks, fiddles about in the family rowboat, fishes, crabs and hangs out at the beach fire pit, shoots hoops in the driveway. But the LaRouches plan on it also suiting just the two of them later.
“My grandfather was the only dentist on the island. And my grandparents lived out on Wing Point,” says Trina, who grew up in Richmond Beach. “I always thought of this as retirementville. But now it’s more like Sausalito.”
Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.