Share story

YEARS AGO, when Jann and Steve Blackbourn’s son, Ryan, was a kid, his mom and dad used to drive him over to play with his buddy in the big-water view neighborhood of Blue Ridge.

The lot next door there was empty and hilly. And it was perfect for a Slip’N Slide, an activity preferred by the boys on Seattle’s precious summer days.

It was perfect for something else, too. Jann and Steve Blackbourn’s new home.

“We had our eye on this lot when Ryan was 6 years old,” says Jann. “It was never, ever, ever for sale.”

But then it was. And four years ago the couple, after long fantasizing about what they would build there, snapped it up. A mere three years later the contemporary house of their actual dreams was complete.

“We wanted a daylight rambler with an entry at street level, and the master bedroom on the main level,” says Jann. (Not an uncommon desire, says Steve, who sells homes for a living: “That’s the first thing clients say to me: ‘Find me a daylight rambler with a knockout view.’ ”)

But the Blackbourn home, at first glance spare and simple in 2,500 square feet, is more than that. Most of it found behind closed doors in an amazement of nooks and crannies where there are seemingly none. The whole of it tidy, contained and functional architecture by Colin Brandt of Brandt Design Group and built by Dyna Contracting.

“I have to have a clean look,” says Jann. “Clutter is stressful. I watch a lot of HGTV and I know that everything in your house needs to have a place; otherwise, you need to get rid of it.” She is seated in the living room on a leather sofa the color of a vanilla soft serve, their chocolate cocker spaniel, Boo, on her lap. Walls are either white or windows to the great watery blue beyond. Shelves and the kitchen’s Caesarstone counters are mostly clear. Appliances are either built-in or unseen.

“I put out very few tchotchkes, and I rotate them,” Jann says. And, as with everything you don’t see in their home, there’s a place to keep them, a drawer nearby in the open kitchen.

“The synergy between Colin and Ren (Chandler of Dyna), it’s the kind of thing you can really appreciate only in the end,” says Jann.

“A lot of the things in this house are very calming to me.”

Here are some of them: the united front of dark-stained, rift-cut oak kitchen cabinets from Baywood Cabinet. Singled out, there’s a pullout for garbage and another for recycle. Deep drawers hold pots and pans, bowls and measuring tools, another for oils, salt and pepper. (A side note: Steve was once an engineer, and so there are 31 outlets tucked beneath the kitchen uppers.) Over the oven are slots for cutting boards.

The entry hall does its own heavy lifting: doors that appear to be white walls hide a mud room, substantial coat closet and laundry room. An office-den hides behind sliders.

The couple report that even a year later they would change nothing about their home. Says Jann, “I learned from my business (advertising) that you work with people who are professional and stay out of the way.”

Ryan is grown now, 29. He and his wife live three miles away with the Blackbourns’ first grandchild, Hudson Ruby.

Jann opens the door out back and heads for the yard. There, on the side of the house, is a long green slope of lawn. And yes, she says, “We are, we’re getting a Slip’N Slide.”

Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.