Architects David Price and Eric Richmond of Flat Rock Productions weren't fazed when clients requested a new house that looked old.
Architects David Price and Eric Richmond of Flat Rock Productions weren’t fazed when clients requested a new house that looked old.
Peggy Moe and Marty Fernandez sought the aura of an aged industrial building, perhaps the feeling of an old cannery or warehouse, for their new Whidbey Island home. The architects found inspiration in the century-old waterfront buildings along main street in the town of Langley.
They dipped into the book “Where Have All The Sardines Gone? A Pictorial History of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row” to find ideas for the home’s utilitarian mix of materials. “Marty collects Stickley furniture,” explains Price, “but he wanted more of a Stickley factory than a Stickley house.”
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Fernandez, a graphic designer, former restaurant owner and passionate cook, was intimately involved in every phase of design and construction. He had plenty of time to contemplate what his family wanted in a home. “It took seven years and a handshake to buy the property,” says Fernandez of the prime water-view lot. An agreement with the neighbors to save a mountain ash tree and setback requirements determined, more than its view potential, the house’s footprint and location. Yet most of the home’s windows offer the stirring site of Saratoga Passage’s fast-moving waters.
The tall, narrow home appears to be cobbled together from bits and pieces of old buildings, with little suggestion of new construction other than the yet-to-be-finished landscape. The simple gable forms are traditional, in keeping with the age of Langley’s homes and commercial buildings. Yet there’s nothing traditional about the metal windows, metal strapping and rough, recycled wood used indoors and out. “We wanted the materials to speak for themselves,” Fernandez explains of choosing concrete, zinc, recycled metal and wood. Each aged beam was hand-picked, and the glass-fronted kitchen cabinets are made of windows salvaged from the family’s former log cabin in Kirkland.
The eclectic mix of materials is surprisingly harmonious; perhaps due to a restrained color palette of soft white, warm gray, espresso, taupe and natural cedar repeated throughout the rooms. Despite all the hard-edged, utilitarian materials, the minute you step through the sliding barn door into the mud-room entry, you’re enveloped in comfortable hominess. The interior is warmed by the family’s books, musical instruments, art collection and Moe’s colorful, casual flower arrangements.
The architects designed oversize spaces to suit Fernandez, the primary cook in the family. Zinc countertops roll right up to meet the beadboard backsplash. The deep, single-bowl sink is sufficiently roomy to accommodate the commercial-size pots Fernandez favors. The kitchen is truly the heart of this house, open to the dining and living rooms as well as the adjacent family room that houses both refrigerator and media center. Upstairs are two bedrooms, two baths and a laundry room. Downstairs is a guest room, office, garage and studio apartment, all in 2,400 square feet.
Local talent contributed to the craftsmanship of the home.
Contractor Kim Hoelting of Northwest Woods and builder Richard Merrill incorporated all the salvaged wood, doors and hardware that Fernandez gathered. Metal worker Tim Leonard, who worked on Seattle’s Experience Music Project, made the metal grid windows. He used scrap and salvaged metal to craft a door, deck railings and the strapping that appears to hold parts of the building together.
“I chose these folks to work with because they liked to figure it all out as we went along,” says Fernandez, a man who clearly loves not only the result but also the process of building his new home.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “A Pattern Garden.” Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.