THE DOG’S in the yard, and the chickens are at the front door.
This must be the place.
“Hi Girls,” says Sara, opening the door. And, “I let everybody run free during the day.”
Inside her big, old (1906) Dutch Colonial the walls are big-hug brown. The living room, dining room and kitchen open one to the other. And all of it, everywhere, from the master bedroom upstairs to the media room below ground, is united and outlined in heavy Doug fir beams.
“I needed to open the walls to see my son,” Sara explains, turning from critters to kids. “And the stairs had to be redone; I fell down them when I was six months pregnant.”
Clearly, it was time for the old house, which Sara’s husband had owned for seven years before the remodel, to march forward. She turned to architect Tamra Groh for guidance on everything from taking down walls to jacking up the house for more livable space to selecting fabric and paint.
“She really got a feel for us,” is how Sara describes the result; homey and exotic, familiar and foreign. Warm colors and rooms that welcome; shelves and the living-room mantel display space for treasures from travels abroad. All this with a touch of “Green Acres” city-life-meets-country-life vibe on their fenced-in, double-sized lot.
“It’s exceedingly exceptional now,” Sara says. But this project, a journey from 1,450 square feet to 2,800, took time — 15 months. “We didn’t push it because we wanted to stay married.” Her eyes are bright with delight, and the wisdom of experience.
One issue, for instance, was the lovely aged Japanese maple out front. “My husband loves his yard,” says Sara. “He checks on how everything is doing every day.
“They told us the tree had to go, but he fought for a year for that Japanese maple. The guys said to me, ‘Your husband’s impeding progress. Your husband’s impeding progress.’ ” She laughs. “He had the entire entrance built around it.”
The couple dug out the rest of their plants and kept them in rootballs during construction.
Sara admits to “scope creep mega,” but she’s a do-it-once-do-it-right sort of homeowner. “Only two people did all the craftsmanship on this house, Craig Parrish of Mobius Builders and another guy,” she says, pointing out such elements as the Doug fir kitchen bar (which cascades to the floor and is anchored to the corner by exaggerated dovetail joints) and the flowerlike tilework over the six-burner Bertazzoni range.
Sara calls their construction conversations “interventions.” Probably the more accurate term for the topic.
“We’re messy people,” she says. “We’re hard on our stuff. That’s one of the interventions we had. Color was another. My husband wanted all white. I wanted earth tones.” (Walls on the main floor are four shades of deep brown.)
“The other intervention we had were the countertops. He wanted soapstone, but I thought it would be too soft.” (Counters are black schist.)
Groh helped Sara with interiors. There are new light fixtures from Hubbardton Forge, but for the most part, “this is our old stuff. We had this.”
For Sara, the result is comfort in just the right size, a home where nothing is off-limits; pets and guests are welcome.
“People said to us, ‘You guys should just start over,’ ” says Sara. “But we didn’t want to be the people who took down a 1906 house.
“It’s still an old house, it is,” Sara says. “It’s unique, But, to me, it’s very Pacific Northwest.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.