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Originally published Sunday, October 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Fall Home Design 2008

A clothing designer brings her elegant minimalism home

Simple and stylish describe not only the clothing designs of Lynn Mizono but also her new, minimalist home on Whidbey Island.

Being careful with cost doesn't have to look cheap

• The flooring throughout the house is Medex, an exterior particle board usually used for signage. Mizono painted it with a watered-down latex paint topped with varnish. "It's pretty waterproof," she says, "but it was scary because I wasn't sure what it would look like until it dried." The large scored squares resemble concrete, but feel softer underfoot.

• Mizono had her stainless-steel countertops and integral sink made by Metal Masters Northwest in Lynnwood. The metal-and-glass tables are from Ikea, with adjustable legs so they can be used at dining-table height, or with legs extended to serve as an eating bar with stools.

• The home's exterior is partly sheathed in rolls of corrugated aluminum, juxtaposed against the matte of hardy plank siding squares, turned upside down to show more texture, stained gray and placed on end to form a diamond pattern.

Stylish ingenuity is a hallmark of fashion designer Lynn Mizono's work. Her clothing line and the patterns she designs for Vogue are pure architectural simplicity. It turns out Mizono's clean, sophisticated aesthetic translates beautifully to wood, metal and glass, as proven by the home she designed for herself on south Whidbey Island.

Mizono, however, is quick to credit builder Carl Magnusson, who worked closely with her on design, material choices and construction of the little house. "We did many things spontaneously, as they came up," says Mizono. "We worked on such a budget that if material prices went up, we made changes."

Much of the home's intrigue lies in its unusual use of materials.

You'd never guess many of the choices were budgetary. Mizono painted maple Ikea cabinets dark gray and added hardware she found on the Internet. Chalkboard paint on a couple of the cabinet fronts makes for an ever-changing chalk-art display. Her minimal furnishings, a modular sofa and metal-and-glass tables with adjustable legs, are as convertible as her clothing designs, which can be wrapped and worn different ways. "I don't have many clothes in my closet, and I wanted my furniture to be like that," explains Mizono.

The clothes she does have are mostly gray, black or white, a palette repeated throughout the house. "It's the Zen thing," she says. "The clothes are about shape, not color." So are the translucent resin and Italian plastic sinks that light up in response to a tap or sound. The only other color inside the house, except for one blue-washed ceiling, is the pure light of primary colors that glow out from between steps on the staircase.

The exterior of the house is a combination of matte gray and shiny silver metal, accented by three glass doors, each with trim painted a different vibrant color. The chartreuse, red and orange paint is the only touch of color on the wooded site.

The 1,000-square-foot house, with 300 square feet of design studio reached by an outdoor bridge-like walkway, seems huge to Mizono, who grew up and lived in San Francisco for many years. "The space feels bigger with less in it," she explains. "I try to figure out the least I can live with, and keep paring it down."

A few years ago, seeking more balance in her life, Mizono got the notion to move somewhere closer to nature. She hadn't heard of Whidbey Island before she came north with a friend for a visit. Mizono never moved back south. She's still thrilled by eagles nesting in the trees outside her windows, her view of sunsets and saltwater. Perhaps the most heartfelt touch in this most personal of homes is the poem "Home," written for Mizono by her dear friend, Whidbey poet Judith Adams, and sandblasted on the glass front door. Its opening lines capture the essence of what Mizono has created:

It is the resting place for impermanence.

Asylum for authentic conversation.

For reconstructing heaven

For unraveling from the world.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of "A Pattern Garden." Her e-mail address is valeaston@comcast.net. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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