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Originally published February 8, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 8, 2009 at 7:11 AM

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Northwest Living

A remade rambler keeps its swingin' '60s vibe

"When the Lewis E. Langdons not long ago redecorated their colonial home in Washington Park, little did they realize that soon their new...

Love stories

Women's fiction author Susan Wiggs sees plots everywhere she goes. "I'm a sponge for that sort of thing," she says. Susan and her husband, Jay Wiggs, both teachers from Texas in their previous lives, have been married for 28 years. He was her sister's boyfriend. But you can read more about that, in fiction form, of course, in her book, "Home Before Dark."

For their 25th wedding anniversary, Susan and Jay took a trip down the coast to Point Reyes. The result? Her 2008 book, "Just Breathe."

Wiggs only makes writing seem easy. "Ideas don't just come to me," she says. "Writing is still like passing a kidney stone."

Her latest book, "Fireside," a romantic comedy, has just been released. See Wiggs' world at www.susanwiggs.com.

"When the Lewis E. Langdons not long ago redecorated their colonial home in Washington Park, little did they realize that soon their new furnishings would be transplanted to a new Bainbridge Island home, designed by Marshall Perrow, architect. After due consideration, the Langdons, like so many other Pacific Northwest families, decided they preferred the quiet of country life to the bustle of city activities. So they built a one-level rambling house overlooking Rich Passage."

— Margery R. Phillips, Pacific Northwest, March 14, 1965.

Susan Wiggs gets that.

She is pouring coffee and setting out a plate of chewy cookies in that very house. Wiggs seduces her visitors, as only a famous author of "women's fiction" can, but she gazes admiringly at the bright blue water whose exclamation point is Mount Rainier.

"I feel really lucky to get to live here," Wiggs says. "I found the house researching a book where the protagonist goes to an open house. And I thought, gosh, I haven't been to an open house in forever. When I saw it I thought, 'My God, I would love to have this house.'

"I spend 90 percent of my time here."

That's because Wiggs is home writing (longhand and every day). The rest of the time she's away promoting her most recent book.

With their kids grown and flown, Wiggs and her husband, Jay, wanted a peaceful retreat and pleasant place to work with a low-bank beach, privacy and a guesthouse. When they found the Midcentury rambler on a wooded beach, it was a Goldilocks discovery — just right. They remodeled the kitchen, putting in counters of concrete and recycled Coke bottles, bamboo flooring and steel backsplash tiles, but "the goal was to keep it looking retro."

It does. Their home has that swinging '60s cocktail-hour feel with a massive sloping copper fireplace hood in a living room designed for drinks and hors d'oeuvres, painted white interior stone at the entrance, a "garden room" (den) and "loggia," which wraps around the free-form pool just feet away from the beach.

"They called it a loggia, but I call it a patio," Wiggs says, and then adds conspiratorially, "but in novels I've read about women being seduced on the loggia."

Groovy.

Wiggs is an admitted dabbler (playing the cello, knitting), but writing is the only thing that stuck. "I'm a master of none, but I always have fun," she says. The non-mastery part is not quite accurate. Wiggs has written one or two books a year for the past 20 years — national best-seller books where her name, in fancy foil lettering, overshadows the titles.

The 1965 article goes on to talk about the casual air of the home; the wood, stone, slate and brick; the "amenities of urban living and the tranquillity of the country." And even though previous owners have updated the home, it is all still true 44 years later.

Passing into the living room, Wiggs stops at a narrow cabinet. She pops open the door to reveal a mirrored liquor cabinet, bottles and glasses all standing ready.

"Look at this," she says. "It's totally James Bond."

Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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