Whidbey playhouse fit for a gardening, pizza-eating queen
The little house Mary Fisher's husband, Tom, built from wood gleaned on their Whidbey Island property is just large enough to fit a king-size bed and a pizza oven. It sits next to a pond at the back of their Cultus Bay Nursery.
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COULD THERE be a more satisfying extravagance than a sheltered spot to sleep outdoors, feel the breeze and watch the moon?
"This is a new definition of luxury," says Mary Fisher of the summerhouse her husband, Tom, built from wood gleaned on their Whidbey Island property. The little house is just large enough to fit a king-size bed and a pizza oven. What else do you need?
Part rustic cabin, part screened porch, and mostly its own very cool, unique creation, the summerhouse sits next to a pond at the back of Cultus Bay Nursery on the south end of the island. Mary is a garden designer, florist and community activist whose destination nursery, written up in The New York Times a few years ago, is known for its variety of special plants. The couple's house is nearby, their pastures adjacent, and the flower-filled nursery out their screened front door.
Tom, a cabinetmaker and woodworker, crafted the utilitarian yet deeply romantic little building by hand, from the brick pilaster foundation to the pizza oven he built from watching an instructive YouTube video. Every detail is thought out, from the table where the couple plays cards in the evening, to the fireplace beneath the pizza oven to warm the space on chilly evenings.
The Fishers' playhouse is built almost exclusively of materials found within a mile or two of their home. Tom dug out red cedar logs shrouded beneath moss and huckleberry in the hills around the family farmhouse. "It took awhile to figure out how to work with the cedar," says Tom, who split rather than sawed the logs to reveal the intrinsic beauty and shape of each piece of wood. He then looked closely at what he had to work with.
"The wood suggests how things should go," he explains. He left the bark on in places and trimmed the outside of the door with hunks of Pacific yew. Long pieces of log flare out at one end, making the little house look a bit as if it might propel itself off at any minute.
Tom ticks off the few materials he had to buy: sheet-metal flashing for the fireplace hearth, tarpaper, hinges, bronze screening. The metal roofing and glass moon roof over the bed were recycled from other projects.
"It feels like sleeping outdoors," says Mary of her view of moon and stars in the night sky. "It's just fun to be in it." Breezes blow through, a fire crackles in the little fireplace. The view out is to a pond, trees and flowering shrubs. Despite all the windows and screens, when you're surrounded by hand-hewn wood inside the embracing scale of the place, you feel as snug as a turtle in its shell. Fire, water, wind, wood and air — all the earth elements are gathered here in one tucked-away green corner.
Tom spent an entire summer building the place, customizing it for comforts like fragrant, charred pizzas fresh from the oven. Were there any drawbacks to building with indigenous, recycled and reclaimed materials? "I realized I got a little too organic when I had to hang the door, which turned out to be very difficult to fit," Tom says with a laugh.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of "petal & twig." Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times staff photographer.