Architect Nils Finne designs a house of views on Hood Canal
The contemporary home offers a wonderland of views from trees to shining sea.
Pacific NW associate editor
THERE'S NOTHING like living on a boat for five years to get a real education about space: what you need and what you really do not.
"It's not so much the amount, but that you need privacy. And it's about how you get that," says Gary Greene. It's thoughts like these that swirled around the heads of Gary and his wife, Betty, when they began to think about building at water's edge in Port Ludlow, on the north end of Hood Canal.
"For me it was the icy docks," says Betty of their former 60-foot home. "Facing an icy dock on my way to work." She shudders at the thought of sliding into the chilly drink in good shoes. "Then we started getting into Sarah Susanka."
The couple honed their design sense with the guru of small-spaces-done-well, and then got down to specifics for the view home that would be theirs for the rest of their lives. Views, by the way, that include shipping lanes to the north and Mount Rainier to the south; views so vast that it requires a turn to the left and then to the right to take it all in.
Gary ticks off their requirements: "We wanted to make sure there was space on the main floor for a master suite. We wanted it raised up slightly for the view. One big room with the kitchen front and center. As little maintenance as possible. And we wanted the view from everywhere."
Done, done, done, done and done, from architect Nils Finne.
"It's comfortable in the winter, but it's fantastic in the summer," Betty says of their 2,400-square-foot contemporary house that yawns at the water. Metal siding roadside and glass almost everywhere else, from the walls to massive (8 feet by 8 feet) sliders that transform the main living space into a patio when desired. A two-story volume, a modern tower really, anchors the north end of the home and holds two bedroom suites and two offices.
For "as little maintenance as possible" there is ipe wood flooring that travels out to the decks, zebrawood cabinet doors trimmed with mahogany, quartz and limestone countertops, and Doug fir trim and doors. Outside? Metal siding, and aluminum windows and doors. Large overhangs offer rain and sun protection, while clerestories bring light from all sides and introduce a treetop view of the forest.
The contractor was Rob Gruye of Port Townsend, now head of Solutions Building. And if awards could be given for service, Gruye would get one. Story goes like this: Finne chose a Michigan window maker who offered great quality at a good price. But the window maker fell to the economy and laid off his workers midproject. Gruye flew to Michigan to help finish the windows, then he drove them back to Port Ludlow.
Meanwhile, the Greenes are all set up for toasting their new home for years to come. Gary lifts a hatch in a closet floor and 1,000 bottles await the call there in the wine cellar. "This is for our annual Walla Walla trip, for Riley's birthday," Betty says. Riley is the family springer spaniel. Cayuse is their label of choice.
Speaking of, the Greenes had one more requirement of their architect. This one concerned the water-loving Riley.
"We built the house without the dog. But we told Nils we were going to get a dog, so it had to be bulletproof."
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is the magazine staff photographer.