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Originally published Friday, May 10, 2013 at 10:30 AM

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Architect Matthew Coates designs a country house of glass

The Yelm home is a country contemporary, a combination of simple and cost-effective, warm and comfortable, clean lines and precise design.

Pacific NW associate editor

"THAT ONE'S Sophia. There's Tiffany, June, Sister Christian, Doralee and, of course, we have a Liz Lemon," says Melinda, grinding eggshells into the dirt with her boot (calcium for her chickens). She's right in there with the girls, their quarters fenced from all comers, plunging hawks to plodding elk.

"Today we're gonna go get some beehives," she says cheerfully.

It's clear that Melinda, who also gardens 24 raised beds (they're fenced, too) on the 10 acres she shares with her husband, Eric, is a country woman. So it just seems confusing that they live in an utterly contemporary house with glass walls, a flat roof and metal siding. On a rolling hillside in Yelm.

"We looked at land hard. For me it's the outside. It's the garden space," she says. "We weren't sure about living in a fish bowl.

"But it's not like that at all. It feels much more like we live with nature."

So, let's call it country contemporary, an unlikely but utterly workable combination of simple and cost-effective, warm and comfortable, clean lines and precise design from architect Matthew Coates of Coates Design Architects (project architect Amy Shuster).

"I did research mostly on the Web," says Eric, who works from home in an online venture. "And what I liked about Matthew was the warmth of his houses."

Coates' task was to build a modern, budget-minded home that was livable and respectful to its rural environment.

He put the bulk of the project's budget into the open kitchen-living-dining room. Domestic white-birch ceiling and cabinetry, and concrete masonry fireplace warm the space. The walls of this central north-south core are all glass, offering private views of foothills and tree-covered wetlands.

The home is L-shaped, the master bedroom and Eric's office at one end; guest room, craft room and garage on the other. An exterior CMU (concrete masonry unit) wall at the front offers privacy and creates an intimate garden entry courtyard. All in 2,200 square feet with three bedrooms.

"I really like the open space here," says Eric, sitting at one of the couple's few new furniture purchases so far, a dining table from Design Within Reach. Mojo, their black Lab, thumps his tail on the edge of the table. "It's the rhythm of the house," Eric says.

"We made conscious decisions about when to break the budget, especially with things that aren't easy to replace," he explains of their process. "I can replace a fixture pretty easily, but not the windows (aluminum-clad Sierra Pacific in a dark bronze)."

Speaking of, a Stellar's jay comes into view on the back patio, sited away from the house. "We get lots of deer, and a couple of times we've had elk come by," Melinda says. "They're enormous."

The plantings around the house — grasses, a stand of birch trees, more — are more mature than is usual for a house occupied for only the past seven months. Credit goes to Melinda. She started most of them from seed in her planting beds.

The couple likes Yelm, a place they find more urban than their previous home in Mossyrock. And even before they were all moved in, they tested their new place by hosting a family wedding in July.

So how'd that go?

"It was great," Melinda says. "Everybody loved it."

Rebecca Teagarden writes about design and architecture for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.

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