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Northwest Living
From Warren to Haven
In this Bainbridge remodel, space is reshaped to gain room without losing character

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A switchback stair and hall was inserted into one corner of the house to connect the three stories of the restored home. Fruit-shaped cutouts in the red-birch balustrades repeat the pattern of the front gate and the orchard the Karremans put in out front.
The structure was a warren of tiny shipyard offices that had been moved from downtown Winslow to the back of Eagle Harbor in 1982. Here it's shown during restoration, resting on cribbing as a new foundation and ground floor are added below. Photo
Don't ask Frank Karreman how to get the coffee stains out of your kitchen countertop.

Because he'll tell you that, during his recent remodel, a pot of hot Christmas Blend applied ever so artistically to a garish orange countertop helped save him from kitchen hell.

It was December 1999 and Karreman, a Bainbridge architect, and his wife, Jennifer, a project manager for Starbucks (hence the Christmas Blend), were in the midst of turning a ramshackle cottage into a comfortable family home when things began to go terribly wrong in the kitchen.

The commercial stain Karreman was applying to the simulated concrete counters was turning more orange by the minute, and he was beginning to panic. So, with the thought that maybe coffee stains were preferable to that hideous orange, he dumped the coffee he was drinking onto the counter and began rubbing it in as hard as he could.

Soon it was goodbye, awful orange, hello, lovely, earthy, forest-y brown.

"After three or four coats, it took on a depth that I think is really beautiful," Karreman says. "It's one of the best things we did."

Most of the Karremans' remodel has gone more smoothly than that. They started with an eccentric house-like structure that had been built near the ferry dock about 1910 and used as shipyard offices. A previous owner had lifted it onto a barge and floated it to the back of Eagle Harbor about 20 years ago. There it was set amid a sprawling hamlet of houses that had been rescued from Seattle neighborhoods being demolished to make way for Interstate 5 in 1960.

The Karremans found the house as newlyweds in 1991. It had sunk into decline, but they loved the large lot — a long, narrow swath of land that sweeps downhill to the tidelands. A shady lane meandered from the street to the house. Off to one side was a row of stately poplars; to the other, space to plant an orchard. A horse pasture between the house and beach was the perfect place for flower, herb and vegetable gardens.

"We moved from my condo on Capitol Hill, where Jennifer had a flower box, to here, where she has 1.5 acres of dirt to plant," Karreman says.

Above: A double stairway sweeps up to a formal entry on the main floor, facing Eagle Harbor. Raised flower and vegetable gardens have replaced the pasture.
At right: Four-year-old Anneke and Frank Karreman relax on the front stoop, discussing Anneke's latest adventures with the stuffed unicorn she carries wherever she goes.
They did one quick remodel upon moving in. "Just enough to make it livable," Karreman says. For the next eight years — as daughters Nancy, 5, and Anneke, 4, came along — Karreman worked on plans for a major overhaul.

The house was a mess of jury-rigging when they got it. Walls divided it into a rabbit warren of offices. Ceilings had been dropped to below the window trim in places, giving the rooms a strangely squashed look. A confusing jumble of private outside entries had been cut to serve the individual offices.

And as the Karreman family grew, it became increasingly clear they would need more room than the house's 1,600 square feet. They thought about rebuilding from scratch, but decided they liked the character of the old place.

"It was crazy trying to figure it out," Karreman says. "We knew we couldn't expand on the ground because of the driveway and the septic field. So the only way to go was up. I had helped a friend jack up a house in Santa Cruz, Calif., between college and architecture school, so I knew how it was done."

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Karreman designed the interior of the house to follow an Italian "piano nobile" concept, with family living spaces - dining room, kitchen and living room - dominating the middle floor.
So the first thing they did was elevate the house 6 feet, adding a new bottom floor.

They recycled as much of the original charm as they could, keeping the wooden clapboard siding, but adding wood-stained shingles to the new first floor, for contrast. Old windows were used where possible.

Now a wide, outdoor stairway sweeps up to a large front porch shaded by the overhang of a bay window on the top story. The most used entry, though, is in back, where the lane leading to the house melts into a driveway and paved parking area. A gate features cut-outs in the shape of apples and pears, a tip to visitors that they're about to pass the orchard.

Inside, a slate-tiled entry hall leads to a switchback staircase that was inserted through a corner of the house. The stairwell provides gallery space for Inuit prints and tapestries Karreman collected when he studied architecture briefly in India. The red birch staircase repeats the apple-and-pear theme with cut-outs identical to those on the gate.

A playroom/family room with a huge table for craft projects and a home office fill most of the lower floor. There's also a small laundry room and closet-sized toilet. Karreman calls it "the outhouse" and has decorated the door with a sliver of moon, like the outhouses of old.

The middle floor features a more formal sitting room, kitchen and dining room as well as a guest room and bath.

Upstairs — on what became a third floor after the house was raised — are a master suite with bath and dressing room for the Karremans, and identical dormer bedrooms for each girl. The girls share a small bath down the hall.

The project increased the size of the house to about 2,800 square feet, but the rooms aren't large. It has the cozy feel of a small farmhouse accentuated by two out-buildings the Karremans added: a two-car carriage house and a painting studio just above the beach.

"We use it as a staging area for beach buffets," Karreman says. "It's a good place to get away from the house and the formal gardens to a place where you can hear the geese and water fowl."

While it was important for Karreman to keep as much as he could from the original house, it was also important to make the old house work for a young family. With that in mind, a thoroughly modern chandelier with intertwined metal arms lights the staircase.

"I'm really not one to be slavish about time periods," Karreman says. "You could have done a traditional restoration and made the house a replica of what it was. But lighting is one area where you can get great effects with more modern fixtures.

"We really tried to be respectful of the house, but our intent wasn't to restore it as it was. It was to adapt it to our needs."

Sally Macdonald is a retired Seattle Times reporter. Benjamin Benschneider is a staff photographer for Pacific Northwest magazine.

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