He turned away from the high windows and modern aspect typical of his designs. This time he drew a single story, with a low profile for easy maintenance and practical features that stand up to salt air, including epoxy-clad fir windows.
As a result, this fourth residence the couple has built for themselves represents a distillation of design experience as well as a practical model for others of similar mind. You might call it a return to the rural, but it is a refined rural.
The Baylises moved in four years ago, but kept a Bellevue condo for extended stays until they sold it to become full-time islanders in 2002.
Baylis took a six-week leave from his firm to work with the builder, and had the satisfaction of being finish carpenter for the bunkroom and pantry. San Juan Island-based Ravenhill Construction was the general contractor. The project took 10 months to complete.
Though this is an exposed location in a landscape often windy and cold, "This house embraces you. It's warm and cozy," Carol says.
Built-in fir bookcases and a rock-faced fireplace take up one wall in the living room; most of the stones used in the fireplace and chimney were unearthed from the building site. Floors are heart pine, old-timers that were salvaged from a derelict building on the East Coast.
The kitchen, with a fine salt-water view, has the look of a proscenium when viewed from the open-plan dining and living areas. Whoever is cooking works onstage, as it were, with a halogen cooktop, black soapstone countertops, Douglas-fir shelving and a fir arbor overhead to delineate the space and hold task lights.
He fit a cupola above the dining area to add a traditional touch to the exterior profile and serve as a light well inside. The extended ceiling holds large halogen spotlights and vents hot air through operable windows at the top at least, that was the idea. They haven't been needed.
As it happens, this 21st-century farmhouse was Baylis' third design choice for the site. His first idea a concept he still speaks of in wistful tones involved having a house backed into the hillside to guarantee heat efficiency. Carol, a strong advocate of natural light, thought it crucial to have windows on all sides.
His second plan called for a hand-hewn, timber-frame building with a barn-like character, but that proved too expensive. So you see, Baylis says in a tone of self-deprecating humor, architects know to look for a balance between ego and compromise. He wants you to know his project was no exception.
Baylis, 67, has officially retired from Baylis Architects in Bellevue, and is otherwise a semi-retired architectural consultant. He has been involved in building for 43 years, all but three of them in the Seattle area.
He earned his architecture degree at Ohio State University, and relocated to Seattle in 1962, enamored of the Northwest style. "I wanted to work for Paul Kirk," Baylis recalls. "He was kind enough to interview me when I first came out, and listened to me as if I had something to say. He was a gentleman." Baylis and Kirk eventually worked together on a lodge design at Stevens Pass.
Baylis joined a firm in Bellevue, where he became a junior partner, then left to start Baylis Architects in 1972.
"Marvin encouraged me to think on my feet. I needed to come up with plans in minutes, with him standing over my shoulder at a kitchen table."
More recently, Baylis donated design time to the San Juan Community Home Trust, a nonprofit organization.
"We're trying to help local people afford to own something here," he explains.
On a clear day, when Baylis can see from Port Angeles to Victoria, B.C., he looks over the meadow as wind pushes grass into waves. Mount Rainier is visible, though he's even more pleased to see the local fox catch sun on a nearby rocky knob.
Thanks to the tutoring of an old Navy chum, he learned how to build the stone wall that borders his patio. Now he's discovering how to sit on it quietly, how to admire the long view.
Dean Stahl is a Seattle freelance writer and editor. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.
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