In getting next to nature, we nurture our need for getting away
It wasn't long before the settlers who followed Lewis and Clark to the Pacific noticed they'd tamed the land and began yearning for wilderness again at least on the weekend.
By 1900 they were leaving their fine Victorian homes in the city for getaways at sandy seashores, on rocky-topped islands and in fragrant fir forests in the shadows of sleeping volcanoes.
"I was surprised to learn that the Northwest was an early haven for vacationing," she says. "It was a concept that was very quickly adopted. Those hard-working pioneers and farmers were definitely ready to take weekends off and get away."
Paul knows her subject well. She lives in Lake Oswego, Ore., but grew up in Tacoma. She studied architecture in college, and her "first real job" was with a young architecture firm in Portland. Later she was an architectural reporter for McGraw-Hill publishers.
Paul set out to explore the diversity of style within the genre, and contacted every architect registered to practice in both states to nominate their best examples of Northwest coastal style. She rejected those that "didn't make me tingle." The ones that made the cut cover a lot of territory.
Many of the retreats Paul features have a rich and long history.
One is a log cabin built above Cannon Beach in 1922 for Oswald West, an Oregon governor. After an arson in 1991 almost destroyed the place, the owners restored it, working from historic photos, plans and site drawings. The "new" cabin features replications of the original wrought-iron hardware and fixtures.
Paul also included a personal favorite a sprawling glass-and-cedar beach house built in 1950 on Puget Sound's Henderson Bay, near Gig Harbor. It belonged to friends, and Paul spent summers there when she was young.
Another classic Neahkahnie cabin was designed in 1962 by James Storrs, also a well-known Oregon architect. The cabin, carved into a steep bluff, was found in a state of decline by two young architects, James and Kathleen Meyer, who've spent the past several years restoring it.
"The next best thing to designing and building your own dream house is to find a classic that has been almost forgotten," Paul writes. This one, she says, is "as perfectly sited as a puffin nest."
The owner of a newer Whidbey Island retreat specified the architect use "no cedar shingles and no river-rock trim." That doesn't mean the house falls outside Paul's definition of traditional Northwest design. It includes one classic Northwest element: a long, broad eave made to keep rainwater well away from exterior walls.
Paul says she was fascinated by Jim and Christina Lockwood's retreat on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands chain. The Lockwoods camped out in tents on the 25-acre site for 10 summers before starting on the 2,600-square-foot house.
"Over the years, they had learned the path of the sun, the cycles of the seasons, the comings and goings of animals, the changing plant life, the directions of the wind," Paul writes. In the process, she says, they discovered the importance of keeping it simple, something weekenders have always valued.
Paul includes one urban retreat, the Alki Point house of Steve and Pam Zeasman. The three-bedroom home combines Northwest "lodge" materials with the latest design elements. On the inside, grayed-out wood and flagstone offset polished stainless-steel railings, fireplaces and light fixtures. On the outside, vertical metal cladding perches atop a rustic wood base and abuts a Brazilian-cherry stair tower and elevator shaft.
"Coastal Retreats" (Universe Publishing, $39.95) is Paul's third book. Last November, she published another, "Desert Retreats Sedona." In it, she demonstrates a connection between modern architecture, the ancient architecture of the Anasazi Indians of the region and the Asian tradition of feng shui.
It's a theme that will be familiar to readers of "Coastal Retreats" the way in which nature in all its diversity affects the very lifestyle of people. Even on the weekends.
Sally Macdonald is a retired Seattle Times reporter.
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