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Pacific Northwest | January 23, 2005Pacific Northwest MagazineJanuary 23, 2005seattletimes.com home Home delivery

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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
PORTRAITS
TASTE
NORTHWEST
LIVING
NOW & THEN
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY REBECCA TEAGARDEN
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE TAUNTON PRESS

Inspired Individuality
This playful person's place just loves people

Geoff Prentiss lowered the kitchen counter, island and windows to fit Liston and her chair. But the counters are not so low that friends canít work there, too. The kitchen counter top is Richlite, a composite that Liston also uses as a cutting board. Karl Kirchhofer carved watery motion into the ash island.
Geoff Prentiss lowered the kitchen counter, island and windows to fit Liston and her chair. But the counters are not so low that friends canít work there, too. The kitchen counter top is Richlite, a composite that Liston also uses as a cutting board. Karl Kirchhofer carved watery motion into the ash island.
CRYSTAL LISTON ROCKS. Nothing mousy about her. Her fist pumps the wheel on her chair as it rolls down the ramp of her party house on the beach.

"Wanna beer?" Liston wants to know. And she wants you to say yes.

Dude!

Kick back, get an ocean-breeze massage and veg for hours before the roaring shore, under the electric-blue sky and cotton-ball clouds. Later, throw open the doors, crank up the tunes, break out the brews and get your backside movin' with great big stars for a mirrored ball sparking against the black-velvet curtain of heaven.

Prentiss created the V-shaped roof to represent “the sea, wings, birds flying off.” Liston was taken aback by the model of the modern beach house. “I was first thinking a log cabin,” she says. “I didn't want modern. Then I realized, this is perfect. It's simple outside, and I wanted to focus all the money to details on the inside.”
Prentiss created the V-shaped roof to represent “the sea, wings, birds flying off.” Liston was taken aback by the model of the modern beach house. “I was first thinking a log cabin,” she says. “I didn't want modern. Then I realized, this is perfect. It's simple outside, and I wanted to focus all the money to details on the inside.”
 

It's like spring break at Ocean Shores all year long.

When Liston, 30, isn't crashing at the beach, she lives on Capitol Hill and recently graduated from Bellevue Community College. A car accident at age 16 left her in a wheelchair but not out of the game. She has plans to take her education higher still. "I have my fingers and my eyesight and my brain. I'll take that, but I don't want to lose anything else."

And with that she's off the zig-zagging ramp and into the living room of her beach house. She marvels at the beauty, functionality and the funk. "I would not have thought of that, and I'm in the chair," she says of architect Geoff Prentiss' entry design.

Crystal Liston lives on Capitol Hill, but kicks back with her friends at a beach house made especially for her
in Ocean Shores.
Crystal Liston lives on Capitol Hill, but kicks back with her friends at a beach house made especially for her in Ocean Shores.

On the deck she says, "See the railing? It's made so I can see the water when I'm in my chair. And he lowered the windows in the kitchen, too."

"The house doesn't accommodate Crystal. It celebrates her," says Prentiss, principal of Prentiss Architects in Seattle. Because it suits both her and the site so perfectly, it looks like it was an easy fit. Not so.

Liston firmly did not want a house that was built for her to be awkward for others. The counters, bathrooms and general layout had to work for everybody, the walking and the wheeling. But throughout the process, Prentiss, who has designed for other clients in wheelchairs, insisted on putting Liston first.

"That's why I was able to be a little more forceful, because she was so not wanting to make it difficult for others. The house had to be about her, and only then would she be sharing herself."

The ramp allows for a winding but grand entrance for Liston and her friends.
The ramp allows for a winding but grand entrance for Liston and her friends.
 

And Prentiss' determination to take his wild client personally is why you'll find the house in John Connell's book, "Creating the Inspired House" (The Taunton Press, $34.95). Connell's premise is that a "personally significant place in the world defines the human condition." Our homes can be much more than shelter. They can offer the opportunity for self-expression and reflection. Forget resale value; the mission is individuality.

By digging deep into what his client was all about, Prentiss re-created Liston's joyous, funked-up soul in wood, stone and metal on two 840-square-foot floors. The interior is a cacophony of colors and textures and materials. One room is done up in spruce, another in pine. The living room is fir. There's paint in neon green, bright red and lavender and olive. Walls and windows share a slanted smirk. Portholes open wide in the shower and over the toilet.

"The outside is muted to blend into the landscape, but it's exuberant inside — flamboyant," he says. "There's a tin ceiling in the bathroom, recycled glass in the bath and shower, Japanese floats built into the bar.

"Totally, it's a playhouse," he says. "The idea of the spaces upstairs is very playhouse."

Well, good then. Because Liston likes to play, and she loves to share. The refrigerator is packed with memos, tacky postcards and a wrinkled recipe for Snickerdoodles all left by friends. A journal full of two years' worth of pictures and words from her pals sits on the coffee table. "I really feel like this house has its own personality, and it loves people," she says. "That's all people do here is party."

Prentiss came up with the fat tree-slab paneling in spruce and pine for one of the bedrooms. Liston says the wood seeps: “It's still living.”
Prentiss came up with the fat tree-slab paneling in spruce and pine for one of the bedrooms. Liston says the wood seeps: “It's still living.”
 

The first floor holds a garage, bathroom and bunk room. An elevator rises through the center of the house. On the second floor is the living room, kitchen, bath and two sleeping areas, which are closed by way of pocket doors, but only if somebody's in there. Liston calls neither bedroom hers.

"I just crash wherever, usually on the couch," she says, waving her arm in the general direction of the big-old broken-in black leather sofa.

And because all of her friends have dogs, there are piles of puppy toys, water bowls, Frisbees and pet beds tucked into corners. Dog treats sit on the counter, and chow is stored on top of the kitchen cabinets.

Liston really wanted porthole windows and a tin ceiling in the bathroom. “The portholes were kind of a pain to find,” she says. But they turned up in Seattle at Cuttysark Nautical Antiques in Pioneer Square. The recycled-glass tiles are from Bedrock in Seattle.
Liston really wanted porthole windows and a tin ceiling in the bathroom. “The portholes were kind of a pain to find,” she says. But they turned up in Seattle at Cuttysark Nautical Antiques in Pioneer Square. The recycled-glass tiles are from Bedrock in Seattle.

The house was built by Tommy Poplin and his sons in Ocean Shores and was finished in 2002. Karl Kirchhofer of Kirchhofer Design/Build Poulsbo carved the kitchen island, which evokes waves around the implanted glass floats. Even the strips around the drawers have the wooden waves. He also carved the drawer pulls. "He did it all by hand," Liston says. "I said, 'Karl, you're crazy,' but he wouldn't stop. He just loved what he was doing so much. Karl rocks."

Just like Liston, who counts on her cabin to keep her life together.

"I get a kick out of my place. I think it's really cool."

Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine.


 
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