WRITTEN BY REBECCA TEAGARDEN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY BARRY WONG
With slate, wood and plenty of heaters, this house is
Built for the Beach
The decks are more than just a place to soak in the hot tub or cook out. They are true outdoor living spaces. Jay and Marilyn Mitchell stand at the edge of the outdoor living porch, which features curved-glass wind screens that send the wind up and away. Built-in electric quartz space heaters add warmth and make the space usable most of the year.
Jay and Marilyn Mitchell had a lot to think about for their new Bainbridge Island home, the one just for the two of them. There was the narrow lot at 60 feet wide. There was the furniture they planned to bring from their Issaquah home. There was the issue of making room for all the art they had gathered over the years. And last, but in no way least, there was comfort to consider. And usefulness and beauty.
The Mitchells wanted every space in their home to be used. Upstairs features a yoga room, guest room, two offices, bathroom, storage, a reading nook and widow's walk. Rugged peeler logs support the cathedral-like sweep from the ground-floor gallery to the 25-foot-long skylight.
"We live in every space," Marilyn says. "We didn't want a lot of rooms we never used."
It's good that Jay, a retired architect, was used to this kind of thing. He took it all to heart and head and came up with a comfortable yet majestic beachfront retreat where dinner companions on the heated outdoor porch include eagles, clam diggers and the Winslow ferry.
"There isn't any place you look that you don't go, 'Oh, look at that,' " Marilyn says. "Every place you look in the entire house is detailed."
Jay gives her a look and says, "That's an architect out of control."
The Mitchells wanted comfort and warmth in their cozy empty nest. Interior designer and former Issaquah neighbor Jan Anderson worked with Marilyn to make the house a home.
But control is what it took to get it all in the 2,800 square feet of living space. The great room, covered porch, dining room, yoga room, guest room, pocket garden, gallery, two offices, garages, reading nook, pantry, master bedroom, guest room, widow's walk, shop and wine cellar. No showy-but-untouched living rooms for them. Also, they wanted to be able to see the water from every room — on a lot that did not face the sun.
Whew, what a client.
"I got a map and marked every shoreline in the Puget Sound area that had the orient I wanted and a sense of community," Jay says. "From Whidbey to Bainbridge, and in between."
Jay Mitchell designed the foyer wall to be movable and included an arch opening for the "Ocean Key" sculpture by Pascal of Santa Fe, N.M. When visitors pass through the front door they first see this sculpture, and through it, the waters of Eagle Harbor beyond.
He started drawing about the time their daughter left for college. The house was finished in December 2001. Smallwood Construction carried out Jay's designs, and interior designer and former Issaquah neighbor Jan Anderson worked with Marilyn to coordinate the interior. Now Jay, Marilyn, Emma and Heidi (the couple's elegantly lolling Rhodesian ridgebacks) live an outdoors-indoors life on the beach.
For nine months of the year, the outdoor porch is really more of an outdoor living room. It is built with wood peelers, slate floors, a peaked wood ceiling, electric heaters for warmth and railings with curved glass to deflect the wind. The master bedroom connects directly to it and includes a large dog door, so everybody can come and go as they please.
Jay Mitchell works not so much with a style but with materials, colors and proportions. And the house is filled with both light and dark woods in cedar, cherry, hemlock and first-growth fir reclaimed from the waters of British Columbia. The cabinets in the kitchen and pantry are cherry and were made in Pennsylvania Amish country.
Asian and Northwest influences are everywhere. Carved entry-court teak columns are from Indonesia; rugged peeler logs support the sweep from the ground-floor gallery to the 25-foot-long skylight over the open second floor; Chinese wood panels create a king-size headboard in the master bedroom; a Japanese temple beam carved in relief was built into the house and frames a recess for the baby grand piano; Philippine capice shell sliding panels close off the yoga room and guest room, and an Indian chest with a concrete wash basin hunkers down in the powder room.
And that's not even to mention the Asian antiques, Tibetan rugs and tribal art. Not bad for a couple who just made their first trip to Asia (Vietnam and Thailand) in December.
Jay Mitchell used Indonesian screens to create a walled pocket garden featuring bamboo, ferns and a fountain in a large pot to bring serenity and light into the master bathroom. The cast-iron bathtub, placed on the diagonal, takes full advantage of the private view.
"I don't do anything in styles," says Jay, who worked on mostly commercial projects around Palo Alto in California. "I just do things in proportions and materials and colors."
So, for good measure, he included cherry kitchen and pantry cabinets made in Pennsylvania Amish country, and a Craftsman-style white-oak curved staircase to carry them to the second-floor widow's walk, reading nook and points beyond. Throughout the house are both light and dark woods in cedar, cherry, hemlock and first-growth fir reclaimed from the waters of British Columbia.
Stone plays its role, too, with ungauged rectangular Chinese slate on the first floor and honed granite, English slate and travertine elsewhere.\
Emma and Heidi, the Mitchells' Rhodesian ridgebacks, loll in the sun as the ferry to Bainbridge passes by. The wood deck is Ipe, which does not need weather-proofing and is renewable.
Because the lot is so narrow, the house moves from street to shore. But all spaces, except the more-private master bedroom suite, are open to the gallery.
And now that the Mitchells are both "retired" (Jay consults and works on the gardens, and Marilyn has started the nonprofit National ParentNet Association, a program to increase parent involvement in schools) they wanted a home that was easy to maintain. They also wanted a home that would welcome their six grown children and their families. The wood deck is composed of Ipe, which does not need weather-proofing and is renewable. The exterior railings are welded steel with a powder-coated finish. The shingle roof is metal with a Kynar polymer finish. And the floors are slate with radiant heating.
Jay's niftiest trick, perhaps, sits right inside the front door. The foyer wall, built with an opening for the "Ocean Key" sculpture, can be picked up and moved to clear the entranceway.
"That's how we got the piano in," he says.
Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Barry Wong is a magazine staff photographer.
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