Published on Thu, Mar 18, 2004
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Home Improvement

by Meg Olson

Many of the over 4,000 people moving into Whatcom County each year are re-locating from somewhere else in Washington, and a good share of these are families with children escaping the sprawl and congestion of the Seattle metropolitan area.

More often that one might expect, they’ve bought some of Blaine’s more expensive houses, such as this week’s featured dwelling on the 18th fairway of the Semiahmoo Golf and Country Club. It just sold to a family who’s moving from the Lake Sammamish area for its full asking price, a little over half a million dollars, and like most new construction around Blaine it sold well before it was finished.

The house, however, has more to recommend it than just having a back yard designed by golfing legend Arnold Palmer, designer of the Semiahmoo course almost 25 years ago.

General contractor Pam and husband Jerry Amundson of Greenway Properties decided to build an eco-friendly house on the one-third acre lot, working within the various covenants that apply behind the gates in Semiahmoo’s St. Andrew’s Green area.

“There are, of course, restrictions that apply to building there,” said listing realtor Kathy Stauffer of Windermere Real Estate’s Semiahmoo office, “but the houses are also supposed to be unique designs so there were plenty of ways for Pam to accomplish her goals. She began with a solid plan from Jerry Roetcisoender’s JWR Design in Lynden.”

Stauffer calls it a “custom spec” house. “It’s not an el cheapo like a regular spec (i.e. built on the speculation that a buyer will come forward, a safe bet these days),” she said. “It has pavers in the driveway, for example, which doubles the cost over regular asphalt or concrete but also allows water to drain through it and be cleaned as it does rather than running off solid pavement to pollute the bay.”

Amundson hired an arborist to help design the yard and preserve the small to moderately tall second and third growth firs in the yard, something that’s safe if the trees are healthy and well cared for. She was careful to keep the granite boulders that excavators found on the property but has left them scattered in the back yard, giving it an informal, park-like feel while providing some visual separation from the manicured fairway and green just beyond. It would be easy to create a low or no-maintenance yard in this setting.

The style is craftsman, something first seen in houses built about a hundred years ago and characterized by low-pitched gabled roofs, exposed rafters and wide, overhanging eaves. It’s a reaction against the bland monotony of industrial 19th-century England and America. The idea is to have one skilled person, a craftsman, build by hand what otherwise might be put together like a kit from pieces ground out in factories. It was a return to seeing houses as having aesthetic value, something that almost guarantees uniqueness in design.

Amundson’s house shows four gables to the street and seven combinations of windows, and none are the same. The stonework around the base and in the porch pillars is another craftsman touch as is the liberal use of cedar siding and cedar shakes on the roof.

Once inside the 3,000 square foot house the craftsman feeling is maintained by the lavish use of wood, especially the old-growth fir wrapped around windows and doorways and in the custom kitchen cabinets. The flooring is red oak with a large inlaid area of ceramic tile at the entry and throughout the master bathroom.

In other respects the house is much more modern with its light and airy inside and relatively compact gas corner fireplace in the 19 x19 living room instead of the massive stone fireplace dominating an outside wall one would have had a century ago. It has visual impact with its wrapping of real river rock that goes from the floor up ten feet to the slanted cathedral ceilings. The tall gray wall is punctuated halfway up with a mantle made from a single beam of old-growth fir.

It also has radiused outside corners and the walls are painted a subtle shade of light tan, giving the house a much lighter feeling than the cave-like low ceilinged bungalows of the early days of the craftsman movement. The paint color matches both the reddish cast of the fir and oak as well as the deep green of the fairway and surrounding Douglas fir that shows through the many large windows.

A hallmark of craftsman style houses is the liberal use of built-ins and other details that basically serve to show off the builder’s talents. Roetcisoender carries this idea through Amundson’s house with an interesting use of ceiling beams in the porch over the main entry that carries into the dining room, on the left as you enter the house, and to a ridge beam that runs the length of the expansive living room to the right. In addition to the stone work around the fireplace, there’s an alcove next to it that’s destined to house an entertainment center or other furniture that when installed will appear to have come with the house.

The living room’s scale is brought down to a manageable level with a wall of six picture windows grouped together on the east side, facing the golf course, instead of one big pane of glass, and two sliding glass doors that face south to capture the sun without drawing attention to the neighbor’s house. Breaking up the windows also provides for more effective insulation, often the place where houses lose most of their heat. The glass doors provide enough area for a significant amount of passive solar heating throughout the day.

The 16x17 kitchen is separated from the living room by a low partition that backs one of the two sinks, and features granite slabs for counter tops. It’s big enough for all the people that seem to congregate in kitchens, whether kids after school or guests at a grown-up party, but is dominated by a large central island that’s faced with more fir. The 6x8 foot granite slab on top overhangs the edges enough to provide parking for as many stools as the owners could possibly want, and has the main sink built in. Another alcove on the east side of the kitchen provides room for a breakfast eating area as well as the best view of the 18th green.

The master bedroom also faces east, toward the fairway, and has a large bathroom with a jetted tub and a double shower that’s wrapped in tumbled ceramic and marble to match the large floor tiles. Heat is provided by hot water pipes underneath the floor, and once warm it will stay that way for days. The odd-shaped but well-designed walk-in closet is reached through the bathroom.

Two other bedrooms share a “Jack and Jill” bathroom between them, and the upstairs “bonus” room, over the three car garage and reached by a stairway that snakes through its own tunnel, also has its own bathroom. “We weren’t sure whether to finish this off or not,” said Amundson, “but it makes a nice area that’s off and away from the rest of the world.”

It sure is. Stand still for a moment up there and think about being inside a gated community, off on a small side road, up a stairway that’s down the hall and around a corner and carpeted with a moss-like layer of thick broadloom. It’s the definition of solitude and privacy.

For more information on this house, unoccupied at time writing, contact Stauffer at her office at 371-5100.