Flexibility rules a getaway built for two sisters' families

Jil Peters,  –  May 4, 2005

Sometimes, sharing is the best solution. Such is the case inthis serene vacation home on Orcas Island, Washington, owned by twoSeattle sisters and their husbands. The house gracefullyaccommodates both couples ― Jonathan and Carol Buchter andSusan and Carl Dreisbach ― and their family and friends in2,000 efficiently designed square feet.

The overall goal was to create the feeling of a summer camp,where there are different outbuildings for various functions. Thehome that architect David Coleman designed isn’t literally a seriesof outbuildings, but his plan captures that rustic spirit. Threepavilions, one housing a great room (kitchen, dining room, andliving room) and two housing master suites, are connected by aninterior porch or gallery. “If you think about the project like ashish kebab,” explains Coleman, “the porch is the skewer.”

Privacy is one benefit of the unique plan. “Because everybedroom is self-contained, there are no common walls,” says Carol.Each master suite is a little structure with its own entry, unliketraditional vacation homes, says Coleman, in which bedrooms allopen directly to a dark corridor.

The light and airy interior porch is framed in wood, with hugewindows that run all the way to the ceiling. In the summer, thewindows can be opened to integrate the home with the surroundinglandscape, turning the house into a breezeway. “I like the factthat I always feel like I’m outside when I’m in the house,” saysJonathan Buchter.

Built-in flexibility “People use vacation homes in differentways at different times,” explains Coleman. Sometimes one couplepops up for a weekend of decompression; other times both familiesare joined by friends. Each November they gather for a bigThanksgiving dinner. “Last year we had 14,” says Carol, “12 of whomslept over.”

Two sets of sliding barn doors, which run the width of theinterior porch, are key to meeting the home’s ever-changing needs.”You can open up the barn doors and connect all the public spaces,”Coleman says. “But if you’re with more people or want more privacy,you can close one or both of the barn doors and create severalseparate rooms.”

“The nice thing about the house is that even though it’s small,you can get away by yourself or be with others,” says Jonathan. Soif the large group in the living room gets a little rowdy, simplypull a barn door closed for an instant cocoon.

DESIGN: David Coleman/Architecture,Seattle (206/443-5626)

A plan for sharing

Key design elements make it easy for the Buchters and theDreisbachs to share and maintain the home.

Transition spaces. The entrance to each master suite is asmall hall with built-in shelving, which provides a layer ofprivacy between main living areas and the bedrooms.

Versatile sleeping areas.The deep window seats in the livingroom can convert to attractive sleeping quarters for additionalguests.

Plenty of storage. “Hide as much as you can inside cupboardsand cabinets so there are fewer surfaces to keep clean,” advisesJonathan Buchter.

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