Magazine article Sunset

Reconcilable Differences: A Modern Washington Cabin Blends a Couple's Opposing Styles While Making the Most of the Landscape

Magazine article Sunset

Reconcilable Differences: A Modern Washington Cabin Blends a Couple's Opposing Styles While Making the Most of the Landscape

Article excerpt

FOR YEARS, JEN AND KIRK SCHUMACHER'S weekend house in Washington's Methow Valley was simply a place to drop their bags before hitting a rock face or ski slope. But once they had their first child, they dreamed of replacing the tiny cabin with a full-time home.

With "forever" in mind and ideas flying, the stage was set for a design battle. Jen is a traditionalist, while husband Kirk describes his style as "much more sparse." Jen elaborates: "You know those very modern interiors with stark white walls, a black floor, and a single set of antlers on the wall? That's Kirk."

Fortunately, the Schumachers found Thomas Lawrence, an architect who doesn't mind providing couples therapy. "We talked to a few other architects and could see that they leaned toward one style or the other," says Kirk. "Tom was very understanding and good at melding our visions." It helped that Lawrence had experience designing everything from rustic cabins to contemporary structures of glass, steel, and concrete. "It was fun to try and figure out a solution that they both liked," says Lawrence.

The Schumachers did agree on one thing: They wanted a small house on the 1-acre lot. Lawrence was happy to comply. "To create a nice compact house requires more creativity than designing a big one," he says. The resulting home squeezes a great room, a master suite, and bedrooms for the couple's son and daughter into just 2,000 square feet, with a 500-square-foot loft over the garage for guests.

Lawrence used computer renderings to help the Schurnachers see the ramifications of different style choices. Jen originally wanted a country lodge with a wraparound porch, but came around to Kirk's vision of a more modern silhouette. "Tom showed us how a gabled roof would block a lot of the views of the mountains," says Jen. The porch morphed into a wide patio, where the kids can ride their bikes. Dark brown board-and-batten wood siding dads the house, appealing to Kirk's minimalist leanings, while the windows are outlined in tomato red, one ofJen's favorite colors.

In addition to a small footprint, the couple also wanted their home to be environmentally friendly. On-demand hot water, electric in-floor radiant heating, and ceiling fans in lieu of air-conditioning keep energy usage down. To help modulate the area's temperature extremes, Lawrence also designed a super-insulated roof.

The interior reflects the couple's shared love of the outdoors--and blends their competing tastes. Large windows and dings doors seem to bring snowdrifts and fir, cedar, and aspen trees into the rooms. In quirkier fashion, the couple decided to sub climbing hangers (the metal bolts they frequently use for rock climbing) for drawer pulls. "They're way more affordable than traditional pulls, and you can open a beer bottle with them!" says Kirk. Beer or not, the adjoining kitchen and living room is party central. "We wanted the rooms open to one another so we could dance around with the kids," Jen says.

Jen's rustic style prevailed through elements like reclaimed barn wood ceilings, corrugated metal wainscoting, and pendants made from recycled fuel tank lids. "I'd wonder, Is that going to be too crazy?--and then decide to just go for it," she says. Contemporary fixtures and poured-concrete floors, however, keep the vibe industrial, not country-kitsch. …

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