We’re building a (green?) house, ed. 1

February 16, 2009

NOTE: Updates of this post can be found at EcoMajority, my web-based forum focused on sustainable home building.


Almost exactly two years ago, my wife and I got a wild hair.

For years, we thought about moving to Bainbridge Island. But then we stopped thinking about it and actually closed on a piece of property on Wing Point. That single decision was catalyst for many decisions that would change our lives and those of our children. And save the economic crisis our country in stumbling through, we haven’t spent a lot of time looking back.

To move forward, we needed to sell our house in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood — our community throughout our entire marriage — as well as sell our vacation house which we had literally built from the ground up.  We had a few goals:

  1. We wanted to build a house that was all that we loved about our vacation home, but one we could live in every day. That meant an environment where our kids could run (more or less) free. It meant  having a studio space for both Ann and her metalwork, and for me and my painting and other shenanigans. And it meant having room for our friends and family to come and hang out with us — whether for dinner or a week.
  2. We like to build things, and this time we wanted to build a modern-ish house.
  3. We wanted to build a house that was as environmentally responsible and sustainable as we felt we could reasonably do. (I could, and probably will, write many more posts about this aspect of the project.  Suffice it to say, this is not as clear-cut or as easy as one would think.)
  4. We wanted to simplify our lives, even if that meant just going from two residences to one. Naturally, there would be less to think about, and certainly fewer costs in maintaining two homes.

To make a two-year-old story considerably shorter, within just a few months of purchasing the property, we began the design process, choosing Lane William’s Coop15. There were very specific design constraints given that it was a remodel (albeit one that went down to the foundation). We eventually came up with the design you see at the top of this post.

In Fall 2007/Winter 2008 (can’t remember which), we chose our contractor, Smallwood Construction. And in June of 2008 we began deconstruction (not demolition) a process I wrote about in my work blog — which predated “stuffandjunk” and you can read here.

For reasons — actually reason, singular — that isn’t worth going into, we didn’t get going in earnest until August/September. And we hope to move in at the end of July 2009.

Over the course of the coming weeks and months, I’ll write some other posts and share some pictures.  I’ll try to explain the joy with which we look forward to our new home and the discoveries we’ve made along the way.  I’ll also try to honestly share some of the compromises we’ve had to make, the shortcomings in the process and our goals, and even the anguish of building while the economy is cratering. But who are we to complain?

Here are a couple of pictures taken recently.



Shooting with your iPhone

February 9, 2009

img_0221Perusing my Twitter feed one day, I noticed a blog post by Seattle photographer Chase Jarvis.  While Chase is a gifted photographer and we had just shot a campaign with him for one of DDB Seattle’s client Chateau Ste. Michelle, this particular post was not about anything too high-end in terms of photography.

No, it’s about getting great shots from your iPhone and you can read it here.  There are a few tips (hold the camera with both hands, press the shutter release and then compose your shot– and release when you are ready), and a few suggestions for handy ap downloads.  It’s definitely worth the read if you’re taking photos with an iPhone.

A little slice of Paradise

January 31, 2009
Fishing camps on Wing Point, Bainbridge Island circa 1905

Fishing camps on Wing Point, Bainbridge Island circa 1905

The article came out just a few weeks ago. Yeah, the New York Times did a story about the island I call home — Bainbridge Island.  It reminds me of when Seattle was voted “best place to live” by Money, or some magazine like that.  And because the list can’t be the same the next year, you wait for your fall from grace.

We bought our house on Bainbridge in 2007 and moved here full time just last summer.  So we’re real newcomers.  Maybe if our kids live here their whole lives (yeah, that’s likely) then maybe they’ll some day be considered “Bainbridge old-timers.”

Our friends can’t fathom why we would move over here after 20  years of living in the city.  Well, here’s one:  my house today is in all likelihood on the beach directly behind where these old cabins stood 103 years ago. Couldn’t afford that in the city.  The schools are among the very best in the state. And the commute people can’t imagine doing? Yeah, I spent it tonight enjoying a cold Bud Light with two friends after a really long week.  No driving.

John and Owen, Wing Point beach, 2007

John and Owen, Wing Point beach, 2007

But now I’m catching a bit of grief from friends.  They suggest that perhaps we’ve got a really good PR campaign going on behalf of the Island.  (Not true, though you could start a pretty impressive ad agency on Bainbridge just based on the number of our ilk who live over here.)   What I can’t figure out is why more people aren’t moving here.  And though I would love to enjoy Island life with even more friends, I suppose I’m a bit like a lot of people who move here and want to close the door behind them and not let anyone else move over.  Actually, that’s not true.