A supplement to the Methow Valley News
p 509.997.0466 / 206.523.6150 www.johnstonarchitects.com
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Choices on the home front
Photos by Don Nelson
How do you define a “Methow lifestyle” when it comes to building a home? Is it a cute cabin or a log manse? Modern or old-fashioned? On the river or tucked into a hillside? Gold Creek or Lost River? The answer can be “yes” to all of those possibilities, depending on what part of the Methow captures your heart and what kind of home you want to create there. The incredible variety of options is one of the things that makes putting together our Methow Home publication so interesting. As we did last year, in Methow Home 2013 we have spotlighted a few examples of valley living at its best. In each case, the home’s inspiration came from the land itself and the owners’ dreams, translated through the architect’s design process and the builder’s expertise to create a unique space. Our
featured homes include two remodels – one much more elaborate than the other – and four original homes that range from Wolf Creek to the Rendezvous, from Fawn Creek to the Chewuch River. All of the homes reflect the personalities and expectations of their owners, and the excellent craftsmanship of the Methow construction and design community. Elsewhere you’ll find helpful articles about other aspects of home and second home ownership in the Methow. Figuring out a site placement and floor plan is only the beginning of making a Methow home complete, inside and out. We hope that Methow Home will generate ideas and excitement about what’s possible here. Let us know what you think. Contact us at editor@ methowvalleynews.com or call (509) 9977011. Don Nelson Editor and publisher
Methow Home 3
Methow Home 2013
A supplement to the Methow Valley News Don Nelson
Sue Misao design
Callie Fink advertising
Marilyn Bardin office manager
Janet Mehus office assistant
Linda Day ad design
A publication of the Methow Valley News P.O. Box 97 101 N. Glover St. Twisp, WA 98856 509.997.7011 fax 509.997.3277 www.methowvalleynews.com firstname.lastname@example.org
4 Methow Home
CONTENTS 6 BUILDING MOMENTUM? Local contractors see a glimmer of recovery after tough years
8 FLOORED WITH OPTIONS Choices abound for what’s underfoot
10 GO NATIVE IN YOUR
Plants found in the Methow are hardy and attractive for landscaping
12 INSIDE STORY
Interior design should start before the foundation is laid
14 A DRIVEWAY IS NOT
JUST A DRIVEWAY
Love that hilltop site? You’ll need to think about getting up and down
18 TRUST BUT VERIFY
Experienced, licensed contractors don’t mind being checked out
20 DO IT – OR DON’T –
Feeling handy? That sense of accomplishment may be hardearned
Home Tour puts the eclectic Methow lifestyle on full display
24 WHAT DOES
‘GREEN’ REALLY MEAN?
Contributors Don Nelson is publisher and editor of the Methow Valley News.
Marcy Stamper is a Methow Valley News reporter.
It can be confusing, but some basics still apply
26 NO PLACE LIKE IT
Six distinct Methow designs that reflect their owners’ personalities
38 BUYERS AND
Local real estate experts assess the Methow Valley market
40 BEING NEIGHBORLY Treat the Methow landscape – and its residents – with respect
Ann McCreary is a Methow Valley News reporter.
Laurelle Walsh is a Methow Valley News reporter and proofreader.
Ashley Lodato is a Methow Valley News columnist.
Georgina Tobiska is a local freelance writer.
42 DIRECTORY OF
is a Methow Valley News columnist.
Find the products and services you need for your home
On the cover:
Chewuch River home honors the Methow landscape. Photo courtesy of Office of Shackitecture.
is an author, illustrator and Methow Valley News cartoonist.
is a local freelance writer.
Methow Home 5
Building momentum? local contractors see a glimmer of recovery after tough years
By Ann McCreary
was: ‘Six of us bid on a doghouse, and I lost it by $5,’” Brown said. Trends in the economy – including the housing construction market—tend to lag about two years behind in the Methow Valley compared to the rest of the country, local home builders and designers say. “We were the last ones to get hit with the recession and were the last ones to recover,” Brown said. “Even though things tanked nationally in 2008 … most of us were still pretty busy,” said designer Howard Cherrington, who owns Integrated Design Concepts. But by 2010 the local homebuild-
autious optimism appears to be the general outlook among people who make a living building houses in the Methow Valley. In any case, 2013 could hardly be any worse than the past two years, they say. “As far as the market goes, last year was my slowest year,” said builder Jeff Brown, who runs AJ Brown & Company Inc. “We did a lot of small jobs – garages, decks, lots of remodeling.” As homebuilding opportunities evaporated during the recession, competition among local builders for work – any work – became intense. “The line I used last year
Photo by Sue Misao
Local builders are keeping their tool belts ready for an uptick in activity. in the recession, most of the work Cherrington has done
in the past couple of years has involved remodels or
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ing economy was sliding fast, he said. “Last year my business was down 70 percent from the heyday of the early 2000s,” said Cherrington. “That’s pretty true generally around the valley from what I hear when talking to builders.” “I had to shut my office downtown [in Twisp] because I couldn’t carry the overhead,” Cherrington said. As it turns out, he finds working out of his home a benefit. “I really appreciate being able to walk prospective clients through a home I designed myself,” he said. As the demand for new home construction collapsed
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additions. “Over the years I usually had one [remodel] every two or three years. Now it’s the bulk of what I’m seeing,” he said. “It’s cheaper these days for someone to buy a piece of property with infrastructure in place, and that already has a house, than to start building from scratch,” Cherrington said. “People are doing more remodeling and additiontype work” rather than new construction, said Rick Mills, of North Cascades Construction Inc. “People are buying a fixer-upper. The bargains are existing houses.”
But things are looking more optimistic for new home construction, Mills said. He’s bidding on a couple of new home construction projects planned for 2013. “That’s way more than last year at this time. There are some jobs out there, but the competition is a lot more fierce,” he said. “Builders are scram-
bling,” Cherrington said. “Last year there was a pole barn being built and it had people bidding from as far away as Wenatchee and Okanogan.” Today’s economic environment has made homebuilding a much better bargain for people hiring contractors. It’s a far cry from the days when clients were the ones scrambling to line up busy contractors to take on their house project. “There was a time when they were lucky to get somebody,” said Donald McLane of D. McLane Construction Company. “I charge a little less now too.” “There is an expectation from the client that we basically have to buy the job,” said Mills. “The costs have to be so low that you’re not making any money. That’s driven by supply and demand. The people building the houses, they know they can squeeze us.” The tough economy squeezed some builders right out of business. “I think it
thinned out a lot of guys,” said Brown. “I can think of three or four that are gone. They’re just not here any more.” McLane noted that the stagnant homebuilding industry has a broad impact on the valley economy. It’s not just contractors who have struggled to stay alive during these tough years. Subcontractors – plumbers, excavators, electricians, sheet rockers, roofers, etc. – have also been hit hard. “When things were busy, I’d call them and try to get them lined up way ahead of time. Now all of those people are scrambling for work,” McLane said. With contractors willing to work for less, the cost of building a home is far more reasonable than it was during the valley’s real estate boom. “The cost per square foot for new construction hasn’t inflated since 2009,” Cherrington said. “We’re looking at $160-$165 per square foot for a moderately nice house with reasonable finishes. It
Integrated Design Concepts
used to be you couldn’t talk to anybody for less than $200 per square foot.”
Even as the economy strengthens and people begin to venture into new homebuilding again, the construction will likely be on a smaller scale. “You’re not seeing the 10,000-square-foot McMansions going up these days,” Cherrington said. “People still want quality and a certain amount of space, but they don’t need 10,000 square feet to live in. People have gone to 1,800 or 2,000 square feet.” Despite lower homebuilding costs and downsized projects, contractors say most construction isn’t being financed by bank loans as in the past. “It’s harder to get money from banks. Homes aren’t being built through lending right now, it’s through people who have the disposable money,” Mills said. “I haven’t used a bank in a long time,” Brown said.
“It used to be I’d … do draws from a bank to complete the project. People [building] today have the money, or they refinanced their house.” A potentially positive sign for the future of new home construction in the Methow Valley is an uptick in sales of land in 2012. “Land sales were up 20 percent last year,” said Anne Eckmann of Blue Sky Real Estate. The sales increased from 49 in 2011 to 66 in 2012. That’s the highest number of total sales since 2008, when there were 76 land sales, according to statistics compiled by Dave Thomsen of Coldwell Banker Winthrop Realty. However, Thomsen noted, the actual average sale price fell in 2012, continuing a six-year slide. Surviving the homebuilding slump “is stressful, for sure,” said Mills. “But you have to maintain a positive attitude. I’m going to the gym more; I’m playing hockey more. You just try not to think about the bills when you’re playing hockey.” B
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Methow Home 7
Floored with options choices abound for what’s underfoot
By Ashley Lodato
ou wipe your feet on it, grind dirt into it, drag furniture across it, and spill on it. You want it to function well, hold up over time, and look great despite the abuses you subject it to. It’s your floor, and you hold it to a higher performance standard than just about any other feature of your house except, perhaps, your roof. Your floor is a reflection of your taste, style, and practicality, and fortunately for you, the options are varied without being overwhelming. Bill McAdow of Harmony House Interiors is enthusiastic about the number of different flooring options available to homeowners. While most homeowners
make initial flooring selections based on aesthetics, says McAdow, consideration for practicality and functionality (as well as budget) plays a role in all final flooring decisions. “People in the Methow are practical,” McAdow says. “They know that snow, mud, dirt and everything else is going to get tracked into their houses.” For this reason, many Methow homes feature concrete or tile floors, at least in entryways and high traffic areas. These flooring options look great, resist damage, and clean easily. As an added benefit, both concrete and tile floors are highly compatible with radiant heating, which is widely installed in new
construction, especially in high-end custom homes. It’s hard to beat the comfort of a warm floor, and radiant heat’s efficiency when installed in a thermal mass makes economic sense. Concrete floors, in particular, offer homeowners many choices of looks: the rich colors of an acid finish or the consistency of integral color; vibrant stains; cutting to mimic the look of tile; or stamped textures. Decorated concrete floors have become a bit of an art form, having come a long way from their humble roots in garages and patios.
Varieties of wood
Still, concrete and tile are hard, unforgiving sur-
Photo by Ashley Lodato
Durable slate flooring makes sense for some homeowners. faces and are simply not for everyone. Although their
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8 Methow Home
underfoot as wood. It used to be that when you referred to your “wood” floor, you knew that what was under your feet was a product that was once a tree. Not any longer. In the past few decades, “wood” floors can be one of several types of wood-like materials: • Solid wood, which is milled from a single piece of lumber. • Engineered wood, which is a hardwood veneer layer above a plywood or fiberboard body. • Laminate, which is a core of wood products topped with a durable surface layer with an image of wood. • Bamboo: which looks like wood but is actually a grass. Twisp resident Amy Stork selected an unconventional wood option for her floors: cabinet-grade plywood with a birch veneer. Stork, who managed the conversion of a garage into an 1,100-square-foot home, cut the plywood into 4’x4’ squares and screwed it to the subfloor, plugged the screw holes, and covered the whole thing with four layers of hard varnish. The flooring has the honeyed look of hardwood with the parquet-style installation and alternating grain pattern providing visual interest. Stork likes the unique look of her floor, but acknowledges that it was a bit of an experiment. “It’s an unusual material for flooring,” she says, “People hadn’t really worked with it in this way, so it took some trial and error to get it right.” Stork only moved into her house a few weeks ago so she hasn’t given the flooring the test of time, but so far neither the steady traffic of muddy boots moving through her house nor her dog’s claws have impacted the surface. Although the appearance and semi-cushioned feel of a hardwood floor appeal to many customers, McAdow cautions homeowners to consider their priorities. “Hardwood is just not
the greatest thing to put over heated floors,” he says. “It’s not stable. You have to worry about cupping and gapping, and many manufacturers will not warranty a hardwood floor nailed down over heated floors.” Engineered wood, on the other hand, says McAdow, is more dimensionally stable. “It can handle the fluctuations of a heated floor.” But if you must have your warm hardwood floors, says McAdow, “make sure you follow the rules.”
choices and stone or ceramic tile, the increasingly popular concrete and cork, and unconventional choices such as earthen floors, is there a single flooring option that is found in a majority of households? “Carpet is still king,” concedes McAdow. “It’s still the least-expensive option. It’s feels good underfoot and works well with heated floors.” And with a staggering array of aesthetic possibilities, it’s hard not to find
a carpet for every taste. The quality of carpets continues to rise, too, notes McAdow. “There has been so much improvement in recent years. Now carpets have expanded into PET fibers, made from recycled pop bottles. That appeals to many people.” With so many fantastic and functional flooring choices available, it can be difficult to narrow options down to a single selection. And why should you? Different areas of the house
serve distinct purposes; if chosen strategically the flooring in these areas can enhance the functionality of the rooms and the comfort of those who occupy them: carpet in bedrooms, concrete in high-traffic areas, tile in bathrooms, and wood in the kitchen. “There’s something for every taste, every need, and every budget,” McAdow says. “There are just so many options out there – at least one of them is right for you.” B
In recent years as homeowners have grown increasingly interested in resilient flooring options and progressively bold in their willingness to try new materials, McAdow has seen an upswing in luxury vinyl plank and luxury vinyl tile. Originally created for commercial use, this robust vinyl flooring now has residential applications due to its winning combination of durability and pleasing aesthetics. The vinyl pieces represent the visuals and textures of hardwood planks and stone or ceramic tiles with remarkable authenticity. “It’s really hard to tell it apart from real wood and real tile,” says McAdow. “The luxury vinyl is more expensive than laminate,” acknowledges McAdow, “but it’s incredibly durable. It’s taking a chunk out of the laminate market. The vinyl is just not as susceptible to water and wear as the laminate.” Another great product, continues McAdow, is Marmoleum: an all-natural product made of linseed oil, cork, tree resin and limestone. “It’s a very sturdy, higher-end product designed for commercial use” says McAdow, “but it gets used over here a lot. It has a fun look with a variety of color choices.” It’s not for DIY-ers, though, McAdow advises. “It’s a solid-bodied product and can be tricky to work with.” With traditional options such as any of the wood
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Methow Home 9
Go native in your yard plants found in the methow are hardy and attractive for landscaping
By Sue Phillips
this valley among the bitterbrush and bunchgrass for thousands of years and their homes reflect their love for the valley. As responsible stewards of the land they build their houses with care and consideration for this unique ecosystem. Homeowners can take this same care when planning their landscapes. Many people choose native plants for their gardens. The beauty
OM HOM ST
s I gaze around the Methow Valley my spirit is lifted. Beauty is everywhere. There is a serenity here that exists in every blade of grass, in every tree and every passing cloud. The valley creates a sense of well being that heals the residents and encourages visitors and travelers alike to stay. Some stay so long they build their homes here. People have lived in
Photo courtesy of Integrated Design Concepts
It’s not difficult to make native plants part of your planning. of the Methow is so incredible that landscaping with natives compliments their homes and harmoniously joins them to the surrounding environment. Native plants are hardy and totally acclimated to the conditions of the Methow Valley. They flourish in the dry climate, extreme temperatures and generally poor soil we have here. They can handle it all, compete with weeds, and always look great. What could be better? Many homeowners hire landscape architects or designers specializing in native landscapes to help them develop their own special outdoor space, and there is plenty of local expertise. Others choose to do their own landscape designs. It’s fun, and a trip to a natives’ nursery for ideas is a good place to start. A drive around the valley soaking up inspiration from
other people’s landscapes can be very helpful. Reading magazines and garden books is another great option.
Thinking inside out
Inside our homes we have living space requirements. We have a kitchen for cooking, a dining room for eating, a living room for socializing and a bedroom for sleeping. When planning a landscape, think of the garden as an outdoor living space. We spend a great deal of time outdoors doing a whole range of activities that all require space. A proper landscape design takes this into consideration and provides a space for everything required by the homeowner. Outside we might need a space for cooking and dining, a comfortable space for relaxing and socializing, a place to play and a place to
grow vegetables and herbs. We might need a place to store a lawn mower, snowmobile, an ATV or other toys and tools. We might also want to improve wildlife habitats. Whatever the situation, all of these living spaces can be accommodated and enhanced with native plants. First, come up with a detailed plan taking into consideration how you will use your land. Draw a site map with an inventory and placement of existing plants. Try to find out the history of your land and assess the health of the soil. Choose a diverse number of native species in order to create a weed-free landscape and reduce fire risk. You can also plan for improved wildlife habitats with places for birdhouses and plants that are good food sources for animals. A landscape design is
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similar to an interior design. There is an upper level, the pictures on the walls; a midlevel, the chairs and tables; a lower level, the stools and coffee tables; and a ground level, the flooring and carpets. We use this same principle in the garden to enhance our outdoor living spaces. Tall trees make up the upper level, medium shrubs and small trees make up the mid-level, small shrubs and flowers make up the lower level and ground covers make up the ground level. All these plants give definition and harmony to the garden. Upper level plants can be colorful. Ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa, would be a good plant to consider. Growing 70 to 100 feet tall, this stately evergreen has greygreen needles and red-orange bark. It makes a statement as a specimen tree or as a barrier. Quaking aspen, Populus tremuloides, a 40- to 60-foot deciduous tree, would be a good choice to compliment the pine. The wonderful white bark and yellow fall
color show up well against the evergreen. Willows also make good choices for the upper level. Pacific willow, Salix lasiandra, fast-growing to 40 feet, is a favorite of songbirds. Scouler’s willow, Salix scouleriana, growing to 20 feet, will tolerate dryer sites than other willows. Mid-level plants are very exciting. Blue elderberry, Sambucus cerulea is one of the showiest. Growing to 12 feet, it has brilliant blue berries which are great wildlife food. Red-osier dogwood, Cornus sericea, is a close second with superb fall color and brilliant red stems in winter. Chokecherry, Prunus virginiana, is a good small deciduous tree for the mid-level. It grows 10 to 15 feet tall with creamy white flower spikes in spring followed by red berries that are an important wildlife food. Mountain ash, Sorbus scopulina at 12 to 20 feet tall with bright orange berries, is a great food source for birds and provides fantastic fall color.
Big sagebrush, Artemisia tridentata, with aromatic, silver grey foliage is a good contrast to other plants. And what would a garden be without the beautiful, fragrant white blossoms of mock orange, Philadelphus lewisii, growing 8 to 12 feet. Golden currant, Ribes aureum, with loads of yellow flowers followed by tasty black berries, is a gem. Wax currant, Ribes cereum, with fragrant white blossoms in spring and sporting red ber-
ries, is a favorite of many bird species. Both are good choices growing 3 to 7 feet tall. Lower level plants include countless wildflowers that start blooming early in the spring. Beautiful grasses add splendor throughout the summer months. Ground level plants include the very attractive ground cover kinnikinick, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. This prostrate groundcover has small, leathery evergreen leaves, and pink flowers
in spring, followed by red berries that persist into the winter. These are only a few of the many native plants available to those who wish to share in the joy and satisfaction of creating a native landscape tailored to their needs. By taking an active stewardship role, the unique landscape of the Methow Valley will be preserved and homeowners can enjoy fantastic gardens planted with beautiful native plants. B
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Methow Home 11
Inside job interior design should start before the foundation is laid By Georgina Tobiska
nterior design styles of the Methow Valley vary as widely as its diverse residents, but one constant dominates aesthetics: even indoors, we live with the outside world and its seasonal extremes. Interiors therefore tend to take their artistic inspiration, raw materials, lines and color from the outside world in. Seasonal extremes in the valley mean that a homebuilder must consider subzero temperatures during winter months and blazing 100-degree weather in the dry heat of summer. In between there is mud season, fire season and harvest sea-
son. Living in the Methow, we feel these extremes acutely, and they affect our aesthetic with a sort of reverence, naturally bringing our outside experiences to our inside world. Often interiors are akin to abstract mirrors of a home’s exterior environment. The Methow environment inspires lofty, airy living spaces created or adorned with materials like river rock, carved stone and glass, rustic metals and raw local woods. Similarly, colors from the forests and fields are prevalent. Color tones of an entryway will reflect the
plants growing just outside the front door. A stone chimney will mimic the cliffs on a property’s edge or the river rocks just below the front yard. And for many homebuilders, use of existing materials on site (such as repurposing downed trees, extracted boulders, etc.) is both an ideal and a reality. This outdoors-taken-in “feel” of Methow homes takes hard work in the design process to make spaces functional. The practical process of creating that ideal feel indoors benefits from our local experts and their years of quality production. To bring the outdoors into your space in a functional way, valley-based designers advise planning from the inside out.
Most homebuilders have a fairly solid sense of the overall structure desired for their home. Considerations like living room size, number of bedrooms and baths and square footage can
Photo courtesy of Cliff Schwab
Picking colors and materials should happen before the finish work starts. be clear. But the nitty-gritty of interior design can be daunting. There are so many decisions, and they can seem so permanent. That is why custom finish carpenters and interior designers encourage thinking from the inside out. Rick Swanson, custom designer and finish woodworker in Winthrop, says that designers, contractors and clients are all happiest
with their results when the interior design work is done at the time the foundation is laid. That may sound like super-advanced planning, but Swanson says it allows him to be truly prepared, with materials that may take months to acquire. Whereas in the past certain finish woods might have taken a few days to ship, now more
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rare woods can take many weeks. And in the Methow, Swanson says that order time takes even more advanced planning than more urban areas where materials are readily available. One decision that may cut down shipping time is to use locally growing or regional woods, a highly popular choice in the Methow. Cliff Schwab is a custom furniture maker and interior designer who also urges his clients to plan far ahead.
“When you break ground for your new home, the cabinet maker should have your order,” says Schwab. This allows time to be sure of the hardware you want and to produce an uncompromised quality product. Schwab says it’s important to ask for more than one bid and determine timing of delivery and installation. That is not to say a design cannot or does not evolve – often it does, to the benefit of the client.
Swanson points out that a clear design plan from the beginning makes for a more seamless process, but a client’s willingness to evolve their design is even better. Often, Swanson says, an interior design job becomes a job for free-standing furniture that compliments the home in new and unexpected ways. The ideal: prepare ahead thoroughly and then be open to possibilities. Weighing cost and quality is an obvious considerPhoto courtesy of Cliff Schwab
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ation, but a homebuilder should consider longevity, according to Schwab. “Custom-built furniture is generally much more durable than manufactured furniture,” he says. And if you don’t plan to move, built-in furniture is a great option. Custom furniture orders also allow for the possibility of mixing different woods throughout the home and the use of recycled woods if the client so desires. Especially if you have recycled materials, antiques or valuable existing furniture pieces you plan to use in your new home, consider a planned mix-and-match of old and new. Molly LaChapelle is an architect, interior designer and decorator with offices in Winthrop (Mollywood) and Seattle who says that eclectic styles are popular and work well in our area. “In the Methow, people tend to have a clear sense of style, may know what they want, but may forget to accommodate all that they already have into their design,” she says. The key, says LaChapelle, is having a detailed inventory of objects important in your life before thinking about designing your space. If there are valuable antiques, family heirlooms or art with a place-specific purpose, those should be inventoried prior to design. “Take what you have, and
maximize it,” she says. LaChapelle offers this simple formula to clients when beginning the design process: What do you want the space to do; and how do you want the space to feel? Form should always follow function but the feeling of a space is just as important as its use in the long run, she says. LaChapelle gives this example: You know you want tile in one area of a master bath. You need not know the exact tile, but you know the basic color scheme of the room, the feeling you are going for, the theme. That determined, your tile choice should come naturally. When picking people to work on your home, any interior designer or custom finish carpenter will make the same point: choose someone you can work with, someone who communicates well. Meet with several designers, feel out their style of communication, and determine if you truly like them on a personal basis. Building or reconstructing a home is not simply a business relationship, it is also highly personal. LaChappelle says, “if someone is going to customdesign your home, they’ll know what kind of dishes you eat off of and the size of your underwear drawer.” So choose wisely, because your designer will know you and your home from the inside out. B Methow Home 13
A driveway is not just a driveway... love that hilltop site? you’ll need to think about getting up and down
By Laurelle Walsh
driveway is not just the automobile’s path to a house, it’s also the visual approach to a home; it provides parking for visiting friends and family members; it allows delivery trucks and emergency vehicles to turn around; it must bear the burden of construction traffic, and facilitate snow removal in winter. Although not as sexy as picking out countertops and kitchen tile, taking the time to carefully think through
the design of your driveway will create a durable impact that may last longer than the house itself. “What a lot of people don’t think about is the big picture: Some day in our wildest dreams, what would we do with our property?” notes Patsy Rowland, owner and broker at Winthrop Star Properties. “Five years down the road you may want to add a garden shed, garage, or build a guest house.” Rowland reminds her
CASCADE CONCRETE PRODUCTS CONCRETE REDI-MIX & PRE-CAST
Photo courtesy of Snowtime Snow Removal
A snowblower maintains the width of your driveway all season long. clients to think about the placement of landscaping
and trees, the septic system, propane tank and other utili-
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ties when siting the driveway: “How are you going to get from the car to the house? How about the back door? How far do you want to carry your groceries?” And while there’s not much you can do about the siting of an existing “problem” driveway, some less expensive fixes may be made by regrading, building up low spots, resurfacing, dust abatement, and at the very least, making it easier for emergency responders to find your house on a dark and snowy night. Okanogan Fire District 6
* Handyman service * Security visits * Snow removal * Lawn and landscape maintenance * Housekeeping and window washing 300 acres for 3.5 million Mazama, Washington Kristin Devin, Broker 509.996.4400 firstname.lastname@example.org
14 Methow Home
Licensed contractor • Bonded/insured
Chief Don Waller stresses that all residential and commercial structures should have a permanently posted address placed at each driveway entrance and be visible from both directions of travel. When multiple residences share a driveway, each address should be mounted on a single post at the driveway’s entrance with additional signs posted where the driveways divide. Locally, property owners may purchase blue-and-white reflective address numbers at the Winthrop Fire Station, or online through the nonprofit Winthrop Firefighters Association at www.winthropfirefighters.org.
Designing for winter
Winter in the Methow Valley, where snow lies on the ground somewhere around 100 days per year – depending on where you live – is the real test of a well or poorly designed driveway. And the penalty for not figuring snow into your design adds up to higher snow removal costs, time delays, inconvenience, hazardous driving and walking, and challenges for emergency vehicles. Just ask a snowplow driver. Isaac Buzzard owns Snowtime Snow Removal and is also a partner
in B&B Excavating, started by his father Baynard in 1979. “I’ve been involved with site preparation for so long that I’ve learned what not to do,” Buzzard says. Now he and his employees clear driveways where the valley gets the greatest snow depth – specializing in Early Winters, Lost River Road, Mazama and Edelweiss. “People spend a lot of money to site their home at the top of the hill. Maybe they are going for the selling point, but if nobody can get to the house, what’s the point?” Buzzard asks. He recalls one client – a full-time resident near Davis Lake – who used to chain up at the bottom of the driveway in order to get up to the house. “He chained and unchained so many times that he ended up just taking a snowmobile up and down the driveway,” Buzzard says. Eventually, when the homeowner’s outbuilding caught fire, fire trucks were unable to get up the snowy hill and they had to let the building burn. Darold Brandenburg, who runs a snow removal business alongside Brandenburg Construction, says, “You might not want to buy a property if you can’t put in a properly
Photo courtesy of Mary Morgan
It’s best to lay your utilities during the road-building process. graded road. Some of these driveways are just a nightmare in heavy snows.” Both men agree on the following dos and don’ts for driveways: • DO create snow storage areas
around buildings, parking areas, and road curves. • DON’T design landscaping in your driveway. Cont. on P. 17
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Methow Home 15
Designing a driveway for safety
ire District 6 Chief Don Waller just marked his 40th year as a firefighter, and during his career has seen his share of driveways that were ill-equipped to accommodate a 32-foot-long, 50,000-pound fire engine. To give his firefighters the best possible access to your property, Chief Waller provides the following guidelines for driveway design.
Surface and grade
The road surface should be compacted native soil with a sand or gravel base topped by gravel, concrete, asphalt or another approved driving surface capable of supporting a minimum load of 75,000 pounds, year round. The grade of any portion of the driveway should not exceed 10 percent;
switchbacks should have a minimum inside turning radius of 28 feet.
Width and vertical clearance
The width of the roadâ€™s drivable surface should be a minimum of 12 feet if there are four or fewer residences; if there are five or more residences, 22 feet is the minimum width. When trimming trees, landscaping or installing an entry gate, remember that driveways should have a vertical clearance of at least 12 feet from beginning to end.
Turnarounds and pullouts
If the length of the road exceeds 150 feet, the homeowner should provide approved turnarounds and
pullouts at the end of the road and at each structure or group of structures. Turnarounds should have a minimum inside turning radius of 28 feet, and minimum outside turning radius of 45 feet. Pullouts should be spaced every 300 feet and be at least 10 feet wide and 35 feet long.
Bridges and gates
Bridges and gates should meet all of the above clearances. Powered gates should be equipped to operate in the event of a power failure. Any locked gates should allow access to emergency personnel through a key box or other approved device. Load limits should be posted at either entrance to a bridge using reflective num-
Diagrams courtesy of Fire District 6
bers at least three inches tall on a contrasting background, and visible year-round.
Bridge load limits should allow for a working capacity of at least 75,000 pounds.
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From P. 15
• DO build up a 12-inch durable road base so water drains away from the driving surface. • DON’T put parking or sidewalks next to a shedding roof. • DO clearly mark transformers, hydrants, well rings, septic systems, and flower beds.
Living on top of the hill
Phil Millam and Mary
Morgan built their home atop a 3,560-foot knoll in the upper, Upper Rendezvous, more than a mile from the end of the county road. They enjoy the solitude, the wildlife and access to the uncrowded territory that surrounds their home. “We are not the highest full-time residents in the valley,” claims Millam, who cites one or two other neighbors “probably closer to 4,000 feet.” Their driveway – an
improved logging road – ascends 400 vertical feet in 6/10 of a mile, with four switchbacks. “We have only not gotten up twice in four years, and that was after a major dump, but we’ve had some exciting trips, no question,” Millam says. Morgan and Millam handle most of their own snow removal, and control weeds that appear on the property, while acknowledging “you cannot build a road and a house without scarring
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the land.” The couple take responsibility for living where they do, assuming higher insurance rates and working with the Department of Natural Resources to take active fire prevention measures. “If you live out in the boondocks you should take responsibility for your own escape route,” says Millam. They are cheerful and pragmatic about the costs – in time as well as money
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– of maintaining their challenging driveway, which requires two to three hours to clear after a big snow. “If you have to be somewhere every day at a given time, it’s rough living where we do,” says Morgan, but adds “this is a piece of cake” compared to the off-grid cabin they lived in while building their current home. “We used to snowshoe or snowcat out to the grocery store, which did get old after the romance wore off.” B
Owners Monte and Laurie Andrews
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Trust but verify
experienced, licensed contractors don’t mind being checked out
familiar phrase from the era of President Reagan still resonates for any homeowner thinking about hiring an outside party to perform building, renovation, or other skilled work on his property: Trust but verify. As defined by Wikipedia the phrase simply means, “that while a source of information might be considered reliable, one should perform additional research to verify that such information is accurate, or trustworthy.” When it comes to the building trades – general or specialized contractors – just because someone says he is licensed, bonded, and insured, it’s up to the consumer to perform the due diligence to make sure that’s the case.
By Mike Maltais
Ask any local contractor who is playing by the rules: Conforming to all the regulatory statutes specified by the State of Washington and maintaining the requisite bond and insurance for the size and scope of his operations isn’t cheap. Several local builders consulted for this article estimated that their costs per employee to cover overhead items such as L&I (workers’ compensation), FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act), and state unemployment insurance add $6 to $10 per hour to their base expenses. Those not jumping through all these hoops – working under the table for cash, if you will – can underbid a competitor who is. It’s a fact of life that confronts
the licensed tradesmen in the valley. “It happens a lot in concrete work,” one contractor, who requested anonymity, cited as an example. While cutting corners to save a buck might appeal to some property owners, when it comes down to the risk of engaging the unprotected, the elephant in the room is spelled L-I-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y. If something goes wrong and someone gets injured, the legal and financial consequences for the property owner can be crippling. Fortunately for those concerned about getting a project completed with as much protection as the law allows, there are resources available to help identify the licensed and legal from the
other operators. The State of Washington Department of Labor and Industries’ website at www. lni.wa.gov/ opens its page with an eye-catching prompt: “We checked our contractor first.” It directs the user to ProtectMyHome.net where homeowners can verify contractor and tradesmen registration. There is also a field to enter a contractor’s name to see if he is in current violation of any state laws, rules or regulations. Homeowners can also contact ProtectMyHome.net by calling 1-800-647-0982. Another helpful feature on ProtectMyHome is a cutaway house diagram with icons that offer advice on indoor, outdoor and foundation projects. As an example an icon over a crack in a paved
driveway cautions homeowners to beware of tradesmen offering special deals for onthe-spot work because they have leftover material from another project. Another feature is a downloadable “Hire Smart Worksheet,” a four-page guide that walks the consumer through some of the steps involved with defining a plan, budgeting, and creating a project sketch. It also includes a link to www. HiringAContractor.Lni.wa.gov where licenses, bonds, liability insurance and any outstanding infractions can be researched. Homeowners are cautioned to get bids in writing and collect and verify references. Once that is done the website offers a bid
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Cathy Habermehl 509-733-1090 • Eddie Layne 509-429-9239
BUILDING RESOURCES Okanogan County Department of Public Works (road development & approaches) www.okanogancounty.org/PW/ (509) 422-7300 Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (contractor licenses) www.lni.gov/ Okanogan kiosk Okanogan City Hall 120 Third Ave. N. 1-800-753-6506 Revised Code of Washington (building codes – see Title 19) apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/
Washington State University Applied Building Science Program (research on energy efficiency and indoor air quality) www.energy.wsu.edu/ BuildingEfficiency.aspx Town of Twisp (building permits within the town) www.townoftwisp.com Dave Sandoz, inspector (509) 997-4081 (509) 341-4126 Town of Winthrop (building permits within the town) buildingofficial@townofwinthrop. com (509) 996-2320
comparison worksheet to be used work your own hours, fly below the radar and game the system. for screened contractors only. Okanogan County Office of Planning & Development It should come as no surprise The final page provides tips (site plans, land-use issues) on how to finalize the written then that given the present ecowww.okanogancounty.org/planning agreement with the contractor nomic picture in the construction (509) 422-7160 Okanogan County Building Dept. selected and what other steps to trades the number of back-pocket (building permits) follow before tendering a pay- independents chasing the unwary www.okanogancounty.org/Building homeowner may show little dement. (509) 422-7110 County Assessor’s Office The collapse of the construc- cline anytime soon. (property assessment, So if doing it by the book suits tion industry that came close on property tax) www.okanogancounty.org/Assessor the heels of the nationwide hous- your inclination: (509) 422-7140 •verify licenses and liability ing implosion only served to ramp Okanogan County Public Health up the competition among local coverage. (water adequacy and septic permits) • obtain and check references. builders in pursuit of shrinking www.okanogancounty.org/ochd • don’t pay until the work is inventory. Pools of backlogged (509) 422-7140 projects soon dried up. Feast done. B quickly became lesser degrees of famine even for those able to hold on. Only the healthiest or most versatile contractors survived the shakeout. And so it continues. The Methow Valley is home to many a hardy soul Doors & Windows • Door Hardware Sales & Service who takes pride in his indeShower Enclosures •Mirrors • Glass Block Showers pendence and self-sufficiency. Skylights • Railing • Window & Screen Repair From gardeners to gearheads Commercial Storefronts a lot of do-it-yourselfers have honed skill sets that enable them to not only do their own work but to perform work for others as well. The temptation 56 Chelan Falls Rd (former Kelley Iron works bldg) is compelling to hang your www.chelanglass.com • Lic #CHELAG1931JW shingle, be your own boss,
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Do it – or don’t – yourself feeling handy? that sense of accomplishment may be hard-earned “Remember, if the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.” – Canadian comedian Red Green
am pretty sure there are only a handful of people in the Methow Valley who couldn’t build a 7,500-square-foot, threestory McMansion in two days with only a pick-up load of 2x4s, some duct tape, a measuring tape and a framing nailer. This is handy land. Everybody knows how to do everything. We’ve got lefthanded monkey wrenches and buckets of elbow grease. We have hydraulics and pneumatics and big rigs and dovetail jigs. We turn
monster Doug firs into tea tables with pocket knives while splicing cable with one hand, sweating copper elbows with the other and mixing sheet rock mud with the other. But if by some bad stroke of dumb luck you were asleep or deep in a Gucci daydream during the briefing, this is for you, you happy few wannabe do-ityourselfers. I am an English major, and if I can do it, so can you. Trust me. I know toward from towards. I’ve just spent the last eight months being pretty much a full-time remodeler. I’ve learned a lot, and not always the easy way. I have gained a huge appreciation
for the expertise of the people who do this for a living. I’ve spent some pretty harrowing and depressing moments sitting there thinking, “I’m a moron and I’m screwed.” But in each case I’ve sucked it up and got it done. I stiffened a floor with a 16-inch laminated beam levered down the basement through a coal chute, set ceramic tile, installed electric radiant heat, opened up barn door-sized passageways, hung pocket doors, re-did some plumbing, painted, varnished, laid hardwood flooring, epoxied a shop floor, added electrical outlets, wainscoted a dining room, hung drywall, taped and skip-troweled, installed light fixtures, smashed
By Patrick McGann
Illustration by Erik Brooks
thumbs, glued fingers together, broke 107 drill bits,
scared the beejeepers out of my cats, and somehow man-
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20 Methow Home
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aged to retain all my toes. The main reason most people pick up a sledgehammer and knock down a perfectly good wall, or move a toilet like four inches, by themselves, is to save a ton of dough. If you have a ton of dough to save, then I heartily recommend that you hire someone who knows what they’re doing before you get very far beyond hanging a painting, rolling on some beige or oiling a hinge. I’m just sayin’.
Now if you’re going to do it yourself because you don’t have a ton of dough to begin with, now there is a good reason. There is nothing like getting way out in OMG Swamp and knowing there’s nobody to come to the rescue, to motivate you to get it done and get it done right. Desperate dogs don’t let go of the bone. The first thing to know is that given enough time you can do just about anything. Operative word there is time.
Doing tough jobs armed with only ignorance takes time. You have to research the techniques, the tools and the materials. Not to worry. There is Youtube. You can learn brain surgery on a Saturday afternoon. And buy the books. There are some good, large format do-it-yourself books that tell you how to do it right. Read the books. Watch the Youtube vids. Do it. Re-do it. Do it again. You have to measure, then cut, then fit, then hunt
around for the measuring tape, then measure again, then cut again, then fit, then go buy more screws to replace the ones you set down somewhere, then fit, then go buy the right tip for the driver, then change the battery and attach. But none of this stuff is that hard. Take plumbing. Get pex pipe (cross linked polyethelene – it’s wonderful) and Sharkbite fittings, which cost a fortune but they’re idiot-proof.
Still, you can, with persistence, bypass the safeguards. For instance, I moved a sink to where the shower was and the shower to where the sink was – for the fun of it – and connected the cold shower head to the cold sink faucet. The supply line? What supply line? Oh, yeah, that’s the one that supplied the water all over the crawl space mud I had to lie in while I corrected things. But correct them I did. Cont. on P. 22
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From P. 21 I also moved a toilet four inches. Yeah, that was me. It was too close to the wall. I won’t go into detail but I managed to turn a moderate annoyance into a pretty big deal. But I got it done. Setting tile was much easier and much scarier than I thought. Once you start it’s like driving a load of logs down a mountain without brakes. There’s no round of golf in the middle of it, if you hear what I’m saying. It’s heavy, meticulous and pretty fun, actually, and when you’re done, it’s very satisfying. And I’ll never do it again. Wanna buy some knee pads? Drywall is nowhere near as bad as I remember it. I rented a gizmo that picks it up and presses it against the ceiling while you screw it in, so you don’t have to yell at someone to hurry-hurryhurry while your back is breaking and your head is exploding. Much better. Taping isn’t as bad as I remember it, either. But texturing? I’d
reBAr lumBer truSSeS rOOFinG Siding doorS
leave that to a pro, well, actually no I wouldn’t. I learned to skip-trowel and as it turns out I’m not half bad at it. Hardwood floors are a snap ... if ... you can measure and ... if ... you can get your hands on a pneumatic floor nailer. But even if you can’t measure (because you can’t find your glasses, which is my excuse) it only means your waste factor will be a little higher. But I admit I cheated by having a pro friend start the first line for me. Don’t be proud. Don’t worry, they won’t laugh at you (well, not in your face). You will find that one of your biggest helps will be the lumberyard. I got most of my stuff at Methow Valley Lumber and Cascade Pipe. When they got used to seeing me six or seven times a day – the mark of a real pro – it wasn’t so traumatic having to ask for stuff that I don’t actually have a clue what it’s called. “You know, that sticky asphalty stuff in the yellow wrapper that smells like diesel.” My tip for getting the
It doesn’t hurt to know your way around power tools. maximum good advice? Look progressively more crazed throughout the life of your project. That’s when they come right out and say, “Nah, you don’t want that. You want this.” Things I would hire pros to do are cabinetry in an old unlevel, unsquare house, anything involving taking
down bearing walls, high work like chimneys or very steep roofs, any plumbing involving 4-inch cast iron pipes or dirt, picking your house up off the foundation and major electrical. I’m sure there are others. All of those things can be done by a homeowner, but your life will be consider-
Photo by Sue Misao
ably better and maybe even longer if you employ some good judgment. The time for good judgment is before you start the project, because there just isn’t a lot of time for it later. So would I do something like this again? Why would I? My wife has found me just about as handy as she can take. B
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Home tour puts the eclectic Methow lifestyle on full display
“The Eclectic Methow” is the theme for the popular annual Methow Valley Home Tour, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 10. The tour, now in its 13th year, provides local residents and visitors the opportunity to experience a variety of Methow homes, from one end of the valley to the other. It is sponsored by the Confluence Gallery and Art Center in Twisp. For those contemplating building a home in the valley, the tour provides opportunities to check out interior and exterior design possibilities, to learn about siting options, and to see the work of various architects, builders and artisans (and possibly meet them as well). For locals already fortunate enough to live here,
the tour offers rare access to some distinctive dwellings hidden in the woods or at the end of a meandering driveway. This year the tour will include six or more homes from a wide range of architectural styles, building materials, sizes and values. According to tour organizers Charlotte Nelson and Barbara Newman, “The tour should appeal to those wanting to remodel an existing cabin, build – from the ground up – either a small retreat or something on a more grand scale, or perhaps you’ve noticed the number of yurts appearing in the valley and want to learn more about that building option.” The “Eclectic Methow” home tour will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with maps
provided to ticket-holders on the day of the event. Tickets will be available starting in July. For more information, call (509) 997-2787, email email@example.com, or visit www.confluencegallery. org. B
Photo by Sue Misao
The home tour offers unique angles on valley living.
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What does ‘green’ really mean? it can be confusing, but some basics still apply
green home. It sounds sexy and appealing, a way to do your part for the planet. But start sorting through the options, and it quickly becomes confounding, with choices and seeming contradictions behind every door and wall. “Green is sort of a commercial phenomenon that has expanded beyond the building itself,” said Howard Cherrington, owner of Integrated Design Concepts in Twisp. Still, there are a few main categories of “green” that count: how a house is sited and how big it is; what its structure and materials are; how it uses energy for heating, cooling and its appliances; and how you live in it. Careful site planning is the first step, said Tom Lenchek, principal at Balance Associates Architects in Winthrop. He typically designs a house with the majority of windows facing south so that the floors can absorb the heat from the sun in the winter. An overhang shields the space during the warmer months. Another fundamental consideration is square footage. “Size does matter, when it comes to ‘green,’” said Cherrington. “You can’t waste a lot of space and call yourself green.” And while many people put considerable thought and money – understandably – into the visible elements of a house, it is often the less glamorous components that make a bigger environmental impact, according to experts on energy efficiency. “Insulation is where it’s at,” said Ellen Lamiman, owner of Energy Solutions in Winthrop, who helps people make their new or existing homes more energy efficient. People want to put their money into visible items like windows, but beefing up insulation and filling in cavi24 Methow Home
Photo by Marcy Stamper
Raising and lowering window coverings allows you to regulate the temperature – and save energy – in all seasons, and still have windows to frame the view. ties is the way to save the most energy, she said. In his building designs, Cherrington emphasizes thermal mass – creating the ability for a house to absorb and store large amounts of heat energy and release it slowly. The mass has the opposite effect in the summer, taking advantage of our cool nights. “A standard home has a light mass and has no way to store heat – it will end up the same temperature as the outside in a very short amount of time,” said Cherrington. “The average home leaks all air out every two hours,” said David Hales, a building systems specialist with the Washington State University Extension Program. The biggest leaks tend to be in the ceiling, around light fixtures, wiring and plumbing, and ductwork. As warm air rises, it finds these holes and escapes through the attic insulation. The most important thing is to create a good air barrier and then improve the insulation. This is easily accomplished in new construction with a layer of sprayed
insulation, but it is also quite doable as a retrofit if you eliminate the leaks first and then improve the insulation, said Hales. Insulation materials range from traditional fiberglass to cellulose which, while more expensive, is “greener,” because it is made from ground-up old newspapers with an added fire retardant and takes less energy to produce, said Hales. Recycled cotton or wool insulation is another green option but is expensive and more difficult to obtain, said Lenchek.
product, and ship them here, noted Cherrington. In fact, some green-rating systems will give you credit for using locally sourced materials. In the Northwest, that generally means wood. Look for woods that are certified as meeting sustainable forest practices or that use reclaimed materials, said Lenchek. Fir salvaged from local thinning operations is being made into flooring and trim, which brings additional benefits by improving the health of overgrown forests, said Cherrington.
The karma of building materials
Heat and hot water
It’s important to think beyond how “green” the materials themselves are, said Lenchek. “You need to consider where they’re made and the transportation costs. It could be green but be manufactured in Europe. Many stone countertops come from China – shipping takes a lot of energy.” Materials have embodied energy – what it takes to extract the raw materials, manufacture them into a building
There are numerous ways to heat your home efficiently. Lenchek recommends a ground-source heat pump, which uses the temperature of the ground for heating or cooling and connects to radiant floor heating or a forcedair system. In an existing home, consider replacing your old furnace with a modern condensing unit. Older furnaces typically waste between 20 and 40 percent of the gas or propane, while a new one
By Marcy Stamper will be 95-percent efficient, said Hales. If you have central heating, be sure that the duct system is sealed, or you could be losing up to a third of the air you’re heating, he said. To increase the efficiency of an existing system, including baseboard heat, wood or propane, you can add a ductless heat pump, said Ken Eklund, building-science manager with the Washington State University Energy Program. These pumps work by conditioning outdoor air and can be zoned to heat or cool individual rooms. A heat-recovery ventilator is an essential energysaving component of new construction, said Lamiman. These devices help in winter and summer by exchanging clean outdoor air with the air being exhausted from your home, heating or cooling it first. You can obtain similar results by adding a good ceiling fan to circulate air throughout the house and maintain a more even temperature, she said. Adding solar power for electricity and water heating are good options in this climate, where the concept of a net zero-energy home – one that produces as much power from the sun as it consumes – is increasingly possible, said Lamiman. These houses are tied into the power grid, so that excess power produced during the summer goes to the utility. “You’re essentially using the hydropower system as your battery bank,” she said. On-demand hot-water heaters are much more efficient than those that keep a big tank heated all day long, said Lenchek. Eklund recommends heat-pump water heaters, which tend to be less expensive than on-demand or solar units and can be more practical in a retrofit. “And no one should have a water heater with no insulation
beneath it or without a jacket on the tank,” he said.
“The most common energy-motivated retrofit in the United States is windows, but it’s probably one of the least cost-effective,” said Hales. In fact, it generally takes 20 to 25 years to recoup the cost of windows through energy savings, he said. On an annual basis in the Methow Valley, you will lose more heat than you can ever gain through windows, even on warm winter days, said Lamiman. Still, replacing windows with more efficient ones can cut your heat loss by a third, even though it may take a while to pencil out, said Cherrington. Many people want lots of windows to take advantage of views, so Lenchek advises high-performance windows to protect from the summer sun and avoid heat loss in the winter. Lamiman encourages people to frame a view rather than build a wall of windows. What’s really important is
having and using window coverings to control the temperature, she said.
Lights, decks, floors
Lighting is undergoing a major revolution, with the advent of low-cost, high-quality LED lights, said Lenchek. Using 75 percent less electricity than an incandescent light bulb and with a life span 15 times as long, LEDs are dimmable and don’t pose the same disposal issues as compact fluorescents, since they don’t contain mercury, said Lenchek. Take into account how you use the lights. Having multiple light switches will enable you to leave just a single light on, said Lamiman. Other product innovations include materials used for decking – most are now a composite made from recycled wood chips or bamboo. Besides being more durable, they don’t require painting or staining, said Lenchek. “Coatings are a whole other issue for green buildings. How often do you have to paint, and what’s in the paint?” he said. The same goes for floor
coverings. Many carpets are now made from recycled content and don’t emit gas, said Lenchek. Engineered wood floors use a sandwich with a thin layer of hardwood atop a composite of quickly grown trees and are typically finished off-site, where the process can be properly vented. “The more durable the material, the longer it will last – so, by definition, it’s greener,” said Lenchek.
Build it right, use it right
Once it’s built, a “green” home depends on the lifestyle of its inhabitants. “The homeowner is one of the forgotten elements in an energy-efficient home,” said Cherrington. “You could design the most efficient home on the planet, but if the homeowners don’t involve themselves, it won’t be any more efficient.” Among other things, this means opening and closing shades and avoiding running major appliances at once. Some lifestyle habits may seem obvious but are worth
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a reminder. The Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes program offers the following suggestions: • Don’t run the washing machine or dishwasher if it is not full, and allow clothes and dishes to air-dry. • Use cold water whenever possible to wash clothes, since 90 percent of the energy used by a washer comes from heating the water. • Fill your freezer to capacity – if necessary, fill plastic containers with water, cover them and place them in your freezer. • Don’t put your refrigerator in a sunny spot – a 10-percent increase in room temperature can gobble up 20 percent more electricity. • Control phantom loads – all those appliances that are always “on,” ready to power up instantly. And don’t forget about practices at the construction site – donate leftover building supplies to a salvage center such as Methow Resource Recovery and recycle packing materials. B
Educational resources You can rate the energy efficiency of your house through an energy audit or an online worksheet that will give you a good idea of how your house is doing. Try the energy yardstick on the federal ENERGY STAR website, which will calculate your energy consumption. You’ll need information from your utility bills and the square footage of your home. “It’s an educational tool,” said Hales. “You could have a 10-year-old home and think it’s pretty good. But you might be surprised about how standards have changed.” ENERGY STAR Energy-Efficiency Yardstick: www.energystar.gov. Click on “Assess Your Home” under “Home Improvement.” ENERGY STAR: www. northwestenergystar.com and www.energystar.gov. Built Green: Information on certification system for environmentally responsible building and construction; helpful resource listing, www. builtgreen.net.
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Methow Home 25
Let there be light
stunning views influenced rendezvous home’s airy design By Don Nelson
Kai, the McGregors’ Labrador retriever, relaxes in the light-filled living room of their Rendezvous home.
andy and Leeann McGregor lived in a big house with a scenic setting in Fairbanks, Alaska, for 30 years. When it came time to retire, Leeann says, “we wanted another place that makes us feel like we’re living in a glass tent ... We wanted a place that made us visually happy.” Their new home several meandering miles back in the Rendezvous area does that and more for the McGregors, who bought their 20acre hillside parcel sight unseen five years ago – after looking at many other lots around the valley – when local real estate agent Anne Eckmann 26 Methow Home
put them on to it. The Seattle-and-Methow-based architectural team of Ray and Mary Johnston eventually went to work analyzing the site and listening to the McGregors’ ideas for a scaled-down living space that took advantage of sweeping views. The main components the McGregors sought: a big, comfortable general living area; a spacious kitchen for serious cooking and inevitable gathering; relatively small bedrooms; and numerous access points to the great outdoors. Mostly, they wanted light.
Emphasis on views
The McGregors were familiar with the Methow from hunting trips here, and have friends in the valley who formerly lived in Fairbanks. Their home site’s previous owners had already done some excavating, put in a driveway, extended electric service to the parcel and had a septic tank and wells on the property. The McGregors, who have two grown children, gave themselves five years to plan the house and their move, which was completed in fall 2012. For the first three years after
Photo by Don Nelson
they purchased it, the parcel sat empty. After doing some research on architects, the McGregors met with the Johnstons in Seattle and began to sketch the outlines of a new home. The Johnstons walked the property to decide how the house should be oriented, and came up with an Lshaped footprint, mostly on one floor. The Johnstons “had a vision for the house,” Leeann says. Through some “give and take,” the architects listened well and the builders were responsive. “It was a good group to work with,” she says. Ray Johnston said the first
and Solomon Woras. Working closely with the architects, the McGregors picked out materials, made lighting choices and adjusted details as they went along. “We were involved in every decision,” Randy says. “We were not impatient.”
Ease of movement
Photo by Don Nelson
A quilt made by Leeann McGregor greets guests in the entry way. consideration was how to place the home’s footprint on a previously excavated “bench.” The Johnstons recommended pulling the house back away from the edge and more into the hillside. Mary Johnston said that Leeann needed room for gardening, and pulling the house back helped create workable areas (the McGregors have deer-fenced gardens and have planted apple trees behind the house).
The home’s “wraparound view” was vital, Ray says, but that meant making the overhanging eaves deep enough that late-afternoon light wasn’t a problem. The designers wanted to take advantage of the views from several rooms, he says. “It’s connected to the outside from all over the house,” Mary Johnston says. Construction began in 2010, with valley builder Phil Dietz leading a team that included local artisans such as Barry Stromberger and Phil
Visitors first encounter what might be called a “mudroom” –which the McGregors call their “Arctic entry” – an enclosed space where people can shuck coats and shoes before moving through another door into the main house. Ray Johnston calls that a “nice ritual” before going into the main house. The entry hallway features a tile floor and is lined with low-level, built-in cubbyhole spaces for more storage. The kitchen is on the other side of an interior hallway wall that stops well short of the ceiling. Windows on the other side of the entry wall allow someone in the courtyard behind the house to essentially see all the way through it. The hallway then opens into an expansive, highceilinged living room whose
Photo by Don Nelson
The McGregors wanted a kitchen that could produce great meals and be a natural gathering place.
Photo by E.A. Weymuller
Views to the south and west reveal the Rendezvous landscape and beyond. windows offer vistas to the south and west. The McGregors wanted to be able to move easily between the kitchen and living room. The dining table occupies the open space between those two rooms to give some sense of separation. Rotating slowly over the living room is a Big Ass fan (yes, that’s the brand name), a propeller look-alike that provides all the air movement necessary. Other than a small work space above the main bedroom – what Mary Johnston calls a “little perch” – the house is all on one level. The oak flooring has radiant heat – a choice the McGregors made over concrete because they wanted a “softer floor.” The McGregors have two solar arrays on the property and are “small producers” of electricity for the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative. The power bill for the energy-efficient home in the summer, they say, is “zero.”
Separate from the house is a two-stall garage with a studio/guest room and additional storage upstairs. Although the Methow home is about 1,000 square feet smaller than the Fairbanks home, the McGregors managed to make most of their furniture fit and provide space for their extensive art collection, much of it Alaskan. In Fairbanks, Randy was an anesthesiologist, Leeann an occupational therapist. Randy does oil paintings, including one on display in their bedroom, and Leeann makes quilts, including one on display in the entrance hallway. Both appreciate the Methow for its artistic community and laid-back lifestyle. Although the McGregors are in the valley permanently, their furnishings and art are pleasant reminders of decades spent in the 49th state. Aside from the snow and cold, “There’s lots of Alaska here,” Leeann says. B Methow Home 27
Love at first sight wolf creek home is haven for an active family
raham and Marian Exall did not choose a home site hidden in the woods, or tucked out of sight behind a ridge, or secluded at the end of winding driveway. Instead, they fell in love with an exposed spot out on the Wolf Creek Road flats, easily visible from the road, hard by the heavily used Methow Community Trail, with an up-valley view all the way to the Cascade crests. And they couldn’t be happier. The house they built is convenient to everything they need, devoted to lowmaintenance relaxation, and designed in an unusual way
that suits their family well. Watching the recreating world go by is a bonus. The house was always intended as an activity-oriented family gathering spot, Graham says. “That objective was achieved,” he adds. “We have absolutely, thoroughly enjoyed it.” This ideal outcome, the Exalls say, began with startling impetuosity. They were sold, literally, the moment they saw the five-acre property, Graham says, the first time they ever visited the Methow in May 2006. The house was finished in 2012. Before that first trek to the valley, the Exalls “didn’t know it existed,” Graham
Photo courtesy of the Exall family
The Exalls bought their Wolf Creek lot the day they saw it. says. The Exalls, both English, had just moved to
ion ng t a v Exca d Buildi er w oa
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By Don Nelson
Bellingham after 30 years of living in Atlanta. At the time, Graham was working for a Swiss company and commuting to Los Angeles – a grueling routine, he says, but one they chose over the other alternative his company offered: living in L.A. Graham retired in 2010; his wife, he says, is a “recovering attorney” who works out of their Bellingham home. They came over in 2006 because their daughter Kate
was dating a guy named Chris Newell, who was familiar with the Methow. Newell, now the Exalls’ son-in-law, designed the Wolf Creek house. While not an architect, Newell has a background in construction, Graham says, and what Marian calls “a keen sense of design.” “We wanted to orient the house around our beautiful view up the Mazama corridor to Last Chance Mountain,
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Photo by Don Nelson
The living room offers expansive up-valley views.
although we discovered in living here that the views are basically 360 degrees,” Marian said in an email message. “We utilised [sic – that’s the English spelling] passive solar techniques which have proved most effective … we wanted to connect the inside and outside with big windows and use natural materials and colors.”
It’s an unusual layout. A large entryway steps down into the living room-dining area-kitchen space with a vaulted ceiling. The space is surrounded on three sides by view windows and shaded by an overhanging roof. “We wanted as much glass as possible,” Graham says. Although it is one big room, the furniture arrangements help create a sense of separate spaces. The kitchen is “practical but convenient,” Graham says. It features poured concrete counters and a wood-topped eating bar. Above the kitchen is a loft area where the grand-
kids love to play. The TV is up there. Other than that, everything is on one level. In the other direction from the entry, a long hallway is flanked by view windows on one side and three bedrooms, dormitory style, on the other. The identical bedrooms are small, but each has its own full bath (with more poured-concrete counter tops), sliding barn doors for privacy, and builtin cabinets. It’s set up to simply but comfortably to accommodate any combination of visitors, Graham says. The concrete floors have zone-controlled radiant heat, one of the home’s energy-efficient considerations (which include on-demand water heaters). Local builder Phil Dietz was the contractor, and helped the Exalls with good ideas all along the way, Graham says. “He was very easy to deal with,” Graham adds. “They could tell us what would work, and what would cost less.” All the work was done with local talent. Phil Woras did the wooden built-ins.
Photo by Don Nelson
Visitors step down into the living room/kitchen area, and take a short flight up to a small loft. The lower siding is steel treated with, of all things, apple cider so it will appear to age. The rustic wooden siding continues inside some interior
walls as well. A detached carport includes a storage room and a dog run. The outdoor space includes a fire pit, hot tub,
and outdoor shower. And that view. Oh, yes – the Exalls are learning to cross country ski – from out their back door. B
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practical but stylish, fawn creek cabin makes its own space
ac Dunstan and Linda Grob didn’t intend to live full-time in the smallish cabin they wanted to build on a woodsy hillside above Fawn Creek. They went so far as to ask for a minimal kitchen with only a microwave and minirefrigerator. They are glad that architect Tom Lenchek talked them out of that idea. Dunstan and Grob now call the compact, modernisticmeets-rustic house their home, even though their jobs are in Seattle. Yup. They pretty much commute to “the coast,” Dunstan to his investment advisory company, Grob to
By Don Nelson her job with King County government. They call the house they still own near Seattle’s Green Lake their “work dormitory.” The couple began coming to the Methow more than 30 years ago, and started shopping for property in the late 1980s. They owned other properties in the valley but “we couldn’t see when we could build, so we decided to buy something we could afford,” Dunstan says. That turned out to be an older cabin off of Goat Creek Road near Edelweiss, which they started using in 1994. They liked the area for its quiet, seclusion and views of Lucky Jim Bluff, so eventu-
ally bought adjacent lots on which to build a new place. Dunstan and Grob had known Lenchek, a principal with Balance Associates (offices in Seattle and Winthrop), for many years through cross country skiing. “It seemed natural to work with him,” Dunstan says. At first they thought about an “Adirondack cabin.” But with Lenchek’s own Methow Valley residence in mind, the couple decided they wanted something with lots of light and glass. They envisioned a two-bedroom, two-bath, low-maintenance abode with concrete floors and that dorm-room kitchen. Lenchek came up with several variations for the
Photo by Steve Keathing Photography
Decks on three sides extend the cabin’s active living area. couple to review. The one Dunstan and Grob settled on has everything they asked for plus more: Ample storage
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Photo by Don Nelson
Wood-covered steel beams carry the structural load.
areas in the basement, decks on three sides that extend the living area outward with only a window wall of separation, and a kitchen in which actual meals can be prepared. The concrete floors are there too, with several different zones for controlling the radiant heat. Dunstan and Grob had the advantage of living next door while the new cabin was built, with contractor Tom Bjornsen overseeing construction. It was a great working relationship, they say. “We left the decisionmaking to Tom and Tom,” Dunstan says. “We trusted their judgment.” Lenchek says the cabin, with its practical elegance, is one of the most heavily viewed projects on his firm’s website. In recent years, Lenchek says, he has seen a “recurring theme” of smaller homes that are “durable, nicely done, but not over the top.” Building in the Methow has advantages, Lenchek adds, because “there is a strong building community
Photo by Don Nelson
Built-ins accommodate a sizable collection of books and art. here, and lots of very talented craftsmen.”
Ease of transition
During construction there were some discussions over details that were amiably resolved, Dunstan adds. A consideration of the ceiling materials resulted in a better grade of wood. Differences of opinion over color schemes were resolved in favor of “green, green, and cherry,” Dunstan says. Lenchek says the site was a challenge because of the terrain, the required setback from Fawn Creek and the need to create an adequate driveway with turn-around space. The solution is a relatively small footprint, with the decks creating a sense of more space. The decks are sheltered by a large overhanging roof. The 1,500-square-foot cabin is half-bermed into the steep hillside, and built on a concrete foundation. The load-bearing external
are two bedrooms with baths. Utilities and plenty of room for waxing the couples’ cross country ski collection are in the lower level, which also gives access to the tuckunder garage. Another local contractor, Chris “Flash” Clark (a neighbor, it turns out) later added a separate sauna building, modeled to match the house. Because the main living area is elevated over the garage and foundation, Dunstan and Grob can now see over the bank to Fawn Creek, and have a better vantage of Lucky Jim (plus a peek at Mount Gardner). And it’s not a bad place from which to safely watch the cougars and bears that wander through the property, Dunstan says. B
structure is made of woodcovered steel beams, so that the big windows don’t have any structural work to do. “We wanted to make the living area as light-filled as possible,” Lenchek says. “The biggest challenge was that they wanted something compact, with a garage,” Lenchek says. “That led to the idea of parking beneath and living above.” The easy transition of outdoors to indoors – something Lenchek emphasizes in his work – is enhanced by continuing the exterior wood siding material into the entrance hallway. The front of Photo by Don Nelson the house is all one continuous Exterior siding material carries over space. At the back to a wall along the entryway.
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Methow Home 31
All in one
chewuch river home melds old and new in harmony with site By Don Nelson
ravis Thornton and Jeanne White knew exactly what they wanted for their new home overlooking the Chewuch River. He wanted something modern, and she wanted something more traditional. No problem. Enter local architect Doug Potter of the Winthrop-based Office of Shackitecture, who specializes in blending those two concepts into seamless spaces. “It’s a design approach I’ve been using for years,” Potter said. The result is a home that has modern lines but with old-fashioned windows and a weathered finish. It looks different from every perspective – a one- and two-story facade from the east, a low, sleek silhouette from the south. There is no roofline as such, but rather an integrated group of shedstyle roofs with deep overhangs. From a couple of angles the house seems to rise up out of the earth, an intentional accommodation with the terrain. “A lot of the information [about designing a house] comes from the property,” Potter said.
Deciding a direction
Potter describes the house as a “modern home in a vintage manner ... a series of sheds constructed with recycled materials, knee braces and doublehung windows.” “The first thing I thought about was the sun and facing the house” on the site, Potter said. The west-facing slope takes the brunt of the afternoon sun, so the house is oriented north-to-south to mitigate that problem and still provide great views. “I wanted to keep the house long and thin,” Potter said. The double-hung windows – a traditional feature common in older homes – are grouped or spaced to let in plenty of light without utilizing a “glass wall” approach. Too many big windows, Potter says, and “you can lose your coziness factor.”
Photo courtesy of Office of Shakitecture
The Thornton-White family wanted a home that combined modern lines with a vintage feeling. The spacious, high-ceilinged kitchen looks downriver and opens onto a small patio. The rest of the house is made up of spaces that feel separate and intimate but are all connected by a central corridor. The master bedroom suite is tucked away in
a private, quiet corner. The kids have their own zone up a short flight of stairs on the other side of the house. A shaded, screened porch that can be used in all seasons doubles as the dining room in the summer. The house features concrete floors with radi-
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ant heat, and solar panels on the roof. Reclaimed wood was used for siding. As with so many Methow homes, local craftspeople had a hand in the outcome. Cliff Schwab did cabinetry and Barry Stromberger contributed metalwork features for the Thornton-White house. Bart Schuler of Schuler Build Co. was the contractor. Thornton and Potter agree that, even given the intense discussions that come with any homebuilding project, everyone worked well together.
“pretty much a commuter”); White is land project manager at the Methow Conservancy. They have two children in local schools. The couple moved to the Seattle area from Colorado in 2000, and lived on Bainbridge Island – which they didn’t much care for. After being introduced to the Methow through projects Thornton worked on, they decided to “move out here and give it a shot” in 2001, Thornton said. They rented for a while before finding and falling in love with an 11-acre parcel off of East Chewuch Road (they have since sold five acres). The family
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Methow Home 33
In with the old
restored farmhouse is faithful to its original spirit By Don Nelson
Seeing the charm
Photo courtesy of Shadowline Design and Construction
The old “Bean place” was abandoned before the Fulchers reclaimed it. nearby and already knew Jay and Kim Fulcher. Kim was skeptical at first. “Marmots lived in this house,” Miller says. “We could barely coax her [Kim] into the building,” Jay says. But they liked the spot, and how it reminded Fulcher of growing up in Silicon Valley when it was home to a lot more agriculture. Jay says the Fulchers,
who have four children, saw the old house as a chance to build strong family relationships that would last into the next generation and possibly beyond. “Kim and I are nature lovers, and environmentally sensitive,” Fulcher says. “We wanted to do what was appropriate for the valley. For us it was an opportunity to see if we could recreate the
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Frank and Mary Bean’s old home site is close enough to the Methow River that you can watch it roll by from the tub in the upstairs bathroom,
but the high bank placement ensures against flooding. Pioneer entrepreneur Guy Waring had orchards nearby. Crops grew in the surrounding fields. After going through a few successive owners, the tattered house was about to go into foreclosure – and probable demolition. Rick Fulcher, who lives nearby with his family in a house designed and built by Miller, learned about the impending action and called his brother Jay in California, urging him to look at the 23acre parcel with 1,000 feet of riverfront. The California branch of the Fulchers had plenty of familiarity with the valley. They first visited the Methow about 20 years ago for a family reunion, liked it, and kept coming back for annual trips that became a family tradition for the Fulchers, who live in the Silicon Valley area. The visits included pack trips with Claude Miller, who “gave us the opportunity to see a lot of the valley,” Jay Fulcher says. “We walked over here [to the house] and sold them on the idea that we could resurrect one of the few examples of home craftsmanship in the valley,” says Miller, who lives
magine the pioneering Bean family walking into their 1905 vintage farmhouse today, recognizing the shape of the place, the rooms, the serene setting along the Methow River – and marveling at the meticulous restoration of what had been one of the valley’s finest homes. That was then, this is now. In the interim, what was known locally as “the Bean place” was abandoned and fell into shabby, near-total disrepair, but stolidly retained its dignity and bearing. That’s what architect/ builder Don Miller of Shadowline Design and Construction and owners Jay and Kim Fulcher saw when they contemplated the forlorn structure in about 2000, by which time the house off of TwispWinthrop Eastside Road had been empty for decades. What they hoped for was only in their imaginations. What they accomplished was not so much a remodel as a reincarnation of the home’s heart and soul.
original charm.” “We loved the lines of the original home,” Fulcher adds. “We wanted to stay true to that.”
Home away from home
In his own description of the project, Miller cites the home’s “style and craftsmanship” as inspiration for his design. His goal was to make the home “honest to its history
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The old house’s original lines are still evident after restoration. the worst of it removed. The extension on the back of the house was completely torn down. Miller brought in an
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fireplace doors, wall sconces and stair railings. Local artisans including Phil Woras, Barry Stromberger and Jerry Merz all had a hand in the restoration. Sam Lucy restored the fields to productivity. The Fulchers eventually added fences, a garage (with an exercise room) and a full-size barn (with an office and a pool table upstairs). Original walnut trees are still on the property. The basic work took about a year, with only a few visits from the owners. “It was a very trusting, efficient process,” Miller says. “Don really has an ability to collaborate over the Internet,” Jay Fulcher says. The Fulchers call the valley their “home away from home,” says Jay, who is CEO of a software company. “We feel very much like we’re local. It’s a place you can feel connected with. We have made many good friends in the community.” That would probably please the Beans. B
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yet relevant to the future.” That meant salvaging as much as possible of the original materials and structure, and using recycled materials picked up from a variety of other sources throughout the house. Leading a recent tour of the restored house, Miller points to a bedroom door on the second floor. When he first walked through the house, he found that the door opened easily – which meant that the house was basically “true” – and the bedroom was nearly intact. “It felt like a good house,” he says. The house was stripped down to its framing, with
sidered. Lots, it turned out. For instance, some of the old pine siding, never painted, was reused on the front of the house. New, matching siding of unfinished Western larch was used for the rest of the exterior, and has weathered to a naturally warm appearance. Corrugated metal roofing handles the worst of the weather. Wrap-around porches were added to the home’s original footprint; a bay window in the living room was retained. The old hand-dug root cellar was turned into a basement wine cellar and rec room. The bedrooms remain small in favor of larger living spaces. A new river rock fireplace is accessible from both the living room and kitchen. Zinc and stone counter tops share the space with larch cabinets, recycled fir flooring planks, plaster walls with a rustic finish, and Prairie Style window treatments. There are custom-made details, inside and out, such as the porch lanterns, the
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Methow Home 35
Keeping it cozy an expanded cabin adds space but not bulk
eorge and Debbie Grable loved the cozy, intimate feel of the cabin they bought on the Methow River eight years ago. When they decided to enlarge the cabin and turn it into their retirement home, retaining that comfortable ambiance was one of their main goals. “We knew we wanted to maintain some of the character of the place. It’s cozy. We liked the timbers, we like the fact that it has a wood floor, and we wanted to keep a fireplace,” said George Grable, who works as a radiologist in Liberty Lake. The cabin, built in the 1980s, perches above the Methow River on property near the Methow Valley United Methodist Church between Twisp and Winthrop. The original house had one bedroom downstairs, an open loft upstairs, and two small bathrooms. A freestanding fireplace in the middle of the cabin separated the living and dining areas. The Grables wanted to add two more bedrooms and two bathrooms so that they could easily accommodate their three grown children
Photo courtesy of Palmer Halvorson
The home’s interior retains its cabin-like atmosphere. and their grandchildren for visits. So they sat down with local designer Howard Cherrington, who operates Integrated Design Concepts, to explain what they hoped to accomplish through a remodel. “The house had some great character, in that it was partially built with recycled
timbers. And its location on the river was dynamic,” Cherrington said. But the interior of the cabin was dark, “and there was not much in the way of visual connection to the river,” Cherrington said. “Although cozy, it was kind of dark, especially in winter,” Grable said. Bringing in more natural
light and taking advantage of the riverfront location and view would be key features of the remodel, along with adding two more bedrooms and a bathroom.
The remodel presented some complications because the house is surrounded by trees and there was not a lot
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By Ann McCreary of room on site to expand. “And they didn’t want it to look like a huge house,” Cherrington said. Cherrington’s remodel design called for raising the roofline to put in gabled dormers for two bedrooms and a full bathroom created in the former open loft space. Raising the roof also enabled clear-story windows to be installed to bring more light into the upper and lower floors of the house. The freestanding fireplace was moved from the center of the living area. Cherrington bumped out the wall on the riverfront side of the house and installed a Fireplace Extraordinaire, a model that heats like a furnace and is a primary source of heat for the house. The fireplace is a centerpiece of the great room and is framed by expansive windows overlooking the river. The Grables also installed a solar panel next to the house and radiators that utilize solar power to provide an additional heat source. A small galley-style kitchen was upgraded and expanded, a larger bathroom was created next the master bedroom, and a laundry room was added downstairs. The remodeling work was done by Jeff Brown of AJ Construction. The remodeled home includes 900 square feet of new living space. A new deck on the river side of the house and an expanded porch upstairs take advantage of the river view. The interior of the house retains the cabin atmosphere, with the dark wood and white chinking of the timber walls still a dominant feature of the living space. “We were careful to retain their exposure to the
that attracted them to it in the first place. Especially on a house of this type, character was what it was all about.” “I do think we have retained that sense of an intimate living area,” Grable said. “I like the design and flow of the living space.” One of the biggest challenges of the remodel “was doing it from Spokane,” Debbie Grable said. The Grables plan to move to the valley full-time this summer. B
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Methow Home 37
Buyers and sellers
local real estate experts assess the methow valley market
By Anne Eckmann
eal estate shifts in 2012 were a welcome relief. Last year was the best year in real estate for buyers and sellers in almost five years. With the lowest
Owner/designated broker, Blue Sky Real Estate, Winthrop interest rates ever offered combined with the opinion that the market has finally bottomed out, we are seeing more activity. The volume of sales in the Methow Valley
was up almost 20 percent for both homes and land. The median home price was up 5 percent over 2011 after four years of falling prices. Even though 2012 land prices remained flat, that is
good news because at least land prices have stopped declining. Real estate pundits have predicted that second home markets will be impacted by “shadow inventory,” defined as sellers who have been interested in selling over the past few years but have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for market conditions to improve. Now that there are signs of improvement in the Methow Valley, I anticipate a new wave of properties hitting the market. If that
increase is significant, the listed property inventory will be further flooded and prices may remain soft. The best-case scenario would be to continue their slow appreciation. Land will be most impacted by this because the land inventory is the largest in relation to their actual sales and more vulnerable to saturation. Sellers are cautioned to curb their expectations and greed factor and be thankful that there are more enthusiastic buyers looking for opportunities in the Methow Valley.
By Tricia Eyre
Owner/designated broker, North Cascade Land & Home Company Inc., Winthrop
ur local real estate market slowly started a rebound in 2012 with expectations for this trend to continue in 2013. Our area is experiencing low inventories of homes on market, and at this writing there are only about 115 homes for sale in the Methow Valley. Combining less inventory, historically low interest rates, better pricing and strong buyer interest creates a sense of urgency in any mar-
ket. We are seeing both local home buyers and re-engaged investors making an impact on activity here. For any would-be seller, in today’s market it is all about properly pricing your real estate. Working with a Realtor broker and listening to their expertise will bring results and buyers to your home in 2013 if you are ready to sell. For any buyer, it takes being proactive and taking the team approach with their
real estate agent and trusted banker to be best prepared. It’s all about gathering the profile and data needed for a timely loan process to go smoothly. Over the years, I have seen many people fall in love with the idea of living in the Methow Valley! I suggest as a guideline for anyone wanting to buy land or a home to be intentional and define your rural lifestyle in a daily perspective for choosing the very best location.
By Robert A. Monetta
ealtors have many facets to the job of selling real estate. Even the term Realtor is somewhat misunderstood since it is a trade name associated with the National Association of Realtors. The correct term is Real Estate Broker in the beautiful state of Washington. Another common mis-
Broker/owner, Windermere Methow Valley understood term is ethics. Wikipedia defines ethics as “about the practical means of determining a moral course of action.” Realtors have taken ethics 101 steps further with Standards of Practice accumulated over the past 100 years, which define Realtor ethics. The Internet has changed real estate more that any
single event in history. Buyers and sellers can now “go online” and see pictures, maps, statistics, hybrid views, blogs, and Automatic Valuation Model (AVM). The Internet has greatly increased the buyers’ and sellers’ knowledge of the market conditions and availability of properties. So, why do you need an
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agent? Because without one it would be like purchasing property from R2-D2 – it does not compute. The Internetsavvy broker uses the Internet to prep clients to the market conditions and focus on
location before they start to get specific about properties. Another facet brokers offer is interpreting the data available from the Internet. For instance AVM can be accurate in urban housing tracts, but not here.
Local brokers also have more knowledge about zoning, water quality, quantity, and the right people to call. Buying can be a journey and a destination. I hope you find your spot in the Methow.
By Dave Thomsen
cross the country, real estate market reports are up – sometimes way up. And sometimes the reports are down – sometimes way down. The differing reports have created confidence for some Methow Valley sellers, who believe 2013 is a year to sell for more money. And those same reports have led some Methow buyers to believe 2013 is a year to cash in on bargain, if not market-low prices. The Methow market typically follows Western Washington, and west side selling conditions have improved greatly, especially around Seattle. The Methow market, consequently, is on the rise,
Owner/designated broker, Coldwell Banker Winthrop Realty too – but still cautiously, if not tenuously. Facts: 2012 was the best year for Methow real estate sales since the high of 2007; 2013 started off in the same vein, with a whopping 119-percent dollar-volume increase for the first two months of the year, compared to the same period of 2012. A time for seller optimism? Yes! But not over-confidence. The truth for Methow sellers: Selling conditions are the best we’ve seen in five years; your odds of selling are vastly better; prices have stabilized and may grow, but remain far below the 2007 peak; average overall sale prices dropped each year since 2007, so while activity
is better, prices are still pretty low; be realistic about price if you want to sell. It’s still a buyer’s market! The truth for Methow buyers: The inventory of distressed (drastically reduced) properties is way down; expect great values in all sectors, but fewer pennies-onthe dollar deals; you’ll find some of the best deals in the higher-dollar market sector; look for excellent values in the raw-land market: excellent selection and prices; you still have a lot of power in the Methow market, but not the kind of power you had earlier. If you want to make a sale, don’t approach offers with arrogance! The number of hungry sellers is down.
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Methow Home 39
treat the methow landscape – and its residents – with respect By The Methow Conservancy
ithout a doubt, the most important asset you can have if you choose to live in the Methow Valley is a good neighbor. The bar has been set high here with respect to what it means to be a good neighbor, and there’s no denying that this contributes to making the Methow Valley such a special place to be. Being a good neighbor means much more than simply a willingness to part with a cup of sugar or a forced wave while passing on the road. Ask anyone who has spent any time here, and they’ll share a story not only of how they’ve been on the receiving end of a generous, kind or thoughtful act by a neighbor in the valley, but also how they’ve par-
ticipated personally in building community with their neighbors through their own thoughtful actions. And like the cabin or home that you may one day hope to build here in the Methow Valley, being a good neighbor requires the development of a solid foundation rooted in and understanding of this landscape, good communication skills and trust. One of the best places to start building this foundation is the Good Neighbor Handbook, A Guide for Landowners in the Methow Valley. Developed by the Methow Conservancy with input from a broad crosssection of residents, scientists, experienced general contractors (and most likely, your future neighbors), this free resource serves as a reminder
that the landscape that inspires us today is constantly being shaped by those who choose to live and build here. We’re all attracted to different aspects of the Methow Valley, from beautiful riverfront to productive forests, expansive shrub-steppe hillsides or ridgelines, and each brings different and important considerations as you think about developing your property.
Living near water
Water is the lifeblood of the Methow Valley, supporting not only farmers, residents and recreational users but also 80 percent of the wildlife in the valley who depend upon the habitat known as riparian areas adjacent to our rivers, streams and lakes.
One of the best things you can do to be a good neighbor when developing along a waterway is simply to keep new development out of the riparian area altogether. Take time to understand where the flood plain and channel migration zones are located in relation to your building site, and develop in a way that allows you to enjoy the cool oasis that your riparian area will provide for both you and the valley’s wildlife on a hot summer day without worrying about losing your new home during a flood event.
Given the potential for world-class views, ridgelines look like the ideal place to build for many people. Unfortunately, ridgeline houses have the potential to mar the scenic beauty that many treasure in the Methow Valley. Significant attention has been brought to the impact of ridgeline development in recent months after a new cabin appeared on the Flagg Mountain skyline in Mazama. An organization of Mazama-area neighbors has banded together to draw attention to the ridge-top placement of this cabin and has mounted a campaign to have the structure re-located back and away from its location on the precipice. The outcome of this community outcry is uncertain at the time of publication, but there are simple things you can do to make sure that your new home in the Methow Valley 40 Methow Home
isn’t at the heart of the next campaign. They include siting your home so that the roofline is below the skyline when viewed from the valley floor, choosing a roof and siding color that blends into the natural landscape, developing new driveways carefully so that they contour with the slope (not zig-zagging across the hillside) and landscaping around your home using native species as a form of camouflage. Most importantly, get to know your site before building and get a feel for the extremes of summer heat and winter winds that living on an exposed site can bring. View your proposed house from your neighbor’s perspective and make sure that the statement you will make with your home is the one you want to make in your new neighborhood.
Living with a forest
There’s no denying the majesty of the Methow Valley’s forests, with ponderosa pine or Douglas fir trees. But the forests here are different from those on the west side of the Cascades, and past firesuppression and forest management policies have left many of our forests primed for large fires. It is important to understand that frequent fires have always been a part of the natural cycle here in the valley, and they will continue to be present here for years to come. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to make
living on a forested property enjoyable. As you consider developing a forested property here in the valley, consider thinning and removing vegetation from around your home site, leaving trees greater than 12 inches in diameter. Designate a place for firewood storage that is well away from your home, and make sure you can keep your roof swept clean of pine needles. Use fire-resistant (non-wood) materials for your roofing and siding, and install hose bibs and hoses on each side of your home capable of delivering at least 50 pounds of water pressure.
Out in the open
There is perhaps no more beautiful place to be at sunrise or sunset than one of the valley’s shrub-steppe hillsides as gentle shadows reveal each hump and fold of the glacier carved landscape. And when the shrub-steppe features a yellow carpet of balsamroot or purple lupine, it can be downright breathtaking. Despite the complex web
of drought adapted shrubs, grasses and flowering plants that make up this biologically rich landscape, the soils here are extremely sensitive to disturbance. Remove the vegetation and expose the light, “moon dust” soil, and the soil is quickly eroded or blown away, decreasing the diversity of plants and reducing water absorption in the soil. Before you start to develop a shrub-steppe property, clearly mark the area to be disturbed to reduce “jobsite spread.” Minimize the amount of disturbed ground, co-locate your driveway and utilities, and replant any disturbed areas as soon as possible while also removing the invasive plants that will undoubtedly move in before they gain the upper hand.
pleted, and who are an absolute treasure-trove of wisdom and experience in the landscape type where you’ll be building. Don’t be shy. Take the time to introduce yourself, share your plans for your property and don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek their advice. The fact is, they probably made a mistake or two when they built and they’ll likely be happy to share their wisdom and experience with you. Take a moment to join them on their porch, to see your future
building site through their eyes, and to consider how you can develop your dream here in the Methow Valley in a way that doesn’t have to have a negative impact upon the inspiration that the valley provides for them. By taking the time to get educated, by communicating with your future neighbors, and by building trust through consideration of how your dream might impact theirs, you’ll be well on your way to being a good neighbor here in the Methow Valley! B
Local resource The Good Neighbor Handbook and other resources and advice for enjoying and caring for your land here in the Methow Valley can be obtained at the Methow Conservancy office at 315 Riverside in Winthrop, or online at http://www. methowconservancy. org/publications.html.
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42 Methow Home
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Roofing Cascade Foam & Coatings.................. 34 Triple T Roofing.................................... 37
Landscaping Services & Supplies Altitude Design.................................... 35 Alpine Shed Company........................ 41 Carlton Landscape Construction....... 34 Cascade Concrete................................. 14 Dennis Jones Chipping & Tree Service ....................................21 Eastern Green Hydroseeding............. 33 Eric Claussen, Mountain Thyme Design .............. 39 J.A. Wright Construction............... 20, 32 Plantas nativa east................................ 32 Rick Fulcher Landscapes..................... 30 Washington Tractor.......................... 9, 43 Windy Valley Landscaping................. 18
Septic Design FL Cooley & Associates....................... 29 J.A. Wright Construction............... 20, 32 Monetta & Associates.......................... 14
Legal Services Perkins Coie, Sandy Mackie............... 41
Tree Services Dennis Jones Chipping & Tree Service.................................. 21
Masonry Eric Claussen, Mountain Thyme Design............... 39 Windy Valley Landscaping................. 18 Metal Workers Methow Valley Industrial................... 38 The Slagworks, Barry Stromberger... 18 Office Supplies & Reproductions Havillah Road Printing & Graphics....................................... 12 Organizations Methow Arts Alliance............................ 2 Methow Conservancy.......................... 10 Methow Resource Recovery............... 33 Painters New Dimension Painting.................... 33
Solar Power Derosa Edwards................................... 33 Energy Solutions.................................. 37 Sun House, Alex Hall.......................... 23 Surveyors Tackman Surveying............................. 37 Travel Trailers Tiny Trailer............................................ 19
Well Drilling & Pump, Sales & Service Fogle Pump & Supply......................... 35 Lester’s Well Pump Service................ 21 MVM Quality Drilling......................... 23 Windows & Doors All Valley Insulation............................ 19 Chelan Glass & Door........................... 19 D & R Glassworks................................ 20 Methow Resource Recovery............... 33 Methow Valley Lumber....................... 22 North Valley Lumber........................... 25 Tannehill Company.............................. 23 Woodworkers Alpine Designs..................................... 10 Jerry Cole Woodworking.................... 36 Tannehill Company.............................. 23
For your job big or small, we’ve got it all. Heavy Equipment & Construction Rental Air Tools • Concrete • Carpet Floor & Tile • Drywall • Painting Earth Moving & Construction Generators • Hand Tools Jacks • Lawn & Garden Lift Equipment • Moving Supplies • Plumbing • Tractors
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2012 Twisp River Suites
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