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GOOD NEIGHBORS Stewards of the land


Six distinctive homes

REAL ESTATE Record residential sales


A supplement to the Methow Valley News


professional, world-class real estate services!

Dave Thomsen


Frank Kathy Curtiss20 S • PO Emily WA Gibson 503 HIGHWAY BOXKline 100 • WINTHROP, 98862 cierra schoenthal 509-341-4347 509-449-2363 509-996-3935 425-765-5346

find your home

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Quality Drilling



‘Home’ means more than ‘house’


everal years back, when we changed the name of this publication from Building Guide to Methow Home, our intent was to shine a spotlight on the incredible creativity, craftsmanship and collaboration that go into home building in the valley.



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Each year since, we have identified (with the help of architects and owners) half a dozen houses to “profile.” We always look for variety — full-time and part-time, large and small, deluxe and tight-budget, new construction and remodels — and try to represent every part of the valley over time. Over the past few years, our editorial emphasis has continued to shift. While we still focus on building in the valley, we have devoted more space to the topic of living in the valley. In Methow Home 2020, for instance, we have included articles about adopting Firewise practices, being a good neighbor, adhering to dark sky guidelines, the evolving real estate market and the continuing need for affordable rental housing. While we strive to help our readers think about all the considerations that go into building in the Methow Valley, and using that information to realize their own dreams, we recognize that the term “Methow home”

encompasses a lot of territory beyond new construction. It’s all valuable information, and that includes not only the editorial content but also the advertising. They are mutually supportive, and one without the other isn’t a magazine. So we also want to direct your attention to our many advertisers who make this publication possible. At some point in the building process, you’re going to need help from many of them — real estate agents, architects and designers, builders and subcontractors, building and equipment suppliers, local artisans and craftsmen, furnishers, insurers, landscapers, excavators, pavers, painters, electricians, well-drillers, septic tank installers and more — everyone who might have something to do with a Methow home from conception through completion. Consider Methow Home 2020 not only a guide to building your dream, but also a resource for how to be part of the community when it’s done. 3






The Portmans built a bigger version of a house they loved

13 METHOW HOME TOUR 15 INSPIRED SURROUNDINGS The Flack’s Courtyard House is designed around a central concept

19 GEARED FOR METHOW LIVING ‘Super minimal’ house is designed for recreation and relaxation

A publication of the


Methow Valley News P.O. Box 97, 502 S. Glover St., Twisp, WA 98856

The Methow needs more affordable rental options

509.997.7011 • fax 509.997.3277 www.methowvalleynews.com editor@methowvalleynews.com


Don Nelson |  publisher/editor

Darla Hussey |  design

LaShelle Easton |  design

Sheila Ward |  advertising associate Tera Evans |  office manager



The valley’s real estate market shifts towards higher prices

31 FROM DREAM TO REALITY How one homeowner made her vision come true


Elegant Bear Creek home unobtrusively captures Pearrygin panorama


Firewise practices reduce your risks


Conservancy program helps landowners be stewards


The Dark Sky Coalition aims to reduce light pollution in the valley


A “seamless” remodel adds amenities in a slightly larger space


Don Nelson

is publisher and editor of the Methow Valley News.

Marcy Stamper is a Methow Valley News reporter.

Ashley Lodato is a Methow Valley News columnist.

Joanna Bastian

is a Methow Valley News columnist.

Ann McCreary is a Methow Valley News freelancer.





Living room The Portmans built a bigger version of a house they loved BY ASHLEY LODATO


liff and Debbie Portman loved the small vacation home they bought in Winthrop North Village in 2014. The “Bench House,” located on one of the neighborhood’s shrub-steppe benches, was within walking distance of town, had high ceilings and plenty of natural light, and was a convenient launching pad for the Portman’s many outdoor adventures. The only problem was, as the Portmans began to divide their time equally between Seattle and the Methow Valley, they felt like they were outgrowing the Bench House. “We were ready for a bit more elbow room,” says Debbie. “And a garage for our gear,” adds Cliff. The Portmans began looking at houses on the market, but couldn’t quite find one that met their needs as effectively as the Bench House. So they took a leap and settled on what has turned out to be the perfect solution: buying another lot in Winthrop North Village and building an expanded version of the Bench House on it. “Our Realtor, Delene Monetta, helped us figure out that we’d get our needs met best by building,”

the Portmans say, “despite the fact that even the thought of building was so daunting.” But the architect and builder that Monetta recommended the Portmans work with shepherded them through the process so smoothly that both Portmans laugh when they think of how intimidated they initially were by the building process. “It was so much fun,” they agree. Their architect, Howard Cherrington of Integrated Design Concepts, points to the Portmans’ clear ideas of what they wanted in a house as the primary factor in the ease of the design process. “They already had a house they liked,” Cherrington says, “but it was just too small.” Cherrington took the basic concept of the Bench House — a small vaulted



living space with surrounding rooms flat, and “basically just blew it up,” resulting in what the contractor, Bart Schuler of Schuler Build Company, calls a “timeless” gable design.



Cherrington did, however, have to be attentive to scaling the house. “We had to be careful with width versus depth because of the narrowness of the new lot,” he says. “This wasn’t a 5-acre building site; these lots in town are often quite narrow and you have to be aware of property lines and setbacks.” Situating houses on specific plots of land is Cherrington’s specialty and his passion. “A house has to fit the terrain,” he says. The Winthrop North Village lots were designed thoughtfully, so that each parcel would have a relatively private view in at least one direction, “so that you don’t have neighbors looking straight into each other’s houses.” The Portmans’ new Winthrop

North Village lot had a “commanding view to the north,” says Cherrington, “so we oriented the great room toward that dynamic northern view, and gave the guest bedroom the southern view and solar gain.” With the house oriented on the lot, Cherrington turned his attention toward the primary functions of the home according to the Portmans’ priority list: a comfortable vacation home that is conducive to relaxing in after outdoor pursuits, suitable for occasional dinner parties, and easy to close up for the two weeks every month that the Portmans spend in Seattle. Features like the wood-lined vaulted ceiling and ample glass in the living room and dining area create an expansive ambiance in a modest-sized house, while the lower ceiling in the kitchen gives that space a cozy vibe. Like the main living space, the hallway that leads into it from the entry mudroom receives natural light throughout the day,

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an effect achieved in part by the width of the hallway. Cherrington says this extrawide hall is no accident. Because of the way the house is situated on the lot to take advantage of the northern view, the entry needed to be at the opposite end of the house. But Cherrington didn’t want the feeling a long, narrow hallway would create. “You don’t want to come into a space and have it close down on you,” he says. “It’s not very inviting. You don’t want to feel like you have to keep moving to get somewhere.” So Cherrington opened the house with a line of sight straight from the mudroom, through the hallway, to the tall windows framing the living space. “When you come in the front door you look straight to the north view,” he says. “It’s very feng shui. You’re carried through the house to the view.” Instead of a traditional 4-foot hall, Cherrington widened it to 5 PHOTO COURTESY OF CLIFF & DEBBIE PORTMAN feet. “That makes it a legitimate

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space of its own,” Cherrington says. “You can put bookcases in it, or small tables.” The Portmans have created an entry gallery, lining their hallway with an eclectic collection of art, ranging from prints created by a slave in the 1800s to art by Methow Valley artists to a painting that was special to Cliff’s mother.


With the surname “Portman,” Methow Valley readers may wonder: Yes, Cliff is one of those Portmans. He’s the younger brother of Don Portman, longtime Methow Valley ski guru and Cliff and Debbie’s connection to the Methow Valley. “Don and Sal have been here 40 years,” says Portman of his older brother and his wife, Sally, who many know as the Winthrop librarian. “Debbie and I would always come to the Methow to play, and my dad and my brother, Chris, would join us. Eventually our dad bought a family house here — the Bar None Ranch — in the

early 1990s and we were frequent visitors,” says Portman. Now, he says, all three Portman brothers own Methow Valley homes, and the couples all enjoy skiing, hiking and biking together. Dirty passions, all those activities: muddy boots, dusty daypacks, oily bike chains. Cherrington accommodated the Portmans’ recreational habits with a few key design features: a covered porch, for shaking off snow or rain; a tiled entry where it’s OK to hang dripping gear; a side garage for storing bikes and skis; and a wonderful mudroom with storage and laundry machines. “A place to divest of dirty gear and move in cleanly,” Cherrington says. Cherrington and the Portmans were almost uncannily aligned during the design process, both parties agree. The Portmans credit Cherrington for the harmony. “Howard is responsive, communicative, and never pushed us to do something we didn’t want to do,” Debbie says.

“I follow the clients’ lead,” Cherrington demurs, adding “I’ve already designed and built my own dream home. Now I simply want to help others build theirs.” The Portmans share Cherrington’s affinity for a house in harmony with the land, built of “elements that speak to Methow living” — wood, glass, stone. Additionally, both parties prioritized working with local suppliers for building materials and items like flooring, windows, doors, and cabinets. “We’ve never been big about purchasing online,” says Debbie, “and it also just felt right to work within this community.” Firewise was another point of agreement. “It’s something I talk to every client about,” says Cherrington,” especially after my own experience of ‘being in the black’ after the Twisp River Fire in 2015” (which means that the fire burned virtually everything around his home except for the house). “The year 2014 [after the Carlton Complex fire] was a sea change for designers and

builders,” Cherrington continues. “We all had to get familiar with cement siding, with Firewise vents in a vented roof or foundation. Now all the designers, builders and clients are conscious about it.” Cherrington says that Winthrop North Village used to require all-wood siding; but recently decided to allow “wood appearance” siding in order to offer more Firewise options. Cliff wonders philosophically, “Why are any of us living in a wildfire-prone valley?” But he knows well the answer: these mountains, these ski trails, these rivers, this community. Winthrop North Village is outfitted with fire hydrants and isn’t forested with layers of fuels on the ground; still, the Portmans have surrounded their house by gravel with concrete patios on two sides, with no plantings close to the house. It’s Firewise, and it’s also low-maintenance, so the Portmans don’t have to worry about watering when they’re in Seattle, and they don’t have to spend time doing

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The Portmans took great delight in watching the house go up. On daily walks from the Bench House to the new house, they noticed constant progress, and are complimentary of Schuler and his crew. “He’s such a pro,” the Portmans say of Schuler. “It felt like he was working toward our goals the whole time. He was very attentive to our budget, as well as to our priorities.” Schuler notes that because the Portmans were “positive, appreciative and decisive,” they were “an absolute joy to work with,” echoing the Portmans’ assessment of the collaboration among designer, builder, and home owner. “It was just such an easy relationship,” says Debbie. Cherrington’s understanding of the building side of the process surely facilitated this ease. Although Cherrington is solely a designer now, he was a builder for more than 20 years. “When I design I am building the product in my head,” he says. “I’m imagining what the guy is doing, how is everything coming together.” Cherrington’s familiarity with tools and processes helps him design, and it helps the builder have confidence that what he draws is actually going

to be buildable. “Howard and I understand each other and have worked well together for many years,” says Schuler. A foundation for this mutual understanding is Cherrington’s background in construction. Building keeps Schuler engaged because “it is a complicated process with simple parts,” he says. It’s also immensely gratifying to present homeowners with a dwelling that suits them. “It is very satisfying for the whole team to have happy owners at the end of the process,” Schuler says. And according to the Portmans, they could not be happier with their spot on a hill overlooking the valley they love. With the building process behind them as just a happy memory, the Portmans are now intent on enjoying their new home, entertaining friends, curled up in the cozy study reading, or putting away their gear from another day in the hills. The house accommodates all these uses — and more — just as they had hoped. “We’re just tickled pink,” says Debbie. “This house is not only the house we envisioned and wanted, but it’s also light years beyond what we expected. When we had the little house — the Bench House — we were always happy and joyful to come over from Seattle to it. With this new house, we know we’ll remain that way.” 


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2020 Home Tour explores ‘ARTful Living in Twisp’ The theme of Confluence Gallery’s 19th annual Methow Valley Home Tour on Aug. 1 is “ARTful Living in Twisp,” featuring eight homes centered in the art community of Twisp and the surrounding area. Nearly 100 visual artists, including painters, sculptors, potters and jewelers, make the Twisp community an exciting expression of artful living. The artistry

and craftmanship of local architects and builders will be evident in the houses featured this year, according to information provided by Confluence Gallery. They include: A solar-powered, earth-berm home (Gary Phillips, GP Designs) offering a spectacular view up the Methow Valley; an exquisitely designed and executed cabin overlooking the Twisp River Valley; and a

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sustainably built home perched on the Methow River in Twisp. This year’s Home Tour will also showcase one of the nine homes designed, built and made possible by the Methow Housing Trust. These carefully designed and highly efficient homes are the first to address the severe shortage of affordable housing in the Methow Valley. The self-guided tour will be from

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets are available now through Brown Paper Tickets, or at Confluence Gallery in Twisp from July 29 to Aug. 1 (you must pick up a wristband at Confluence Gallery prior to the tour). Tickets for adults and children 12 and older are $30; or $25 per person for carpool of four or more; or $25 per bicycle. Tickets and wristbands are also available on Aug. 1, from 9 a.m.-noon, at the Mazama Store. 

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The courtyard design contemplates privacy for the owners and their neighbors. PHOTOS COURTESY OF PATTERSON COMPANY



Inspired surroundings The Flack’s Courtyard House is designed around a central concept BY JOANNA BASTIAN


or many years, Sean and Margot Flack spent long weekends in the Methow Valley where their kids learned to ski. When the time was right, they bought a parcel of land near Mazama and built the Courtyard House. After many years of admiring other courtyard homes, and the homes of friends that were inspired by surrounding landscapes, the Flacks had collected ideas of what their Courtyard House should include. They met with local designers/ builders Molly and Jeff Patterson of the Patterson Company to discuss a courtyard design with open communal spaces and efficient bedrooms. The three-bedroom, two-bath Courtyard House is orientated to look out onto a small creek and the

ski trail, a choice that the Flacks felt strongly was most private for their surrounding neighbors, and a view that they desired. The home is designed around a central courtyard, with eight separate entryways that can be opened in pleasant weather. The three bedrooms, living area and a multi-purpose room all open up to the courtyard and the sound of the creek. “The courtyard design pulled everything inward for both their privacy and that of their neighbors,” designer Molly Patterson said. The combined kitchen and living area is a comfortable size with floor-to-ceiling windows to the courtyard overlooking the ski trail, and a two-sided fireplace that can be enjoyed from both inside the living area and outside in the courtyard. The window views and double-sided fireplace create a feeling of transparency between inside and outside. Unobtrusive lighting fixtures add to the ambiance of a spacious, naturally lit common room. Patterson said, “I think the lighting in this house was really a spectacular addition. We went above and beyond with the details of lighting beams and walls.” Patterson noted that the exterior step lights are perfect for dark skies and are motion-detected. The kitchen island and bathroom vanities also have motion-detected lights. Well-designed cabinetry blends into the surroundings,

making the combined kitchen and living area feel less utilitarian, and more like a gathering space. The steel work and beams were done by Mark and Leone Edson of Methow Valley Industrial. The electrical work was completed by Jason Miller of Tamarack Electric.


The Flacks knew what they wanted on the exterior of the home. “We wanted the exterior to be environmentally friendly and blend in with surroundings,” Sean said. Margot continued, “We wanted an earthy look, and recommended the Japanese tradition of shou-sugi-ban.” This process preserves the wood by heavily charring it, making the wood fire-retardant and resistant to rot, insects and decay. The exterior of the Courtyard House is lightly torched fir siding and board form concrete wall. Two main entries are

custom-made to blend into the cedar entrance areas. Patterson and her dad, Jerry Hickey, carefully selected vertical boards that lined up seamlessly to the exterior of the home, and Hickey built the custom doors. Inside, the pattern continues as the multi-hued boards are perfectly matched along the walls and extended onto the ceiling. This effect makes a small entryway look and feel spacious. One entryway serves as a mudroom, with benches lining one wall for ease in removing boots and shoes, and cabinets and drawers to hold coats, hats, boots and more. The second entryway is the laundry room, perfect for peeling off soiled layers and tossing directly into the washing machine. Both points of entry lead into the communal area that is anchored on one side by a floor-toceiling fireplace. The masonry is composed of grey stonework


turned so that the smooth side of the stone is displayed, and no mortar shows. Graham Murray of Northern Stone Craft did the fireplace stonework. He purchased thin stone and cut each piece individually so that the face of the fireplace was flush, then painstakingly laid each piece to make sure it was flush and that the stone was “dry set,” Patterson said. The large greenstone kitchen island is the centerpiece to the room, with an overhang on three sides for friends and family to sit around. The refrigerators delightfully blend into the cabinetry, with one small upright unit near a coffee counter, and two drawers under the center island. The dishwasher and the microwave are also artfully hidden behind seamless cabinet drawers. Jerry Cole did all the cabinetwork. The kitchen sink and countertop are all one piece of steel. The PHOTO COURTESY OF PATTERSON COMPANY

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Two hallways extend from the common room, along either side of the courtyard. Each hallway contains two rooms, separated by a bathroom. One of the bedroom areas was left open, and serves as a multipurpose room, with a piano in one corner, exercise mats and a puppy kennel. The light-filled bedrooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors that open into the courtyard. The children’s room has one long bunk bed hanging from the ceiling that extends the length of one wall. Ladders on each side of the room lead to separate sleeping quarters —  a bunk bed that sleeps two, but only takes up the width of one bunk. The arrangement is an efficient use of a small space. Barry Stromberger of Slagworks created the hanging steel bunk beds.

One bathroom has a deep bathtub, and a separate large shower with a detachable showerhead. “We thought kids would enjoy the tub, and I wanted a shower with a hose to wash the dogs,” Margot laughed. The second bathroom has a smaller shower, and a spacious sauna. The Courtyard House surrounds a garden filled with native grasses, berry bushes and aspens. Windy Valley Landscaping designed the garden areas around the home. A sitting area next to the doublesided fireplace completes the courtyard. The home was designed following Firewise guidelines in the landscaping, fireproof building materials, and a fire suppression system inside the home. “This house felt like home right away,” Margot said. “We’ve been coming to the valley for 15 years. I wanted it [the house] to be a place where my kids could feel at home and bring their friends.” The designers of Courtyard House took inspiration from the surrounding land and created a home of wood and rock, filled with sunshine. 


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Geared for Methow living ‘Super minimal’ house is designed for recreation and relaxation BY DON NELSON


hen it came to buying land and building a place in the Methow Valley, Heidi Durham and Leslie Garrard had their parameters firmly in place.

They love the Methow. They relentlessly recreate here, in all seasons, and require a ton of “gear” for their activities. They intend to retire here some day. In the meantime, the Seattle couple needed a practical and personable space to hang out in with their dog and son. But they couldn’t afford a full-size house just yet, so they decided to inhabit the valley in stages. With the help of a perceptive real estate agent, creative architect and detail-driven builder, Durham and Garrard have come up with the ideal solution: a 700-square-foot, self-contained

jewel that they call the “Gear Studio,” situated in a meadow off of Highway 20 a bit east of the Mazama Junction. In the compact but bright, efficient space, the gear is the décor. Some of the house’s dimensions were actually determined by the length of their paddle boards, which are mounted on one wall. Climbing equipment, skis, bicycles and kayaks are neatly hung from the walls or stowed in every nook and cranny. “The gear is the art,” Durham said. The airy, well-lighted space also includes a small living/dining area, free-standing wood stove, work counter, full bath, sauna and outdoor shower on the first level. A full-size garage door rolls up to open the space to the outdoors. In the loft, reached via a steep PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHNSTON ARCHITECTS





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“ship’s ladder” with rock-climbing handholds mounted on the wall for stability, are a bedroom, kitchenette and pantry/storage/ laundry area that is built in under the roofline. The up-valley views from the second level are expansive. There is also a detached twovehicle carport with a storage shed that holds more gear and home-keeping stuff. The little house was finished in May 2019.


Garrard and Durham, who have been together for about 10 years, have spent much of that time in the valley, which they call their “favorite place on the planet.” “It’s our special spot for winter and summer play,” Garrard said. “It’s absolutely captivating. As Seattle residents, we decided, ‘we’ve got to get land here. We’ve got to retire here.’” That aspiration started with a property search, aided by Ina



Clark of Mountain to River Realty in Winthrop. “Ina is very knowledgeable and helped us assess various areas,” Garrard said. “We wanted lots of sun, proximity to the [Mazama] store, and to be able to ski and bike from our front door,” Durham said. “We get spiritual joy from being outside. We like the quiet and repose, we love simple things like reading and drinking coffee,” Garrard added. “When we saw this site, we loved it … it was perfect,” Garrard said. They purchased the 5-acre site in 2017, and started looking for an architect. The couple adopted the “less is more” mantra in thinking about their Methow retreat, Durham said. “Our approach was, what can we do now?” “We were just looking for people we were impressed with,” Durham continued. That included Johnston Architects, which has designed many Methow Valley homes.


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After engaging the Johnston firm, Durham and Garrard showed principal Ray Johnston some images along the lines of what they were hoping for. They wanted it to be “super minimal and open,” with lots of light. The couple even provided a list of the gear they wanted to be able to store. Johnston took it from there. “We loved working with Ray

[Johnston],” Garrard said. “His first concept was ‘it’ … beyond our wildest dreams.” Johnston said that his firm actually designed three buildings including a future full-size house. The Gear Studio, he said was conceived as “compact and affordable … a place to sleep, store your gear and participate in the valley.” The Gear Studio was contemplated early on as possibly a garage, Johnston said.

The garage door remained part of the plan because loading and unloading kayaks and such is easier through a large opening. And, Johnston said, “the need for a carport became apparent.” Durham and Garrard also had a great relationship with builder Chris Charters, who they describe as an excellent craftsman, communicator and good friend. He took special care with finishes and materials, such as

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painstakingly matching separate “A grade,” solid-core plywood wall panels to look like there were contiguous. “He understood exactly what we wanted to do,” Garrard said of Charters. “Everything was done with thought. It was not a stressful process. It was collaborative in all the decisions, even the small ones.” “Chris did a great job,” Johnston agreed, especially with letting the owners know what the final finishes would look like and creating “a tailored finish on the inside.” Durham is a nonprofit executive director in Seattle. Garrard is part of a corporate leadership team, specializing in business growth. Their 12-year-old son, Finn, spends time at the cabin, as does their rescued greyhound Eldo. At some point, the couple intends to build a larger home. “We have to plan our building process,” Durham said. For now, the Gear Studio is a perfect alternative to full-size living. 



Methow Valley News

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A gap in the housing cycle The Methow needs more affordable rental options BY RAY JOHNSTON


healthy town has several essential ingredients: There are jobs derived from the production or provision of something that is desired; there are work places; and there is accessible housing. The health of a community must be dynamic, shifting and evolving over time to meet new conditions. The Methow Valley is adapting well. We are adopting new technology while adding infrastructure and amenities that help make our community resilient. We are taking care of our elders, our 24

environment and the vulnerable among us. We are also responding, in true Methow spirit, to the housing crisis that permeates our society, both urban and rural. The Methow Housing Trust is doing important work in making home ownership available to those who qualify. But that is only one response to a challenge that requires numerous responses — a s many responses as there are different lifestyles, phases of life and personal circumstances among the people who choose to live and thrive here in the valley. As a community, we are adapting successfully to a changing business environment. We have developed a regional economy strengthened by tourism and recreation, supported by a realignment of our use and stewardship of natural resources. Local

entrepreneurs introduce us to new products and processes on the horizon that support our goals, from new kinds of forest products, to rediscovered crop species and animal husbandry. We are attuned to cycles: economic, generational and natural. However, one cycle that we need to address more attentively is the housing cycle — not necessarily the supply/demand/cost cycle, but the life cycle of our community’s varying housing needs. When young people, either raised in the Methow Valley or from afar, come here to settle down they strengthen our community in a multitude of ways. Taking advantage of professional opportunities that weren’t available to their parents or grandparents, such as working


remotely via the internet or establishing new businesses and services that did not exist a generation ago, they are diversifying our economy and setting our region up for continued health.


When folks near retirement age relocate here and still work remotely, they also add to the local economy and our social infrastructure. Among both groups there remains a lot of mobility. Younger people want flexibility to travel and explore, older people often want to downsize, and both may not want the responsibility of land and personal property. What is missing in our current housing lifecycle are quality rental homes: houses, apartments or other configurations: duplexes, triplexes and townhouses.

Frequently, the rental properties that do exist in the valley are siphoned off by the lucrative vacation rental industry. Apartments have not been part of previous building cycles, so very few of them exist in the Methow, so the workers drawn here by our burgeoning economy, interested in establishing themselves in the valley, have limited housing options. If they are fortunate, they may have friends who offer them opportunities to rent something that has not already been scooped up by the short-term rental market. More seasoned newcomers may find housing to purchase,

but sometimes they would rather begin by renting, trying out the Methow Valley lifestyle before committing to owning a home. A healthy community offers options in all things, including housing. To strengthen the health of the Methow, we must offer more housing diversity so that new residents can find a place to call home, retiring elders can find a rental properties that allow aging in place and those whose lives change unexpectedly can look to rental properties to bridge the gap to a new chapter in life. Rental housing is a part of all communities, not only cities or

A healthy community offers options in all things, including housing. To strengthen the health of the Methow, we must offer more housing diversity.

larger towns. More in-town options for denser living will allow us to keep our treasured rural character elsewhere. It makes clear economic sense to provide quality rental housing as part of the Methow Valley lifestyle we offer prospective residents and visitors who want to come to work, play and contribute to our communities.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE What is hindering the development of this missing link in the housing cycle? Could it be relatively low rental rates and thus a low rate of return? The misconception that there is not enough of a demand for rentals? Are potential developers of rental properties inhibited by a lack of investment capital? The Methow has always found unique and imaginative ways to meet challenges head on, so taking a nonprofit approach to this problem might produce a solution and fill the housing gap. Creating subsidies to offset the costs of market-rate properties

for lower-income residents is one option. Enticing developers to build more rental properties with tax incentives or lower-interest financing may produce an influx of housing in a shorter amount of time. Conducting a market study will likely reveal that the next decade will bring higher paying jobs to the valley, bringing higher rent potentials and encouraging additional development in that direction. Perhaps simplified Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit designs would promote multiple small homes on more rural sites. The hope is that one, or many, of these concepts help bring the valley the essential ingredient of rental housing, completing the housing life cycle and creating a sustainable and healthy community, culture and economic environment in the Methow.  Ray Johnston is a principal in Seattle-based Johnston Architects, which has designed many Methow Valley Homes.


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Trending upward The valley’s real estate market shifts towards higher prices BY ANN MCCREARY


he market for homes in the Methow Valley experienced what one long-time Realtor described as a “seismic shift” in 2019, with record spending on houses in the highest price brackets. Home sales overall soared to a new record of $55 million in 2019, “surpassing the powerful 2018 home market by nearly $2 million,” said Dave Thomsen of

Coldwell Banker Winthrop Realty. But it’s not the increase in overall sales that distinguished last year’s market, it’s where those increases occurred, Thomsen said. “What’s really interesting … is the fundamental shift which took place in 2019 in the types of homes purchased and sold,” Thomsen said. “Sales in the upper-price tiers triggered a seismic shift. No longer were homes sold in the $300,000 to $400,000 range the center of the market, as was the case for years,” he said. “Suddenly, revenues from home sales above $500,000 accounted for nearly half of all monies generated in the home sector — $26 million. The $26 million figure marks a 129% increase over spending in the same price range in 2018,” Thomsen said. Thomsen, senior managing broker and branch manager of Coldwell Banker Winthrop Reality, presented his findings in an

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annual Methow Valley real estate report that he has compiled for more than a decade. He uses statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service and other property sales information to develop the report on real estate activity from Mazama to the bottom of the valley at Highway 97. In 2019, a total of 134 houses sold, according to the report. Only 37 were in the over$500,000 range, but those sales generated almost half of the total dollar volume, Thomsen said. The average price of those homes was more than $700,000. The rest of the home market, involving sales at or below $500,000, generated $29 million from 97 home sales. Those properties sold for an average of nearly $300,000, Thomsen said. “The price point of $300,000 and under will continue to disappear as construction costs and appreciation rates rise,” said Anne Eckmann, designated broker/owner of Blue Sky Real Estate. “Historically low interest rates, around 3.7%, fuel the ability of buyers to be able to afford homes at a higher price point.” As a result of the shift toward

more expensive homes, the median price of homes in the Methow Valley hit a historic high of $360,000, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. That compares to $318,000 in 2018, $322,500 in 2017 and $270,000 in 2016. That’s cause for concern for Methow Valley residents hoping to purchase a home, Eckmann said. “There were 38 fewer sales under $350,000 in 2019. If you look at $400,000 and over, there were 23 more. What that means is, that’s the affordable housing,” Eckmann said. Some locals are going to say, ‘I can’t afford a $350,000 house.’”


Last year’s market was driven by a scarcity of available houses, as inventory of homes listed for sale hit historic lows, and remained there at the beginning of 2020, local Realtors said. “In terms of prices ranges of homes that sold, $200,000 to $400,000 is still the hottest segment of the market in terms of number of transactions,” said Brian Colin, managing broker/ owner of Mountain to River Realty. “But we did see a big decrease

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in the number of sales in this range — 53 sales in 2019 compared to 88 in 2018,” Colin said. “I think that this was due to inventory versus a true slowing in this segment.” “Had a greater inventory of homes been available in the $200,000 to $400,000 range, it’s likely they would have sold, also,” said Thomsen. “But fewer properties were available in those categories and buyers stepped up to buying superior properties at higher prices and spending more for properties that previously and recently sold for noticeably less money.” “The lack of inventory is across all price points,” Eckmann said. “Lack of inventory is the classic supply-and-demand economic scenario. As resources become scarce, pricing rises.” Statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service show a consistent decline in active home listings in the Methow Valley over the past four years. On June 30 (generally one of the busiest

times for the real estate market), the number of listings were 139 in 2016, 108 in 2017, 90 in 2018 and 77 in 2019. On Dec. 31 of each year, the listings were 81 in 2016, 65 in 2017, 65 in 2018 and only 30 in 2019. Rising costs of new home construction has influenced

the market for existing homes, making them comparatively more affordable and attractive, said Patsy Rowland, designated broker/owner of Winthrop Star Properties. “Building materials have increased over the years. If you find something already built in a location and price you like,

you most likely can’t replace it” at a comparable price by building a new home, Rowland said. Building costs have put a damper on new spec home construction, despite the demand for homes in the Methow Valley, said Bob Monetta, designated broker/ owner of Windermere Real Estate. He estimated building costs at $250-$300 per square foot. “Spec builders aren’t building. We don’t have a lot of specs like 10 or 15 years ago,” he said.



Local Realtors say a growing number of homebuyers are looking for locations close to or within the towns of Winthrop, Twisp and Mazama. “In terms of area that seemed to be the most desirable, that would have to be Twisp, Winthrop and Mazama,” Colin said. “Both Twisp and Winthrop have seen an increase in people that want to be within town limits. Carlton and Methow were less active.”

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“Some of the changes can be attributed to a demographic shift,” Thomsen said. “Baby boomers, once the decisive Methow market leaders, largely favored larger acreage with more privacy, outside town. Many of today’s younger buyers prefer the ease and convenience of smaller properties located closer to or in town. Many of today’s buyers come to play and have fun; the idea of working acreage is less appealing.” In addition to sales trending toward smaller properties, more buyers are looking for smaller dwellings, Realtors say. “The ideal home has gotten smaller in the last couple of years, with a lot of people looking for something in the 1,300-square-foot range; two bedrooms, two bathrooms with a carport or garage,” Colin said. Current Methow Valley residents who bought property here years ago are also part of that trend, said Monetta. “People are downsizing now, so you’re

looking at a lot of bigger houses that come onto the market.” He recently listed a house with 20 acres on a hillside between Twisp and Winthrop that the owners purchased 25 years ago. “They are downsizing. They want to find a house in Twisp. Twisp is a going spot. There are not enough affordable properties for sale there,” Monetta said. Prospective homebuyers are also looking for another feature as they consider purchasing a house in the Methow Valley — access to reliable, high-speed internet, said Rowland. “It’s one of the first things that comes up when I work with a buyer. More and more people really need high-speed internet access at home. Even if they are getting a part-time home, they’ve got to be able to access their records and work,” Rowland said. A new study of barriers to broadband internet access in the Methow Valley was launched in February this year through

a state economic revitalization in 2018, six large ranches sold grant. Consultants hired to confor a total of almost $12 million. duct the study, facilitated through Although the dollar volume Twispof land sales Works, will fell by almost develop $4 million in comprehen2019, it still sive plans compares to bring favorably to reliable past years, broadband Thomsen services said. throughout Realtors the valley were generwhen the ally optimisstudy is tic about a completed strong real later this estate market year. continuing The comthrough 2020, Brian Colin, managing broker/ although they bined dolowner of Mountain to River Realty said that will lar volume of all propdepend on the erty sold in availability of the Methow Valley — i ncluding homes to buy, and the strength of land and commercial properthe national economy. “If we see ties  —   fell last year by about 16%, a good increase in inventory this according to Thomsen’s marspring, we have the potential to ket report. He noted that the have one of the most active years figures are skewed because ever,” Colin said. 

“The ideal home has gotten smaller in the last couple of years, with a lot of people looking for something in the 1,300-squarefoot range.”



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From dream to reality How one homeowner made her vision come true BY DONNI REDDINGTON


hen I moved into my first home I built, my mom brought over some old boxes of mine she’d been storing the last 38 years, dropped them on the living room floor and said, “Here you go, you now have room for all of your old crap!” Not long after that, on a rainy day, I decided to sift through my old memories, and one of the first boxes I opened contained several drawings. There were old drawings of homes I had sketched from the early 1980s. I was around 10 years old at that time. As most of my girlfriends were dreaming of growing up, getting married and having kids, all I could dream about was building a home. The next box contained my report cards, which confirmed

why I didn’t become an architect — my math skills were not so great. Reading one of the comments from my third-grade math teacher, Mrs. Smith, I laughed out loud. She said, “Donni has a hard time paying attention at times but she does some really amazing sketches of homes. Maybe she

Installing the finishing touches in the kitchen. PHOTO COURTESY OF DONNI REDDINGTON can build me a house someday.”


So 30 years later, my dream came true! I built my first house here in Mazama. The process was a blast from start to finish, and choosing a builder who understood my tight budget constraints and many artistic ideas

made the process smooth. I chose Darold Brandenburg for his honesty, reputation, skills and his ability to be right on with his estimated building quotes. I didn’t have money to hire an architect and I knew exactly what I wanted, so I started back to working on some sketches. I found a website, floorplanner.com, where

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I was able to design my home. I used the basic free plan and skipped paying for the advanced plan — after all, I was on a budget. My approved stamped floor plans cost only $1,500! The building process was exciting to watch. To see an idea that I’ve had in my head for years unfold in front of my very own eyes was completely rewarding. The house is small (950 square feet), cozy and energy-efficient. It is south-facing so in the winter, the sun shines into the house, warming up the concrete floors and creating its own heat. But unfortunately not for long, with the few hours of sun we have here in the winter. I had a Mitsubishi ductless heating/air conditioning unit installed and that is the primary source of heat in the winter; the wood stove is the back-up heat. The ductless split keeps the home at a comfortable temperature in the winter and cools it on hot summer days. There are two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The kitchen is open to the living room and there is a kitchen bar for meals. The attached garage is 850 square feet, still not big enough, and during the construction phase, I decided to take the front 300 square feet and wall it off to become part of the house. This space has become the multi-purpose room. There is a 14-foot high climbing wall with a small gym, office, gear storage and a loft where we have movie nights often. Two things I’ve always wanted in my house were a wood stove and a glass garage door that opens up in the living room. Bringing the outside inside, literally, sometimes! Having the garage door open during the spring, summer and fall makes the house feel more spacious and alive.



I paid attention to snowfall with the design of the house. The roof overhangs 3 feet around the house so in the winter I can walk around the entire house snowfree. No need for a snowblower, and no snow dumping over the entryway. In fact, my mom gave me her snowblower when I first moved in but I gave it back after the first year because I didn’t have to use it. I also thought about fires when deciding what material to use on the outside. I chose hardy panel siding, which is a concrete composite and very fire-resistant, as well as metal siding with a metal roof. Overall, I am very happy with how my house turned out. It truly is a low-maintenance home. For those on a budget and wanting to build, it’s possible but you must do your research. When choosing a builder, interview other homeowners and ask pros and cons about their experience with a builder you’re interested in. Make sure the builder is reliable on their quotes, and find out from others if they stayed on budget. Also, shop around with lenders. The best way to do research is to talk with those who’ve gone through the process. The more you can plan, the better prepared you will be! And remember, think small., Americans are consumed with super-sizing everything. Bigger is not always better. Remember, you have to fill all that space with “stuff.” A large space will cost more to heat and cool, and to clean and maintain it will require a lot more work. One thing you can always go bigger on though is the garage! Don’t give up, dreams can come true! 


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Low profile Elegant Bear Creek home unobtrusively captures Pearrygin panorama BY MARCY STAMPER


here’s no denying that the views are exceptional — the full length of Pearrygin Lake and a vast sweep of the North Cascades. But the owners and architect of the striking home nestled in the hills of upper Bear Creek wanted to preserve views for everyone, including folks who are camping and swimming at Pearrygin Lake State Park. “It was very important to the clients — even before we put pen to paper — to respect the scenic area above Pearrygin Lake,” architect Tim Hammer, a principal with CAST Architecture, said. “We wanted to blend into the hillside. We wanted to experience the place and soak in the beauty,

but didn’t want to take away from others’ experience.” Once the homeowners (who asked not to be identified) had carefully chosen the site, the design of what they’ve come to call Bear Creek Basecamp grew out of the same values. Hammer drafted three designs and the

PHOTO COURTESY OF CAST ARCHITECTURE family picked one and refined it. “I felt like he was a genius at what he does and he was easy to work with,” the homeowner said. “It’s really a house that blurs the line between indoors and out,” Hammer said. The goal was to create a single ceiling plane from the interior to the exterior to connect all the spaces. All the modules line up, unifying the structure. “We asked the architect to

take advantage of the view, but didn’t specify how many windows,” the homeowner said. Indeed, the house is more windows than walls, with multiple views through the structure to the outdoors and to other wings of the house.


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The roof and outdoor spaces accommodate the seasons. The gently sloping shed roof holds snow for insulation and keeps ice and snow from landing on walkways. Generous overhangs block the summer sun but let the low winter sun heat the slab floor to soak up warmth. In the summer, the owners can open windows and doors at night to circulate cool air. Walls and windows have extra insulation. “Even though there’s a lot of glass, it’s a fairly efficient energy envelope,” Hammer said. Exterior materials are

rusted steel and concrete for low maintenance. In the great room, a vast open space with living room, dining room and kitchen, the owners thought hard about the layout to suit the family’s love of cooking — and of preparing food while visiting with guests. As a result, the kitchen is the core of the great room. While it’s unusual to have the kitchen in the center of the space, it’s where the family spends all their time, Hammer said. “It’s a hub, figuratively and atmospherically,” he said. The dining room is on the west

side, overlooking the lake. That accomplishes two goals — as a floating plane, the dining-room table doesn’t block the view the way a sofa and ottoman would. But it also reserves the best views for guests. “The kitchen island is all about entertaining, but the dining room is really all about the lake,” Hammer said. The configuration makes ordinary chores a pleasure. When you’re doing dishes at the kitchen sink, you can gaze out toward the mountains. “Standing at the sink, looking at the view — that’s what we hoped for,” the homeowner said.

Hammer used the same vocabulary and materials throughout the house. The color palette of muted taupe and white blends seamlessly with the warmth of verticalgrain fir cabinets handcrafted by Phil Woras. Counters are a manufactured, pale white-gray stone that resembles marble. “Tim was really adamant about repeating elements, using the same color palette, and keeping it simple,” the homeowner said. “It’s my belief that you get a certain amount of harmony and comfort if you play materials against each other,” Hammer said. Woras built bunk beds to sleep


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six as well as sofas with ample cushions in the TV room that can be converted to even more beds. Walls in the bunk room are indestructible steel.


The house has two outdoor spaces — a protected courtyard shielded from wind and summer sun and a wraparound veranda that takes in the views. The great room has six doors to the outdoors. Outdoor spaces were conceived as part of the overall plan. Approaching through the veranda establishes a psychological experience of entering the home, Hammer said. “It’s a continuous experience from the great room to the patio to the guest wing,” he said. In the winter, the homeowners roast marshmallows on a fire pit designed by Tim Odell of Hotspot Fire Pits in the courtyard. In the summer, they stash the fire pit in the garage and pull out a table and chairs where they can relax in the shade.


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can work from Bear Creek as easily as from the city. The owners joked with Hammer about making sure that even the office had a view. “This is the best office I could imagine,” said the homeowner, who starts work early. “I got up at 4 a.m. on the summer solstice.” It’s an active family, with kids involved in every sport there is — hiking, mountain biking, golf, horseback riding, skiing and fly fishing. A small garage is given over to gear, crammed with skis, ice skates, fishing poles and bikes. The homeowners appreciated the expertise of local contractors, including Lost River Construction as the builders and B&B Excavating for careful grading that preserved the contours of the property. “I could just look at those mountains all day. Some people look at the lake, some at the mountains,” the homeowner said. “The light is incredible. The views are marvelous. It’s totally quiet.” 




Even the hot tub is nestled into the slope to preserve the view. People who aren’t overly modest can take advantage of an outdoor shower that’s open to the landscape. “We deliberately didn’t screen the shower,” the homeowner said. The family lives in Vancouver, B.C., but the husband first came to the Methow Valley in the 1990s on a mountain-biking trip. When he and his wife met in 2001, he was eager to introduce her to the valley, and it became an annual winter pilgrimage. Now that they have three kids, ages 7, 10 and 12, they treasure the opportunity to explore as a family or in more intimate outings with one parent and one or two kids. They’re all busy — t he wife is a law professor working on her doctorate  —   s o they relish their time on Bear Creek to relax and experience nature. With his own institutional investment company, the husband

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Build a home that fights fire Firewise practices reduce your risks BY KIRSTEN COOK COMMUNITY OUTREACH DIRECTOR OKANOGAN CONSERVATION DISTRICT


he Alaska Division of Forestry poses a great question to residents at risk from wildfire: how fast can your house run? Well, unless your architect is Baba Yaga (whose house

is on chicken legs), you are probably out of luck. If your house can’t run, then what you need it to do is fight. Research shows that most homes destroyed in wildfires are ignited by embers, in some case from fires as far as a mile or two away. Direct flame contact and radiant heat can also lead to home ignitions. A home that fights fire minimizes the risks to a home from all three of these potential ignition sources. New construction is the most affordable place to implement wildfire resistance. To build a home that fights fire, focus on four things: design, materials,

landscaping and maintenance.


Take a critical look at the building site: what kind of fire behavior can you expect at your location? Slope and wind direction are your primary concerns. The steeper the slope, the more intense the fire behavior, especially when driven by wind. If you can’t avoid building on a hillside, plan excavation so that the home is set back at least 30 feet from the edge of the slope. For the structure itself, keep Henry David Thoreau in mind: “simplify, simplify, simplify.” Complicated roof lines, lots of corners, and open eaves all add risk because they create more places where embers can collect and cause problems. Attachments like decks, balconies and fences should also be designed to reduce risk, not increase it. For example, do not build decks or other attachments that overhang slopes because fire moves quickly uphill.


The best way to build a home that fights fire is to build with materials that don’t catch fire! Metal roofs, non-flammable siding, and ember resistant vents (or no vents at all) give you the biggest bang for the buck. And speaking of bucks, Headwaters Economics (an independent, non-partisan research organization) published a report in 2018 confirming that ignition-resistant construction costs the same or less than traditional construction when building a new home. Material options have expanded dramatically in the past few years: a quick internet search turned up 15 different choices of fiber cement siding styles. As wildfire damage claims increase and insurance companies react, a wildfire-resistant home may be the key to keeping home insurance affordable (or keeping it at all).


Plan the landscaping to complement your fire-resistant home, not work against it. Start by keeping the space from the foundation to 5 feet out free of plants and any other flammable materials, especially wood chip mulch. Concrete slab, pavers, gravel and stone are all good choices for a fire-free perimeter. Use heavy-duty weed fabric to minimize maintenance if you choose gravel/stone. Beyond the 5-foot zone, keep plants well-spaced (so if one ignites it doesn’t spread fire to No fuel = no fire. This home’s gravel perimeter and nonflammable siding provide no opportunity for embers to take hold and grow into a structure fire. PHOTO COURTESY OF OKANOGAN CONSERVATION DISTRICT


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Habitat restoration This wood-sided home is at very high risk from embers, direct flame contact and radiant heat ignition pathways. Note the 6-inch concrete sill at the base of the wall; if the juniper were removed and a 5-foot wide apron of gravel or other nonflammable surface was added, this would create a fuel-free space at the base of the wall where embers tend to collect. PHOTO COURTESY OF OKANOGAN CONSERVATION DISTRICT others) and choose species that are fire-resistant. Most of the deciduous native plants in our area are considered fire-resistant, so your landscape can be both fire-ready and wildlife-friendly. Keep branches of large conifers like ponderosa pine and Douglas fir pruned 10 to 14 feet above the ground and create 10- to 20foot gaps between tree canopies. Large trees close to the home can increase risk, so think carefully about where and how many trees you keep on the building site, especially if those trees are going to shed needles and cones on your home and yard constantly.


An additional benefit of fire-resistant construction and landscaping is that it tends to reduce maintenance needs. If your home and landscape are easier to maintain, it will take you less time and energy to keep the ignition potential low during fire season.


Building a home is complicated, but there are many resources to help you build a home that fights fire. Okanogan Conservation District offers free on-site consultations for new home construction and existing homes.

We also developed the “Wildfire Resistant Buildings” fact sheet, available at www.okanogancounty.org/Building. On Tuesday, May 19, the Okanogan Conservation District and Wenatchee Valley College will host the “Fire Ready Home and Landscape” class at the Methow Valley Community Center gym in Twisp from 6-8 p.m. The focus will be on practical solutions for home-hardening and defensible space.


Retrofitting an existing home to fight fire tends to be a little more challenging and sometimes more expensive, but there are a number of simple things that can reduce your risk. Since every home is unique, we recommend a free wildfire risk consultation from Okanogan Conservation District, or your local fire district.

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Fire-resistant homes can sometimes be overwhelmed by extreme conditions. However, a well-prepared home is much less likely to lose the fight. The majority of homes that survived the Camp fire in Paradise met the fire-resistant construction standards required by code in California. 

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How to be a good Methow Valley neighbor First year Good Neighbor Project participant Mary (left) talks to Methow Conservancy Conservation Biologist Julie Grialou (right) about some of Mary’s goals for her Balky Hill property on a Good Neighbor Project site visit. PHOTO COURTESY OF METHOW CONSERVANCY

acreage parcel of land here in the Methow Valley you are probably looking forward to spring when the Arrowleaf BY DANIEL SENNER THE METHOW CONSERVANCY Balsamroot bring color back to the f you are the owner of a small- valley floor and the

Conservancy program helps landowners be stewards



migratory birds return to sing to you on your back porch as you warm in the afternoon sun. With all the good that spring brings, it also brings a laundry list of stewardship to-do’s for your property. While it can sometimes seem daunting getting started on these projects, once initiated these tasks can bring many rewards,

including enhancing the natural aesthetics of your land and giving you a greater ecological understanding of your property. It also makes a difference to the collective ecological health of the Methow Valley by increasing wildlife habitat connectivity and reducing the susceptibility to high intensity wildfires. Recognizing the value of engaging small-acreage property owners, we here at the Methow Conservancy started a new program to help these landowners to understand and prioritize their stewardship needs and

connect them with the resources to be successful on their property. The project launched in spring of 2019 and is called the Good Neighbor Project. In its first year, the Good Neighbor Project worked with 24 small-acreage landowners scattered throughout the Methow Valley to offer a free property site visit with one of our staff members. Site visits began in April and were completed by early June. During each visit, we talk about the Methow Conservancy’s goals for the Good Neighbor Project, learn about the landowners’ goals for their land, and then tour around the property with the landowners and provide them with suggestions for stewardship actions to improve habitat.


We leave the landowners with a summary of the site visit and recommended stewardship actions, as well as relevant contacts and follow-up information. Here are a few examples of the suggestions we provided landowners: • Do you have birdfeeders? If you see sign of bears in your neighborhood, remove the feeders until bears have left the area. • Start your property search for invasive weeds. For help with weed identification and removal visit our online weed guide: https://methowconservancy.org/ weed-guide. • If you have or plan to plant fruit trees be sure to familiarize yourself with best

practices for backyard fruit ownership: http://treefruit.wsu.edu/ backyard-fruit-trees. • To schedule a free formal Firewise assessment, email Kirsten Cook at the Okanogan Conservation District at kirsten@okanogancd.org, • Seed disturbed areas with bluebunch wheatgrass, sand dropseed, and/or lupine. All are available for sale at Methow Natives: http://methownative.com. In our first year of the project, we learned a lot about the needs of small landowners and saw the signs of success. One of our participants, for example, had been thinking about building their new house right on top of a hill in a place that definitely would have impacted ridgeline views. During our site visit we talked about what makes a good homesite zone and all the factors to consider, and they are now considering other spots on their property for their home. We will be rolling out the second year of the Good Neighbor Project in March 2020. It’s been exciting and gratifying to launch a new and innovative opportunity to help small landowners connect to and care for their land more deeply. If you are interested in becoming a 2020 Good Neighbor you can contact daniel@methowconservancy.org for more details.  Daniel Senner is the community conservation coordinator for the Methow Conservancy.

About the Conservancy For 24 years, the Methow Conservancy has existed to inspire people to care for the land and water of the Methow Valley, working with over 120 landowners to create permanent conservation outcomes for their lands. To learn more about their work, explore conservation opportunities for your land, discover upcoming natural history education programs, or learn about opportunities to purchase a conserved property in the Methow Valley, visit www. methowconservancy.org, call (509) 996-2870 or drop in at 315 Riverside Ave., Winthrop.

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Going dark The Dark Sky Coalition aims to reduce light pollution in the valley BY JOANNA BASTIAN


ne of Washington state’s best places to star gaze is right here in the Methow Valley. Our pristine night sky is a visual marvel and important for the health of our residents and wildlife. Light pollution by poor outdoor lighting practices reduces visibility in all directions, harms health and wildlife, and is a waste of economic resources. Satellite images show 99% of people around the world suffer from light pollution, unable to experience a natural night sky. Here in the Pacific Northwest, residents are among the remaining few who can still view the brilliance of the Milky Way on a clear moonless night. The Methow Dark Sky Coalition is on a mission to “Protect our night sky with environmentally responsible lighting.” The registered 501(C)(3) organization is based in Winthrop, with President Kyrie Jardin, Vice President Howard Johnson, and Secretary-Treasurer Kathy Podmayer. Explaining why the group came together, Johnson said, “The Methow Valley has a rich dark sky, we want to keep it unique and wonderful.” The group follows the recommendations of the International Dark Sky 44

Association (IDA), to educate the community on how artificial light affects our health and wildlife, and how to reduce light pollution through smart lighting practices. The group measures the number of stars visible to the naked eye in different areas of the Methow Valley. With population growth and more outdoor lights, the light pollution measurement trends upward. Left unchecked, in a few years residents of Winthrop will no longer be able to see the Milky Way. The good news is that home and business owners can reverse light pollution affects by making a few small and affordable changes.


Outdoor lighting is necessary for a variety of reasons. While using outdoor lights, there are ways

Looking west from Balky Hill, Twisp lights up the night sky beneath the Milky Way. PHOTO BY DON RUDOLPH to minimize the harmful effects of light pollution. The Methow Dark Sky Coalition recommends following these guidelines from the IDA for outdoor lighting: • Only be on when needed. • Only light the area that needs it. • Be no brighter than necessary. • Minimize blue light emissions. • Be fully shielded. Use timers or motion detectors to control how often and what times a light illuminates an area. To light only the area that needs it, avoid floodlights from a great height and instead install smaller lights closer to the ground in areas that need illumination along walkways, doorways and driveways. Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop uses this practice with beautiful and

effective results. Bright lights increase night blindness outside the zone of illumination by reducing a person’s ability to see past the lighted area. In addition, bright lights cause “light trespass” by shining in neighboring windows and interrupting other’s view of the night sky. Instead of using the brightest bulb, opt for the lowest wattage necessary. Blue light brightens the night sky more than any other color of light. All bulb packaging provides color temperature information. Look for lights with a warm color temperature of 3,000K or lower. If a bulb is visible, it creates night blindness and light trespass. Always fully shield outdoor lights to direct light downward.


Okanogan County zoning code states outdoor lighting, “shall be directed downward and shielded to minimize potential glare to motorists and off-site residents. No exterior light with a direct source visible from a neighboring property shall be installed. Indirect sources and horizontal cut-off fixtures are recommended to reduce glare and provide general ambient light.” Using smart lighting practices can improve everyone’s health. A recent study by WSU Spokane Sleep and Performance Center found nighttime exposure to LED and other bluespectrum lighting suppresses the hormone melatonin and leads to increase risks for diabetes, cancer and a multitude of other chronic conditions. The AMA recommends shielding all outdoor light fixtures and only using warm lights with 3,000K temperature or less. Artificial light at night,

especially blue lights, harm wildlife. Bright lights at night disrupt bird migration patterns, and disturb the feeding and mating cycles of insects, bats, fish and salamanders. Bright lights interrupt the predator/prey relationship, creating an imbalance in the ecosystem. Owls will go elsewhere if an area is overly lit at night. “If we want to see animal life during the day, we need to control light pollution at night,” Jardin said. Smart lighting at night reduces energy consumption. Light at night is expensive, and drains economic resources. Satellite images of Earth show

light emissions into outer space where it isn’t being used, but instead wasted to the tune of $3 billion per year in the United States. By using timers, motion sensors, lower wattage and shields, smart homeowners can reduce their energy consumption while also reducing light pollution. Ace Hardware in Winthrop carries Dark Sky certified outdoor light fixtures and can special order items for home and business owners. Be a good neighbor and a smart homeowner by looking for ways to protect our dark skies, while reducing energy consumption and light pollution. 

Resources To find out more about the Methow Dark Sky Coalition, and how to adopt dark sky practices, visit www. methowdarksky.org

Fixtures such as these direct light downward, illuminating the ground and surrounding area without creating glare or spilling light. IMAGES COURTESY INTERNATIONAL DARK SKY ASSOCIATION

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Growing in place A ‘seamless’ remodel adds amenities in a slightly larger space BY DON NELSON


here are some things that will never change at Tom and Mary Lencheks’ homesite on Elbow Coulee Road. The sumptuous views won’t be compromised. Wildlife abounds. Dark and quiet nights will be the norm. Solitude is guaranteed.


But the small, practical cabin the Lencheks built 20 years ago has undergone a substantial remodel — as might be expected when one of the homeowners is an architect — to a full-time residence, without claiming a much larger footprint. The remodeled house was featured in Confluence Gallery’s 2019 Methow Valley Home Tour. Tom Lenchek has been designing homes in the Methow Valley for more than 25 years — some 40 residences in all, he figures. His Seattle-based firm, formerly Balance Architects and now called Prentice+Balance+Wickline Architects, is active throughout the West and has had a Winthrop office since 2000. The Lencheks bought the 40acre property, which extends across Elbow Coulee Road, in

1984, and put in the basics — power, well, septic. “We liked the view to the east, and that it got sun in the winter,” Lenchek says of the site. The original cabin’s construction began in 1998. The Lencheks are avid outdoorspeople, and the two-bedroom, one-bath, 1,400-square-feet structure was intended as a recreational base when they were in the valley. They started out focused on winter sports, but then discovered that there was also an enticing summer in the Methow. “It was definitely a cabin,” Lenchek says of the original structure. “It wasn’t meant to be a full-time house.” Mary adds that the intent from the beginning was that it be a low-maintenance space. The cabin was ready for occupancy in 2000. 47


In the past few years as the Lencheks began to transition from Seattle to the Methow — Mary is a “happily retired” attorney who was with a major Seattle law firm; Tom describes himself as semi-retired — the need for a more full-time space became evident as their visits became more frequent. The home isn’t much bigger — expanded by about 300 square feet, Lenchek says — but the resulting remodel added lots of features that make the cabin feel much more expansive. The contractor was Tom Bjornsen. Lenchek said he had to make a decision as an architect (in consultation with his wife) about how to expand the original cabin. “We came around to the idea of blending it seamlessly into the [existing] house,” he says. Indeed, unless Lenchek points out where the remodeling occurred, one would be hard-pressed to figure it out. The additions include a new

entrance and mudroom/pantry, an outdoor screened sleeping porch (formerly a roofless patio) with retractable Murphy bed, and a second bathroom that includes a washer and dryer. The kitchen and original bathroom were also redone. Outside, the Lencheks added a spacious covered “living area” — a deck that features a customfabricated steel fireplace, living room-style furniture and dining table — that is perfect for seasonal entertaining. The deck — a prefabricated concrete slab on a steel frame — is cantilevered to the south to improve views, and has retractable awnings. Like the screened sleeping porch, the deck is intended to extend the Lenchek’s outdoor time as much as possible.


Another consideration for a closer-to-full-time residence was storage. “One thing that gets jettisoned in storage” in many designs, Lenchek says. That’s



not an issue in the remodeled cabin, which has plenty of room for all the necessities including recreational gear (there’s also a separate garage). The wellappointed kitchen — Mary enjoys cooking — looks neat and spiffy thanks to an array of custom cupboards that keep everything out of sight when not in use. The screened sleeping porch, adjacent to the master bedroom, is a favorite addition. “We really love it,” Lenchek says. “We start using it in May. It’s like camping out with a bathroom down the hall.” In fact, the easy transition between inside and outside spaces is emphasized throughout the cabin — 16-foot-wide sliding doors (with screens) off the living room area help create that effect. Other features are a sauna and outdoor shower. The second-level office space does double duty as a guest bedroom. The original cabin included reclaimed wood from a water flume near Tonasket. Matching that wood for the remodel turned

into a quest that led Lenchek to find similar boards in California. The home is built with Firewise standards in mind, to create a “defensible green space,” Lenchek says. Additionally, the Lencheks installed solar panels last fall that started operating in mid-October. “They should provide 100% of the house’s energy once I convert our gas boiler to electric this year,” Lenchek says. “This would be on an annual basis because they are grid tied without battery storage. The total system is rated 13.5KW. It was put together by Ellen Lamiman and installed by Bart Schuler and Pat Norwil, all locals, and they did a great job.” Lenchek says the remodeled home is “done” and there won’t be any more additions, although there may be another outbuilding or two. Meanwhile, the Lencheks have downsized to a condo in Seattle, and figure that between there and the Methow they have all the space they need. 


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