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Building the dream: this Washington couple achieved their objective by taking one step at a time. (How the West is Living).

During a goal-setting seminar; Seattle resident Debra Holland was asked to identify a lifelong desire, write it down, and list small steps toward realizing it. She wrote: "To own waterfront property" That was in January 1988. Today the vision she shared with her husband, Chuck, has been more than fulfilled in the dream home they constructed on the Hood Canal.

Making the land habitable

"We started looking at real-estate listings every week. Once' a month, we would look at property," Debra says. "Two months later; we found this land. It was overgrown; you had to chop your way in with a machete. But it had what we wanted: waterfront access, western exposure, wooded acreage, and a reasonable price."

The next year was spent making it habitable. "We rented a bulldozer and cleared a trail and a lot. There were no utilities, so we had to run in electricity and build a septic system," Chuck says.

That's when the fun--and the real dreaming--began. The Hollands moved a small trailer onto the property and started using it as a vacation hideaway. They named the land Lagom, a Scandinavian term that, loosely translated, means "a sense of peace and balance." They called their humble trailer "The Lodge."

Planning and planting

The couple started sketching layouts and collecting photographs with the intention of creating a vacation house. "A lot of the design was based on what we didn't like in our Seattle home," Debra says. "In that home, I had a kitchen that faced north and was isolated from the family room. It was always cold, and I used to stir risotto in there by myself and wish someone would come visit me. In the new home, we wanted a kitchen for entertaining."

While they built the home in their minds, they continued to develop the land with their hands. Chuck, an avid fruit grower, started planting an orchard, and he seeded the water for oysters. "It takes time for these things to develop. I didn't want to wait for the house," he says. "The benefit of living on the land before building the house is you learn the property--how the winds blow and where the sun hits."

After studying the site in this way, they hired architect Sean Parker, presenting him with a modest budget. "In my view," Parker says, "it's that sort of challenge that lends itself to good architecture." Then the Hollands and Parker began a game Debra calls architectural volleyball: the two would hit ideas to Parker, who in turn would tinker with the rough plans and send them back over the net, so to speak.

A lived-in look

The Hollands had to make a decision. "Sean came to us and said, 'Look, you keep saying this is a weekend house, but the things you are asking for are more like a year-round house,"' Debra says. "He had two sets of plans, one for a beach house and one for a permanent house. At the time, we couldn't imagine living there full time, but we chose the larger house."

The 1,980-square-foot home (completed two years ago) is efficient but dreamy Large windows frame a lovely bay view. The open spaces are streamlined and uncluttered. The design speaks to the Hollands' desire for a peaceful, organized life: built-ins provide ample storage, strategically placed stone or linoleum pathways prevent muddy boots from touching hardwood or carpeted floors, and a large skylight over the bed makes every night a stargazing opportunity. In other words, it fulfills the dream of lagom.

And they've made it their full-time residence. "We considered ourselves people who thrived in an urban environment," Debra says. "But once we started living in the house, it got harder and harder to leave on Sundays. So, as Sean predicted, we started living here full time. It means a two-hour commute to work, one way. But this house makes everything worth it."

DESIGN: Sean Parker, Bainbridge Architects Collaborative, Bainbridge Island, WA (206/842-2011). Landscape: LarsonCasteel Company, Kingston, WA (360/297-2444). Plant designer: Bess Bronstein, Kingston, WA (360/297-7031).

RELATED ARTICLE: Making the budget work

The house was built for $164 per square foot. A comparable house with higher-end finishes would run about $250 per square foot. Setting priorities helped. "We decided what was important and designed around those things," Parker says. "In other areas, we used modest materials in neutral colors."

Cost-cutting measures

* Standard fiberglass tub/shower enclosure: $350, vs. tiled walls and tub deck: $1,500.

* Painted Masonite doors: $120, vs. clear-finished fir doors: $350 or more.

* Plastic laminate countertops: $900, vs. granite: $6,000.

* Fir cabinetry with white melamine interiors: $25,000, vs. maple or fir interiors: $40,000.

* Sheetrock railing: $400, vs. open fir railing: $5,500.
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Author:Bowling, Mary Jo
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
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