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The plan is 18th-century Denmark ... the materials are very much today.

Two centuries gracefully meet and interact at this house on Vashon Island, Washington. Architect Ibsen Nelson re-created the basic plan of his grandparents' 200-year-old farmhouse in Denmark, but he built it with materials that belong to the 20th century. The result is a pristine, white house with a simple, timeless form. Its U-shaped plan creates a courtyard where once horses might have been shod but where today a shallow reflecting pond stretches out to greet visitors arriving through in a privacy gate at the open end. The house rises from a green, mowed meadow on a wooded site. In sharp contrast with the dark, natural setting, its white-painted, corrugated-steel roof and walls stand out like crisp, shimmering sculpture. At night, the house glows softly with its backlit wall of glass blocks.

Nelson designed the house to be easy to build, easy to look at, and easy to live in. The three gabled wings have 2-by-6 framing and rest on radiant-heated slabs. Each is a room and a hall wide. The main wing is 22 feet wide; each flanking wing measures 20 feet wide. Where the wings abut, walls are double-thick. The wings overlap enough to make room for connecting hallways but not enough to make the roof connections difficult.

To keep the building costs down, the house was constructed of readily available materials. The windows, doors, skylights, glass blocks, and steel panels are all standard size and can be ordered from catalogs. Even the scissor trusses were factory built.

The three wings

The 64-foot-long gallery with glass block hall runs the length of the main wing. The 6-foot-wide hall space has a flat ceiling, while rooms on the other side of the interior wall rise to a peak. This wing contains the kitchen, dining room, and living room, which are open to each other most of the time. Pocket doors can close off the kitchen and dining room from the living room to enable a woodstove to heat the space on cold winter days.

One of the side wings contains a guest room, two bathrooms, and the master bedroom. The other wing houses a sewing room, a utility room with washer and dryer, and the garage. (Including the 18-by 20-foot garage, the house contains about 2,800 square feet of interior space.)

All three wings protect and look out to the 40-by 45-foot court with its 10-foot-wide reflecting pond. In this cener space, the landscaping is controlled and simple. Bricks lead from the main gate and surround the pond; a small side path connects to the garage. Grass fills most of the side areas; a boulder, a quince tree, and wisteria punctuate the courtyard.

At the back of the house, a 10-foot-wide deck with a freestanding arbor spreads out along the length of the main wing. Four pairs of French doors open the living and dining rooms to the deck; the rest of the walls in these rooms have door-height windows that combine with skylights to brighten the 16-foot-wide spaces.

The trellis, with pairs of 4-by-4 posts connected to 2-by-4s and 2-by-2s, supports grapevines and honeysuckle. It helps block early-morning sun and frames views across the rear garden and out to a quiet bay beyond.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Aug 1, 1991
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