What's it like living in our new home?

When one steps outside the box there's always the "how will it work" question. Will we be pleased with our not so common solutions to the common home design? Although we're comfortable with our knowledge of who we are and what we like, we've never before experienced living in a home like this one. Many factors went into our comfort level with leaving behind the "tried and true" homes we commonly see.

First, we had complete faith in Brad's ability to design a home for us we'd love to live in. Second, we knew we had the skill to evaluate his design in terms of our life style. Third, we understood our capacity to be flexible in how we live in a home and to adjust to a new way of living.

One of the most controversial issues was needing to go outside between the three buildings. Questions asked were always in the area of, "What about the rain", "Is it covered?", "What about cold winter days?"

Having lived here since January, during some of the worst weather the NW has to offer, we can say, without hesitation, that the passage from one building to another is one of the delights of living here. We love it. This picture is one of the scenes we see first in the morning and last at night. It delights us each time we cross the bridge. And, we might add, the snow earlier in the year didn't destroy the beauty or pleasure. The bridge is definitely one of Brad's design features that is a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Living small is a delight too. It is a challenge to reduce one's possessions down to the bones, and keep them that way. The ease of living without too much stuff is well worth the effort of sorting and eliminating and then sorting and eliminating again and again. It will be an ongoing task, but one we embrace wholeheartedly.

This neighborhood is delightful as well. The lack of fences separating properties opens the area up to feeling like an intentional community. The siting of our buildings, in relation to our neighbors' clustered buildings, leads to easy gatherings of neighbors but protects each home's privacy when desired. Bonus: our neighbors are truly great.

Our kitchen design is quite unique with the separation of food preparation and cooking on two sides of the main living building. Both Ed and I enjoy cooking but we move at vastly different speeds. This design allows us to both work in the kitchen without tripping over one another. Previously, in the kitchens we've had, only one of us could be in the kitchen at a time. Our solution to accommodate different speeds in the kitchen has resulted in much more shared cooking pleasure.

Separate buildings, especially when living small, are a key element in privacy and provide the option to be truly alone, even when in relationship. At times I actually lose Ed. When is he? He loses me as well. That's perfect. We can be totally alone even in a 860 sq. ft. home. Or, the two of us can be completely alone, even if Brad and Erin are watching a movie in main living, by simply being in another building. Little retreats everywhere! Wonderful!

The bath, with triple french doors opening out onto a private garden; eight foot glass doors opening the kitchen up totally to the outdoor patio; a wall of windows to the east looking out onto the pond; five opening windows in the guesthouse looking out over the pond; and oversized glass doors opening out onto the bridge, give all the spaces an almost seamless relationship to the outdoors. This is the first home I've lived in that has the connection to the garden that I've always craved.

Plus, a million little bonuses. The bridge is a perfect dog run. In fact, on a nice day when the doors are open, Annie can pass from the guesthouse to the main living building pausing to nap in the sun on the bridge. There's a swing on the barn. Under the guesthouse is a delightful covered patio at the edge of the pond. Every window has a view of something interesting and beautiful. The light and sunshine enter the buildings in perfect and unpredictable ways. Wildlife is finding its way to the pond providing us with the pleasure of watching the birds bathe. No frogs yet, but we're hopeful they'll come.

I've just touched the highlights of living on Grace Lane. We will discover more surprises throughout the year, unfolding daily, as the light and weather change, and we adjust our living styles -- as we settle in to a new way of living.

There are, however, huge problems with our new home and that's that I can't get anything done for just looking. Standing on the bridge gazing out at the pond and stream; gawking at the buildings when I'm trying to gravel the pathways; admiring the details of the barn when I should be painting; or simply aimlessly moving from one enticing spot to another. Productivity is yielding to eye candy. Ah!


Jacob & Josh

A visit from our cute neighbor boys.


Final Inspection Today!

And, with a big yippee! we passed.  What an adventure this has been building our new home.  Little tasks remain to be completed, but the "systems" are all go, and our certificate of occupancy is a done deal.  Working with Bob, Langley's building inspector, has been a pleasure from start to finish.  He is knowledgeable, reasonable, and an amazingly competent and delightful person to work with.  

A huge thanks to Brad for a job well done; Ed for his electrical work, patience and bringing home the $$; and to all our workers, subcontractors, friends, family, neighbors and cheerleaders.  Thank you!  Thank you!


More garden beds...

We're raking and shaping and preparing more and more garden beds.  Little by the little the garden takes shape as the paths are refined and plants are added to the new spaces.

Are we impatient, or what?

We release fish into the pond and they dive to the bottom -- immediately. So we do it again and again, including 24 goldfish and two koi yesterday. Have we seen them since? No. Or the others we've released? No. We've been through this before, with other ponds, but we're still too ready for instant gratification to settle down and wait quietly.

New Leaves

Our new vine maples are beginning to leaf out.  They were dug this winter at Brad's Dad's home in North Bend, arriving here with small root balls.  Digging them was difficult as they were so thick and entangled in the understory of their native forest.  We planted them with care and have been nursing them throughout the winter months, hoping for the best.  We're more and more optimistic!


Larry and Betty

drop by to deliver a house warming gift and take a quick tour.  With the sun out all afternoon I had the end doors wide open to the patio for a taste of how wonderful the summer days will be in our new space.  Thanks Larry and Betty for the perfect gift -- red trimmed pot and red geranium.  I'm definitely in love with red these days and the hit of spring was perfect!



Diane, because she moved from her beautiful home on Archwood Court, generously gifted us with this wonderful garden sculpture.  It took us a while to find the perfect spot, but look how wonderful she is.  Brad placed her today.  At Archwood she was near the creek and completely surrounded with moss.  She will be surrounded here at well, once she and our garden settle in.  A huge, huge thank you Diane!

Spring is here -- sort of...

When I got up yesterday morning it was raining. You can see the guesthouse roof water (on the left) spilling into our stream. But, an hour later, it was snowing. We ended up getting about an inch of so that stuck around all day. What's with this April weather?

How did we get our name?

We're building on Whidbey Island: "on whidbey"
There are three of us in our family: "fredley" -- Fran (fr), Ed (ed), and Bradley (ley)

What a difference a day makes...

Day 3 the guesthouse pathway gets a coating of crushed rock.


Guesthouse Garden

This is what the guesthouse garden looked like yesterday (Day 1).

Today, after moving trash, rocks, weeds, plants and soil it's changed a bit (Day 2).  Tomorrow I hope to gravel the pathways.  The stakes indicate the locations of screens.


We now have a pathway to our front door! The berm that Annie is testing out will be planted soon. There is no longer an opening to access the covered porch from the south, but much more privacy and a sense of the porch being a "room".

There is now a "proper" trail to the stream, east of main living. Back under the living area you can see the beginnings of rock/landscape cloth installation. It's a dry area, where nothing will grow, so the rock covering will be neat, tidy and attractive.

Another Pile

Boulders for retaining and crushed rock for pathways.


One of my favorite methods of handling water, pests and home maintenance is to put drain rock under the building overhangs. This allows access for easy window washing, painting, and other types of cleanup. I'm not a fan of landscape cloth in the garden but for this use I find it useful to keep the area weed and silt free.

Under the front entry path a snake-like catch basin for water running off the driveway is installed. With drain tile and drain rock the entire pathway becomes a catch basin. The drain tile has been wrapped with landscape cloth to keep it from silting up. The snake drainage ends at a true catch basin.


Oh boy, gardening...

The edge of the pond isn't complete, but under the guesthouse it is raked and there's a bench under cover for enjoying rainy days.

There are now plantings in place at the SE corner of  the main living building.

Pathways are being carved into the land for the front door approach and a berm has been built so there's no direct approach to the covered patio.  (Note:  The porch gets cleaned off and then we start another project.   Please excuse our mess!)

The pathway to the front  door is getting ready for gravel.  Monday Blue Star is delivering gravel so all the pathways will soon be firm, safe and cleaner.  Then too, we hope, we can keep our floors a little cleaner.  Right now sand and grit are tracked in with each step. 


Annie's thinking our new window seat is dog perfect.

Our Returning Neighbors

Dianne is just back from Alaska where she's been working for the past five weeks. Fred just returned from two months in Mexico and Laurie, also recently returned from Mexico, catch up on what's happened with our construction project.

Our inside out greenhouse

Brad and Josh put old Island County Fair Ground roofing up in the greenhouse for paneling.  Then, a piece of welded wire mess for tying vines.  Behind the paneling, the greenhouse is fully insulated, using scraps from our building project.  Next winter the greenhouse should be  perfect for winter gardening.    Now, with the interior almost done, I'm anxious to get my seed starts going.

Josh's comment about the greenhouse paneling was that it was like the greenhouse was inside out.  The tin on the walls is like one would usually see on a shed's exterior.

Ah, spring.

Yesterday Ed and I went to Lynnwood to order our closet system and Brad went skiing. When we returned home, Ed looked out the window, and burst out laughing. Our pond had an air mattress floating on it. Gretchen, our neighbor, and I have been talking about floating on the pond come the warm days of summer. There was the tool. Not quite warm enough yet, but Gretchen's moving, so she left us a going away gift. I can't wait for enough warmth to put it to use. The days are now getting up into the 50's but the nights are still very cool. Last night it got down to about 34 and there was frost on the ground this morning. Nevertheless, spring is in the air. I have my peas plus some lettuce and kale planted. Potatoes are cut, the eyes are sprouting and soon they will be in the ground.

Recycling the leftovers

The old glass that leaked and was replaced needed a home, so became a screen at our entry.  The wood holding up the glass was recycled as well.  Then, the wire mess, also recycled, was added because just the glass and wood wasn't quite right.  Huge improvement.  Then  (you can see a sample piece of gutter in three of the pictures), Brad had the idea of trimming out the edges with leftover gutter.  Each addition make the "experiment"  better until we are now quite pleased with the overall look.   Sculpture, screen, art -- who knows -- but fun!

Finishing the Front Door

The glass for the front door had a broken seal, so finally a replacement arrived and was installed.    It also now has hardware and works beautifully.   The door is huge -- 8x4' -- plus Brad built it out of exceedingly thick recycled wood with steel glass stops.  It is, perhaps, the heaviest front door I've ever opened or closed.   The "thud" of closing is a reassuring sound.