"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

And now for something a little different

By on April 23, 2018 in Featured Homes with 0 Comments

The main floor living area is truly “open space” – there’s no separation of this luxury kitchen from the sitting area with its fireplace and full windows

By Susan Lagsdin

Home builder Ken Stevenson said of his newly-constructed house, its modern lines easily distinguishable from its surrounding Craftsmen-inspired neighbors, “I figured if somebody was buying a place here in Wenatchee they might have looked at 10 that day just about the same, and this would be a nice change.”

He was right. Just one day after a tour of this house for our The Good Life feature, a willing buyer was brokered-up with the willing seller, and a match was made.

“Trying something different” can be a risky premise in most housing markets, and Ken’s house was a “spec house” on a “slot lot,” meaning he designed and built it before he had a buyer, and the building site was in between established houses, not on a development plat.

It was a bold move on Ken’s part, but with buyers with new tastes relocating from urban centers and a seller-friendly balance of inventory, a modern house that stands out from the neighborhood’s established look has an even chance.

Particularly if it’s thoughtfully designed and built to high standards. And then there’s the old “location, location, location” rule.

After a day of skiing in 2016, Ken was cruising Wenatchee looking for good building sites, and this one grabbed his attention. Though the street is serene, it is just a short drive to north Wenatchee’s main thoroughfare and connecting highways. The steep, small lot was perfect for a professional problem-solver.

“I always buy the lot first, then sketch the design, so I know exactly how things will fit. I never go hunting for a lot, house plans in hand.”

He gave his sketches to his architect for a fast draft; Ken tweaked it, got a final blueprint, and started right in that summer. “Oh, and of course I made changes as I went whenever I wanted to.”

At 2,280 square feet (excluding the garage), the house has conservative square footage but seems more spacious inside — and is bigger in cubic feet — mostly because of the tall cathedral ceiling and the three discrete levels. Another space-adding factor is the amount of daylight pouring in and the monochromatic wall finish, an uninterrupted flow of soft gray from level to level.

Ken made some notable adjustments to this project as the structure and the traffic flow coalesced.

A large open family room one short flight down from the main floor became a more flexible three-room suite, a living room with a small bedroom and bath. “That gives the owner a lot of choices — for a studio or media room, or maybe for a teenager or an aging parent,” he said.

He rotated the kitchen sink from the typical back wall view to the island facing the big windowed front of the house. He situated the compact laundry room upstairs (“That’s where all the clothes and towels come from”) where two bedrooms share a hallway-opening bath. (“Putting in a ‘Jack and Jill’ or continental bathroom would have taken up valuable room space,” Ken explained.)

He’s very confident about his choices. Ken has been building most of his life — ever since his Lynnwood High School shop class Build-A-Home project won state and he put “building contractor” under his senior yearbook picture.

A school-year framing job gave him enough collateral to buy his first house at age 19, and he never looked back.

Most of his projects in the last 30 years have been on the west side of the state, but he recently moved full time to a house he’d purchased years ago in Leavenworth, and he’s here to stay. He likes the weather, the pace, the skiing, and especially the people.

He said, “I paid the City of Wenatchee’s fee for a temporary power pole while I was building — thought it would be a few weeks. They came out the very next morning to set it up. Wow.”

Ken said the neighbors have been great through this process. Noise and mess were inevitable, but he kept them informed and welcomed them on site. (And he covered his dirt piles with plastic sheeting for dust control. Not mandated, just nice).

Even being new to the area, Ken, working as Builderman Construction, found good subcontractors for counter and tile work, doors and millwork, HVAC (Moonlight, Door-to-Door and Climatek, respectively). Last summer, he said, “I was a little light on the framing crews — most of the good guys get hired up by April. Or,” he mused, “maybe I’m just getting too old to work so hard!”

At age 56, he maintains economy and quality control by doing most of his own work, from foundation and framing to finishing, design and décor, hiring crews or subs when warranted. He prefers good quality custom cabinets and appliances, engineered wood floors, and granite, color-matched woodwork, and marble and quartz surfaces that look and feel luxurious.

One particular point of pride is the big east-facing balcony off the second-floor master bedroom, a well-placed favorite feature. “Turns out,” Ken realized, “It’s perfect for morning coffee in the sun and then a cool shady spot to enjoy the evening. I guess I knew that, but, man, it sure came out nice…”

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