Story by Susan Lagsdin • Photos by Donna Cassidy
Brian and Teresa Platt’s place is not a “ski house” just because it’s five minutes from the chair lift.
Or because it’s got the iconic beams and slanty snow roof of an alpine chalet. Or because winter weekend parties might include a day on the slopes.
It’s a ski house because all four members of the Platt family adore the sport. They live and breathe skiing, with shelves of trophies, an at-ready boot warming rack and year-round socializing with fellow ski families attesting to their devotion.
That devotion means skiing has also driven some major family decisions.
The sturdy cabin perched on a Forest Ridge hillside was originally meant to be a getaway and a solution to a commuting problem.
Trekking their athletic and ski-bedazzled kids to Mission Ridge ski lessons and practices back and forth from Seattle would be so much easier with a second home.
Dad and mom could keep the west side jobs (in law and engineering) and the children, who’ve skied seriously for five years and have both outgrown their local lesson options, would have optimum training time on a top-flight ski team.
Teresa and Brian had it all figured out, both on their busy calendars and in their pocketbooks. They conceived of the cabin in 2010 just as the housing market was dipping precariously, so they knew they had to keep to a strict budget or they’d be “underwater” price-wise.
Teresa sketched plans for the compact three-level, four-bedroom retreat with a log cabin designer who knew the tolerances of post and beam construction and had also had connections with Smokey Point Log Homes, near Marysville.
That year even big builders were lying low, reluctant to mobilize for a single job, but they agreed to build the Platt house.
Brian is glad they chose that company. “Some log home places just drop the materials at your site and you’re on your own. This company assembles it, break it down, brings it over and does all the heavy lifting.”
Literally, they lifted the massive, 16-inch diameter Douglas fir beams that characterize the house visually and hold the entire structure firmly in place. When their work was finished, said Teresa, “It was just one big open air structure.”
The overall construction beyond the superstructure was handled by general contractor Paul Satterfield, using hand-milled materials provided by Teresa’s father Erwin Mallernee from his woodlot on the west side.
His rough-cut exterior siding, planked from 100-plus year-old downed cedar trees, was stained gray to create tree bark color, and more refined boards were used for all the interior trim.
He even provided the dramatic 18 foot-long live-edge kitchen bar. Worried that length was too long, he ensured success by bringing over three in case one split. (One did. The non-split spare is stored in the garage).
Determined to stay in smart budget mode, Brian and Teresa did much of the end work themselves, finishing up the electrical work, painting, staining and tiling (again with Dad’s help) and installing floors.
The tough weeks of sometimes tedious handwork and a steep learning curve were ultimately very satisfying and countered by the fun of bargain-hunting, digging for deals.
They found shingles from a planing mill in Forks at one-third price, an apple bin full of fireplace slate for $200 dollars, a massive estate sale chandelier for $50, short “unusable” scraps of solid maple flooring, kitchen cabinets still in the box, deeply discounted, left over countertops (called “paper stone” and granite hard).
The last choices, the interior colors and finishes, contribute charm and intimacy to the house. Hefty timbers and boards surround the structure, but warm, creamy yellow paint on the walls catches and holds light.
Having saved big money on building materials, they chose luxury for some creature comforts: plenty of cushy seating, super-soft carpeting, heated bathroom tiles, lovely fixtures like a freestanding oval tub, a deep farmhouse sink, wrought iron spot-lighting fixtures and an almost sculptural ceiling fan.
Brian and Teresa are proud of the choices they made and the labor they contributed (though they admit had they known what was coming, they would have liked a bigger kitchen and more closets).
Brian advises first-time homebuilding couples, “You need to have a shared vision from the very beginning, but you also need to be flexible. And keep a close eye on every step of the process.”
Their process took 18 months from design to door keys, and was completed in August of 2012.
The Platts were adjusting to their two-town commute between city home and country cabin when a serendipitous job offer changed everything.
Brian joined a Switzerland-based company as an intellectual properties attorney, which meant that his workplace was no longer Seattle but the world.
He said, “We figured, if I’m going to travel so often, why not just make Wenatchee our home base?”
He’s since become a regular on early-morning Pangborn flights connecting to the Bay Area and Europe, and when he comes home, he comes home to the quiet woods of Forest Ridge.
Teresa, a civil engineer, took the home place helm to become a 24/7 mom and home school teacher, chauffeuring Owen, 12 and Hadley, 10, to frequent Mission Ridge ski team practices and to Valley Academy a few days a week.
Brian recalled days of driving one hour from Mercer Island to his office in Seattle four miles away. He realizes Forest Ridge may seem back-of-beyond to some downtowners but says, “This 20-minute drive down a good road into Wenatchee is nothing compared to city traffic.”
The Platt family’s part-time cabin has evolved into their fulltime home, and their strong social and civic connections will continue to reflect, for at least a few more years, the children’s passion for competitive skiing.
Living in Wenatchee, however, means that opportunities to get outdoors to hike, bike, kayak or climb are also close at hand.
The Platts definitely are not one-season nature-lovers — they’ll all be out in the woods or on the water as soon as the snow clears.