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

Hard-to-love lot makes a perfect hillside homesite with Lake Chelan view

By on July 23, 2018 in Featured Homes with 1 Comment

Capturing the best views of the lake and south hills while fitting the lot affected the geometrics: complex roof and ceiling lines, beams, even the continuous flow of hardwood floorboards all accommodated the untypical diagonal floorplan.














Story by Susan Lagsdin

Photos by Donna Cassidy

Featured on the Chelan Tour of Homes this summer is a contemporary view house near the golf course that probably shouldn’t be there.

That is, if a while ago you had asked the opinion of neighbors and passers-by, or a few realtors and builders.

The half-acre lot squeezed between its flatter and broader neighbors was kind of orphaned… it boasted beautiful up-lake views but a helluva drop down a steep ravine.

Fortunately for Chuck and Amy Sletten, who live and work in Mill Creek, Snohomish County, the price eventually plummeted along with the drop-off.

The Slettens planned plenty of mealtime seating, upholstered in wipe-clean vinyl, to accommodate family and friends. The table’s glass globes chandeliers are also clustered in the stairwell, their look echoed in the kitchen work area.

They took a chance.

Eager to build anew after eight years of vacationing in the Chelan Hills subdivision, they bought the property in 2015 and worked with JWS Designs from sketches and home photos Amy had gathered.

Jon Simpson, familiar with Chelan hillscapes, designed a compact 2,250 square foot home that hovers close to the road in the front and rises far above the steep slope in the back. Amy is pleased to call the front exterior “neighbor friendly” with no sight line problems or garish towers.

About 150 yards of soil were removed before the basement foundation went in, and the lot held up beautifully.

“We were so surprised when that lower level was first excavated… we thought it would take up the whole lot, but there was plenty of room, even for a pool,” said Amy.

Granted, it’s a compact pool, but that leaves room for paver decking with a family portion of lawn chairs, and a crisp green surround of absolutely-zero-care grass (via a friend who installs the NFL’s field turf).

Built relatively low to the landscape on the street side, this north shore Chelan house adopts both “midcentury” and “modern” sensibility: a classic ranch outline with contemporary vibe. Owner Amy Sletten comes out of the tall front door to greet visitors.

Part of the fun of this project for Chuck and Amy was swapping out labor, insider leads on experts and lots of good ideas with their longtime friends Wayne and Sue Keezer. Their home at Alta Lake had burned in the Carlton Complex fire, and the Slettens worked with them as they rebuilt over the last few years, learning and storing up tips for their own new house.

Amy also went online — Houzz and All Modern are her favorite idea-gathering sites — and she had free rein to pick and choose interior decor.

“But,” she said, “Chuck was pretty clear that he wanted to design one lower level bathroom. Just one. I did the other one. We kind of made a game of it.” (To the unknowing eye, they are both good looking, stylish rooms. Enough said.)

An initial priority was big windows. “Chuck said, ‘I want to walk in and see the lake,’” Amy recalled, “and that’s what we have — a straight line from the front door to the views.” Any time of day, from storm watching to sailboats to sunsets, the distant mountains, hills and the always changing waters are the stars of the show.

Everything changes in the back where the two-story structure opens up to the view. Surprisingly, the oddly-shaped lot— one-half acre at the rim of a ravine — was big enough for a compact four-season pool, patio and lawn beyond the covered patio.

To capitalize on the openness and simplify the whole visual impact, Amy chose a palette of soft grays, bright white, and steel accented with dark alder cabinetry, trim and doors. The slightly gray-stained maple flooring upstairs was chosen for its good looks and longevity; downstairs at pool level is waterproof vinyl plank flooring designed for decades of splashes.

A major decision was the eight-foot height of all the doors and a few especially roomy ceilings: the master shower wall, with two windows placed vertically, is 14 feet tall. (The showerhead is high enough, “it’s like a waterfall,” said Amy.)

Windows have translucent white shades for sunblock, but deliberately are without trim or curtains.

Other features were custom crafted for visual impact.

Directly inside the entry is a distressed metal steampunk version of the popular sliding barn door style, and subtly separating the living area from the carpeted basement stairwell is a full-view wine rack, both made by Irish Iron of Chelan.

The dining furnishings are elegantly sensible — white vinyl counter and table seating looks sleek and modern and wipes off easily, and the table extends to fit 10 for major meals. Spare wall-hung artworks, modern and color-themed, are positioned with care.

There’s a poignant note in all this newness and optimism.

“My mom and I were always crazy about architecture — we’d go to open houses and home shows, trade ideas… we were always planning and designing the perfect house,” said Amy.

Then her mother died just before their new place was ready to look at. “I know she’d love it — she’d be proud of me. I feel like a part of her is here.”

Maybe that makes it even more of a welcoming family home. The open plan, master-on-main design, with two guests suites and a kitchen/living area below, is perfect for hosting the Slettens’ loved ones and friends at holidays, or just enjoying quiet weekend getaways from their busy lives.

But it was also built with an eye to their near-future needs. Chuck plans to retire in 2020 from his career with the state patrol, and Amy’s sales position allows her to work from a home base here, so they’re anticipating being full time Chelan residents like many of their neighbors.

With just a mile’s drive into town, good running pathways, golf-cart access on the local roads and their boat docked way below them, the couple enjoys some serious pleasure-seeking during their Chelan visits. (Their college-age son, who spent weekends at the bigger place through his younger youth — no surprise — has also adjusted, with his buddies, to this newer vacation venue.)

The family has been settled into their home-away-from-home for about a year, and they’re still marveling that they took the leap, almost literally, and bought the steep, odd little lot with the gorgeous view.

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  1. Jon Simpson, JWS Design Inc says:

    Charles and Amy did a fantastic job on the fits and finishes of their home. It is a perfect to the lot and settings and their lifestyle. Theirs is a testament to looking beyond the surface of something…looking at what it can be instead of what it is in the moment. Congratulations Charles and Amy on a job well done.

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