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

Up from the ashes, with a twist

By on March 1, 2018 in Featured Homes with 0 Comments

Subtle designer touches in the main kitchen/living area blend new amenities and older style without stamping the house with any “that’s so 2017” label. A judicious choice of pale wall color and window trim lets the floor, faux beams and just a few vintage pieces add warmth without weight.

Story by Susan Lagsdin

Photos by Donna Cassidy

The occasion was not so much solemn as it was respectful. Mike and Donna Cassidy, owners of The Good Life, both with cameras in hand, took their first official walkabout in the big, beautiful Broadview home recently built by Jeremy and Anna Peyton.

The significance of the visit is stunning.

After many years of living there with their three children, in the spring of 2015 the downsizing Cassidys sold their home to the Peytons, who were relocating from Ellensburg to Wenatchee for new jobs. In late June — two days after the new family moved in — the devastating Sleepy Hollow Fire devoured more than two dozen homes, many of those on the high up, far west edge of Broadview.

In their easterly neighborhood of orchard, trees, lawn and canal on the lee of the hill, almost all the houses were untouched, but three near the entrance to the subdivision were presumably hit by erratic wind-blown firebrands. The Cassidy-now-Peyton house was one of them, and it immediately burned to the ground.

(Toughened but not hardened by the awful irony, Anna showed great grace last month as she said of her guests, “Oh, they had it worse. The Cassidys lost their house — we just lost our stuff.”)

The Peytons, undaunted, actively pursued rebuilding on their scorched and bulldozed site in the two-and-a-half years between wildfire and homecoming. The family really did lose all their possessions and were in diaspora, moving from an Entiat home that was too far from school and work to a series of OK-for-now rentals in town.

In that period, they all received a lifetime’s worth of education in insurance, construction, city codes, engineering, and the incalculable and enduring love bestowed by both strangers and neighbors.

Their experience may represent in some way the struggles and difficult choices of dozens of homeowners in similar straits.

Anna was clear to point out, “We love our insurance company.” Working with their PEMCO representatives was one of the non-problems from the very beginning. Some TV commercials promise swift and compassionate service in time of need and may exaggerate, but the Peyton’s experience bore out their company’s promise.

For the new house literally built out of the ashes, they first envisioned a sprawling one-story home, single-level living for their active family with access to the outdoors all around. However, the lot (.17 acres) is bordered by the canal and a community pocket park, and they soon found out that boundaries and setbacks on their curving, hilly site precluded “sprawl.”

The Peytons and their architect, Dave Doubroff of Underdog Planning, quickly chose vertical as the way to gain space and even pick up some bigger views. “Dave was really aware of our needs,” said Anna. “At the start he came over to the lot at different times of day to see just where the sun and shade fell.”

Then came the longest-running sticking point. The old driveway had entered, flatly, off Maiden Lane. The new driveway, because of the home’s official street address, needed to enter from around the curve, up the hill, off Broadway Place.

“It took about six months,” said 16-year-old daughter Elise, wise in the ways of the world by now, “for all the paperwork to be approved on the new entrance to the house.”

The new drive higher up the hill would have met the already-planned garage at a cliff-steep angle without the majority of 100 truckloads of fill and some significant engineering adjustments. Now it’s a short and simple drive to the top-level garages and a welcoming entrance foyer.

That unanticipated configuration has already prompted creative problem-solving.

From the formal main entrance, which is now accessed down a rock pathway and up some stairs, Anna pointed over to the massive cement causeway that holds the driveway. “We’re thinking of making a climbing wall over there,” Anna said, “and in the summer, with plants all around, that space below it will make a great little shady patio.”

By Dec. 12, 2017 all the rule-following, reconfiguring and backtracking were accomplished, and finally the 4,000-square-foot home was complete and ready for occupancy. Built by Curt and Phil Helton of Helton Builders, it brought the family everything they wanted and some unexpected bonuses.

“We’re kind of a wash ’n’ wear family,” Anna admitted when she showed some features. Hardiboard siding needs little touch-up, and the upstairs balconies with metal powder coat railings are all concrete, as are the patios. “We knew we wouldn’t have the time, or take the time, for much maintenance. This is all easy to care for.”

She grabbed a hand-crafted white stair railing and swung on it lightly. “And these are great — very sturdy. We’d forgotten we’d said ‘yes’ to metal early on and were wondering how they’d look — they’re gorgeous.”

The basic configuration of the home’s interior is simple: master suite, office and full living/kitchen area on the top floor, three kids’ rooms, three baths, guest room and entertainment/game area (as well as mom’s glass-making and craft room) on the ground level.

What’s not so simple is the angled wings that comprise the north and south sides of the house, and the grandly symmetrical stairway that not only connects the two levels but is its architectural heart.

“I love this space,” said Anna. “It opens up to both floors, so you can hear and see what’s going on really well.” The top floor looks down on three sides into the wide-open staircase so light and air is maximized, and traffic flow is free and easy.

Anna surprised herself by getting very involved in the choice of wall paint. She studied online with color guru Maria Killam to learn the intricacies of tint, tone, hue and undertones, and the result is a houseful of pale, subtle blue-green-greys with Wickham as the lead color and others related to it. Kitchen and trim are neutral but-not-quite white.

“Every hour, the color shifts a little,” Anna said. “In the morning, the kitchen glows. In the afternoon, there are almost deep purple shadows.” She switched off a light in the skylit bathroom. The palest seafoam walls became almost turquoise.

There’s whimsy and surprise in a few other places, too.

Anna said her family brainstormed “just for fun” extras in their new place. Two hidden doorways, both totally disguised in the cozy living area, are still a little thrill to open: the center third of the old English bookshelf easily swings aside to reveal an office, and next to it a tall section of the white paneled wall with its craftsman-style molding opens at a touch to reveal the master suite.

The zipline, indoor slide and laundry chute didn’t make the cut, but everybody’s happy with the more conventional extras: a winter-warmed outdoor living area, a room of their own for sons Asher and Isaac, built-in double cubbies in Elise’s room, and a wood fireplace. (“The boys still fight over who gets to build the fire. Who would have guessed?” said Anna.)

Five days after the family unpacked their relatively new furniture and possessions and settled in, they hosted a dinner party for the whole staff and board of The River Academy, where Anna is the elementary dean. She said the house, with small tables in unconventional places, happily accommodated 40 guests.

The 30 months that passed from the firestorm to their first real “open house” were a lesson in community. Immediately after their frightening evacuation, brand-new neighbors as well as school and work mates, still relatively unknown, pitched in to help with a wide range of donations.

During the recovery and building process, the family bonded with their fellow Broadview homeowners, those both touched and untouched by misfortune, and joined in on informal supper parties and informational meetings. They are convinced more than ever that this is the place they want to stay for a long time.

The top floor of this house deliberately allows for eventual self-sufficiency when the children move away, but Anna Peyton put a new spin on permanence.

“Yes, this house was designed so we could live in it long past retirement. But we’d stay anyway — we absolutely love it here in this neighborhood, with these people — I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

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