A (Formerly Neglected) Modern Cabin in the Woods of Washington

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Name: Amanda, her wife Courtney and their daughter
Location: Stevenson, Washington
The basics: 10 months, owned — 1,800 square feet

Amanda and Courtney took a chance on a cabin in the woods that was in not-so-great shape. Their hard work and leap of faith paid off in dividends, their cabin is full of the kind of rustic charm that city folks spend their days daydreaming about on the subway.

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: Oh, jeez, where do I start? With us. My wife, Courtney, and I buy neglected properties and bring them to their full potential. We are both children of contractors so we know the work and risk that these ventures require. Our first big project (aside from our businesses Bushel and Peck Bakehouse and Hammer and Jacks toy store) was a 1908 American Foursquare that we bought in 2014 and lived in while we updated it room by room. Down to the dimensional studs and back out again. It was a delightful and exceptional labor of love. We ended up setting up our mattress in every room in the house at some point because all other rooms were in some degree of dismantling. I loved it and hated it and will likely never do it again because now we have a daughter. You know, lead and asbestos and all.

We recently realized that our fine city of Portland, Oregon is growing quicker than we bargained for and decided to start looking for land and a house out of the city. I grew up in the mountains of Utah and adored being a kid in that environment. We wanted to be able to offer that to our daughter. Court found a listing for a “retreat” in Stevenson, Washington and went to look at it that day. It had been foreclosed four years earlier and lived in since that time by only spiders and mice. It was perfectly, ideally, beautifully awful. Both our realtor and inspector were nervous about us buying the property. Fortunately we are both able to see past a building’s current condition. To see what a space can be. What it’s capable of. It had everything that we wanted; post and beam construction, metal roof, a two sided deck and cedar everywhere. We had an offer on it before I’d been able to go up and see it in person.

Since then, I’ve updated every surface and brought this house back to life. The loft is now a legal third bedroom, both bathrooms are now up to code and far more functional and the kitchen is now a kitchen and not a random assortment of cabinets and a range full of mice. This house was a joy, albeit a cold one through a brutally snowy winter, to design and renovate.

What is your favorite room and why? My answer is kind of a cheat because it’s the second floor open space that is the dining room, living room, office and kitchen. All these spaces bleed over into each other seamlessly but due to the structural elements of the house each space is distinctly its own. The dining room space is made intimate by the lowered cedar ceiling from the loft master bedroom above it. The post and beam timber has become the demising corner of the living room. The office space is quaintly tucked under the staircase to the loft master bedroom and the 8 foot eat-in island creates separation between the living room and the kitchen. I’ve repurposed old timbers from the demo of the house to create shelving, stair railing and decor pieces throughout this floor. Given that I’ve spent so many years renovating and adhering to early 1900’s houses and their period design constraints this is the first open concept that I’ve designed, built and decorated. I would totally do it again.

If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? I’d find the resources that I need to build the off grid geodesic dome suite that I’m designing for the woods just below the house. Seriously. Geodesic dome.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home?

Honestly, the last thing I bought was hardware to hang the swing that I made for our daughter Georgia out the old exterior staircase joists. But that’s not fun. The last fun thing that I bought was the final fishing creel for the collection that hangs on the kitchen wall over the sink. I think that they are a particularly visually enchanting thing to collect. And, we’ve had several Airbnb guest that have stayed for fishing trips on the Columbia and its tributaries. So, it’s relevant and reminiscent for those guests.

Which fictional character would be most at home in your place? Forgive me for recreating the question but it’s really more of a house for the writers of fictional characters. I have two friends that are in the midst of writing novels that are going to spend several days alone at the house fleshing out their protagonists. It’s isolated enough for the kind of introversion that is necessary to finish such an endeavor but not so rugged that it asks a person to have to be a survivalist at the same time.

Amanda’s words of wisdom: Try not to think too much. Go with your gut. If you like it, figure out how to incorporate it or build it and replicate it. One of my favorite things about this house is the hammock that is hanging from the beam in the living room. It is the third chair in the seating arrangement. I had to put aside the voice in the my head that told me it was juvenile and silly and that it wouldn’t go with the rest of the house. That voice is, more often than not, wrong.

Thanks, Amanda!

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