With a distinctive style cultivated by their son and architect, Randall Lanou, the main home has full views of Puget Sound. Carefully honoring the original A-frame constructed by a boat builder, the Smiths and their general contractor Willie Tompkins returned the structure to its foundation, then reused almost every piece of the original cedar boards, beams and shingles.
Mel fashioned an enormous piece of Sequoia into a table weighing about 200 pounds after the wood dried. It took almost six months to build, and breaks down into two pieces for smaller, more intimate dining when the couple is home alone. Though the home was only completed in 2008, their four grown children have all made their marks on the interior and exterior spaces with various pieces of art, design, and photographic collections.
Rooms flow into one another, with the kitchen framed by bamboo topped with small frosted supply cabinets. Cubbyholes for displaying art are carved into the walls. The nearby family room features built-in bookshelves and a fireplace.
Natural splits in the single slab of Sequoia are joined together with a Japanese method known as bow tie or butterfly repair.
A wood and metal walkway overhead allows views of the open-concept living, dining, kitchen and family room areas. Original art by the Smiths and their peers is strategically placed throughout the home. Wooden ducks parade across the walkway in memory of Barbara's father, a lifelong decoy collector and maker.
Spice racks are cleverly built into the kitchen cabinets and roll out for use. Floors in the kitchen, as well as throughout the house, are re-milled cedar from the original home.
The guest bathroom is a work of art in itself, with antique metal linotypes set above ceramic tiles. Barbara and Randall envisioned the design and worked together to create this striking montage in what would be neglected wall space in many homes.
The counter of the guest bathroom is lined with antique linotype as well, and set into a concrete slab poured by the owners.
A counter in the master bathroom features genuine ammonites carefully set into limestone. Ammonites are extinct, fossilized marine animals whose shells are collector's pieces. The floors are fashioned from limestone, while showers feature marble and combed bluestone.
On the master bedroom wall, an intricately designed coat is lovingly mounted. Barbara's middle name, Lee, takes after the man who wore this garment to his wedding.
Layered vertical columns varying in heights from 7' to 8'5" stand guard midway up a flight of stairs. They are part of a tapestry art installation by Barbara. She says the design came to her in a dream when she was a young girl, and went on to garner acclaim in exhibitions in London and Poland.
In a nod to both the past and present, Mel constructed a dumbwaiter to transport objects from the upper floor to the lower, emerging into the kitchen area. Though more often associated with earlier time periods, these simple "elevators" are non-motorized and easy to construct, using pulleys and ropes to carry things up and down the stairs throughout the day.
Mel is proud to point out that his wine cellar cost $7.86 — for the nails. The wine rack is constructed from sticks of cedar from the original home, when it was milled to make the tongue-and-groove for the new floors. The wood that was trimmed from the ends now holds their impressive wine collection, which is mostly comprised of "barters" with those who are vying to have a piece of Barbara's art for their own home.
Though this Raft Island home is a virtual museum holding extraordinary pieces of art within its structure, the personal work of the owner herself provides the most intimate glimpse into the philosophies at work behind this architectural gem. Hidden details reflect a world view that is not immediately apparent. Barbara is a fiber artist, working with non-woven industrial materials that belie a warm, earthy approach to living. The piece atop the Mexican desk is an archetypal boat design common in Indonesia and Africa.
Roaming about the upstairs, various objects call out with their own story. This table was retrieved from an architectural warehouse, where the Smiths learned that it was built by Floyd Gompf, a master furniture maker who creates functional "sculptures" from salvaged materials.
A framed lithograph by Robert Stackhouse was the inspiration for the design of the outside deck, which is viewable directly below an adjacent window. A fire pit on the deck is constructed of bricks that once lined the bottom of the original home's fireplace.
Raft Island is a tiny community of about 750 residents, connected by a quaint bridge spanning Henderson Bay across from Gig Harbor. The Smiths wanted their home to embrace the natural environment that is so crucial to the lifestyle here, including the towering evergreen forest land next to their property. They found a way to accentuate the gardens while remaining true to the landscape by incorporating the work of local artist Tom Torrens. A gong and a birdbath are part of their collection of his creations.
When you first approach the house after following a winding driveway, Barbara's art studio is the first thing that pops into view. It is connected to the main home further down by a wood and steel walkway, blending two structures into natural extensions of home and work. Red corrugated metal frames the entryway of the studio; the entire lower side overlooks the water.
In the adjoining art studio, Barbara works with an intricate process involving painting, stacking and layering with scraps of non-woven fabric which are stitched into patterns, resulting in a fluid landscape that at first appears to be a watercolor painting.
Though her studio is expansive, with many levels of design and creativity inherent in the open spaces, Barbara invariably starts each day before sunrise, sitting in a cozy window seat, surrounded by her books and sketches. Facing her diagonally is a wall where she pins her ongoing pieces, placed so her eye can fall upon them from a distance, to ascertain how each one needs to progress.
As if the bathrooms in the main house were not esoteric enough, the one in the art studio takes the cake. A wall constructed of Lutradur, her signature working material since 1983, is decorated with a montage of exotic art pieces and hung from hardware that once graced a barn door. Barbara's new interpretation of a door slides back and forth to reveal (and conceal) a tiny bathroom.
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