A pocket community of cottages built in the 1920s sits atop wooden piers in Puget Sound, a short commute away from Seattle. Joel and Kitty, Seattle artists, curators and consultants, discovered the historical Fragraria area whilst searching for a family getaway throughout from Vashon Island. “What I love about the area is that everyone watches out for everyone else and nobody ever looks in a rush,” Kitty says. “It’s close enough to the city that it is a painless commute to arrive, yet it is far enough off that seals and sea lions would be our ordinary visitors.”
at a Glance
Who lives here: Joel and Kitty and both kids
Location: Fragraria area of Olalla, Washington
Size: 672 square feet; 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom
That’s intriguing: Some of the decoration items were cleaned up on shore.
A number of the cottages are retrofitted with concrete piers and I-beam supports. The cottages are grandfathered to the current building codes, so expansions or major alterations are not an option.
Before major highways and vehicular traffic, the area was a major thoroughfare, and a ferry terminal once stood here. The cottages were constructed adjacent to an overall store/post office, which no longer remains.
When the tide is low, a stroll along the beach will sometimes yield salvage that finds its way in to Joel and Kitty’s house.
Louise Lakier: What do you love about your area?
Kitty: The area is a nice mixture of couples, longtime households and part-time holiday houses. Our house is our household weekend getaway. We enjoy kayaking with seals and otters, and going for walks along the beaches or via the forest.
The stilt house stretches over the water. The domain Fragraria is Latin for “strawberry” Historically, Olalla Valley strawberry farms yielded abundant bounty for Seattle’s markets. The produce was shipped to Seattle via a fleet of small ships.
LL: What’s your proudest homeowner second?
Joel: Our first night sleeping with a high tide and rough seas. The waves crashed against the house, but everything had been nice. I slept like a baby.
K: I am always terrified when it is high tide. I barely sleep in any way. My proudest moment was hosting Thanksgiving dinner for family. Turkey and crab for dinner on the sea.
The few outfitted the front of the stilt house with secondhand products. The bench is a Craigslist find, and the rope round the posts had been salvaged from abandoned crabbing pots. The window planter was constructed from recycled fencing.
Remains of the ferry dock can be seen from the passing.
When the couple bought the house, they reconfigured the layout and replaced a number of the built-in capabilities. Kitty removed ceiling tiles lined over styrofoam in addition to carpeting and vinyl tiles on the floors throughout the house. She then repainted the plywood floor that now almost resembles a coloured concrete finish.
LL: Do you have any neighbors that are interesting?
J: Our neighbor Bob has lived in the area for most of his life. He’s got a lot of family in the area, and we’ve all gotten to know each other a little. Apart from being a fantastic man and all-around good neighbor, he helps to give historical roots to the area, and he’s shared great fishing tips.
Joel added a TV cupboard underneath the island countertop he plans to paint soon to match. A significant remodel of this 1920s house took place in the 1950s. It’s hard to discern if the extension was thought of as a porch or something else. Past the columns and beam, the ceiling slopes and curves.
LL: Who or what inspires your personal personality?
K: Although we both appreciate the midcentury modern areas of the house, we also believe that every home renovation has to be approached by its historical context. We wanted to create a place that had a sense of history but was comfortable for our family.
The vinyl tile has been left in position at the entry and the kitchen area. The lighting over the kitchen counter is new.
LL: If you could invite anyone over for dinner, who would it be?
J: ” I have nothing clever here. How about a renowned carpenter that could get some work done?
K: I’d want to invite somebody who might tell us about the wonderful sea creatures and vegetation in the area. And someone just like Langdon Cook. He’s a food forager and may instruct us how to fend for ourselves thus we would not have to take trips into Port Orchard. Oh, yes, and I agree with Joel — a carpenter that could help us get some jobs done. I guess that’s a pretty greedy dinner party guest list!
Joel constructed the lower cabinets from recycled art crates and also rebuilt a number of the uppers. The timber countertops are temporary placeholders till Joel can match the first Formica on the kitchen island. The wall is covered with a galvanized sheet metal plank, and magnetic jars keep spices conveniently within reach.
Kitty installed wood trim salvaged from pallets across the windows. The bench seat, a perfect fit, was a serendipitous Craigslist find. The lighting fixtures are a combination of new and secondhand finds from Secondly Use and Earthwise.
The fireplace surround is tile board. It is going to eventually become smaller and tiled, but for now it defines the risk zone for their kids.
LL: what’s your decorating doctrine?
K: Eclectic, simple and cheap. Having two young kids helps put things into perspective. Everything has to be secure, comfortable, stain resistant, and it will most likely be a fantastic idea if it floats also if it ever gets chucked.
Joel constructed the bedroom cupboard to coincide with the original groove and tongue from planks located at Secondly Use. Some of the decoration items were cleaned up on the shore. The headboard is a repurposed truck tailgate.
When the couple first purchased the house, a toilet renovation had been started but not completed. Joel built in a nook for a claw-foot tub. The corner sink and claw-foot tub are Craigslist finds, and the trim was discovered onsite in a junk heap. Joel refinished and installed it together with the wainscot. The metallic shower rod is from Secondly Use.
In the deck are views looking back toward Seattle and the Space Needle.
LL: Where is your favorite place or room in your home?
J: The deck. It’s easy to waste away a day watching the sailboats drift by and the cormorants sunning themselves on the piers.
The major road in the Fragaria neighborhood is fundamentally a very long driveway.
A vintage travel trailer parked in front functioned as the family’s house through renovations. It now functions as a guesthouse.