Not every line drawn in the sand washes away forever with the tides. Not finding the perfect home on the market, Jim Westwood and Brenda Winkel purchased five acres with a single pear tree near the Prices Fork community. “This was one of the few lots we found that was not on a steep hillside or heavily wooded,” Brenda recalls.
“The house concept started as a drawing in the sand at the beach and was turned into architectural drawings through the creative design of Chris Hudson at Shelter Alternatives,” Jim explains. Key elements include the open floor plan, large windows and a screened porch to blur the line of indoors and out all year long. Efficiency begins right inside the thick wooden front door. Just a few steps down the hall is a pass-through for mail, keys, briefcase, whatever to land in the combination office, den, library.
Unencumbered, one steps into a charming open family and dining room and kitchen space, replete with large windows, a QuadraFire fireplace insert, mission oak furnishings, a friendly cat, and inviting L-shaped counter, which doubles as a homework station. “This fireplace makes effective use of wood as a heat supplement source in winter,” says Jim, who elaborates on their heat efficiency. “The failure of a low-efficiency heat pump prompted installation of a geothermal heating and cooling unit. Our energy consumption has dropped more than 30 percent, and electric bills are below $400 per year thanks to photovoltaic solar arrays in the field behind the house, inspired in part by a family sabbatical to The Netherlands in 2009.”
While Brenda loves the quiet of not having a heat pump fan clicking on and off all the time, she’s also enamored by the fact that the family actively uses all parts of the home. This includes one other afterthought: a laundry chute from the kids’ bathroom to the first floor laundry. “It was added in the final design to take advantage of a small triangle left over where the diagonal garage meets the house,” she explains.
The house was designed before the arrival of 5-month-old twins, adopted from Cambodia 13 years ago. As the family has evolved, so has the house. Its original 2,134 square feet worked well for a while before they finished the basement, a bedroom over the garage and the front porch. “Even with the added space,” Jim declares, “every corner of the house is used.”
When you’re unsure about something, it’s helpful to look around at what others are doing, and that’s precisely how the rich, deep teal exterior color was chosen. Besides Jim, an amateur artist, drawing and painting their house on paper in myriad colors, the couple drove through neighborhoods everywhere evaluating green houses. Brenda wanted a green house, but she wasn’t sure what shade. They settled on a teal stain for the cedar siding, and it’s the perfect accent to the natural landscape, wood door, white trim and extensive gardens.
“The circular driveway and the line of trees along the edge were suggested in an original landscape plan from Haile Landscape Design,” Brenda says. The spectacular, productive gardens are all labors of love by Brenda and Jim. Perennial crops like blueberries, currants, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, asparagus and grapes are strategically placed in and outside of an enclosure. The idea is maximum yield with minimal effort, and like many projects, much of the work is in the planning and prep stages. Like brick paths. “Those were added last year,” Jim states. “It’s a bit of work, but well worth the effort for reduced weeds, and the plants seem to like retained warmth.” They make jam and cheese, put up oodles of tomato sauce and make good use of all the produce.
Between the wide, front porch, the back screened porch, an open deck space and the goldfish pond with wisteria arbor, there are plenty of outdoor spots to relax. The goldfish might be the best use of a dollar on the whole property. They bought 10 goldfish for $1 from PetSmart, and the ones in the pond today are probably third and fourth generation.
Future plans inside and out include wine — a wine and cheese cellar inside and wine grapes outside. Jim and Brenda love everything about the property. “It is a privilege to live in a house of your own design,” they say ~ one where every space is functional, systems are efficient, style is attractive and inviting, and comfort reigns for family and visitors.
Text by Joanne M. Anderson
Photos by Shanen Photography