Interiorssneak peeks

sneak peek: family beach house

by Amy Azzarito

The feminist in me hates to admit it, but sometimes I think the British had a point in decreeing that the eldest son inherits the entire family estate rather than equally splitting everything. After all, it was merely a valiant effort to ensure that the property stay in the family. And it’s a sad truth that many family vacation homes end up on the market because there are just too many people who have a claim to time at the house. So it’s such a treat to see a family vacation home that has stayed in a single family for more 60 years. Babyccino Kids founder, Courtney Adamo, lives full-time in London (see Sneak Peek: Courtney & Michael Adamo), but every summer, she takes her three children to this 1950s beach house built and designed by her great-grandfather on a private island off the southern tip of Lopez Island in Washington State. It doesn’t hurt that her great-grandfather had fantastic taste — the home is filled with original furniture from mid-century designers, such as Eames and Hans Wegner, and then accented with Native American artifacts like totem poles and textiles. What a special place to spend the summer. Thanks Courtney! — Amy A.

Image above: My family has owned the island for as long as I can remember. My great-great-grandfather purchased the island in the 1920s after discovering it from an airplane above. Now a caretaker lives on the island full-time, but the family stays in the house during the warmer summer months. It is incredibly beautiful, looking out over the water toward the Olympic Mountains with a view of the sunset. It has also been kept in the same form — same furniture, same decor — since it was built in the 1950s. It reminds me of my great-grandfather. It reminds me of childhood.

The table pictured above isn’t used for dining. It’s our spot for puzzles, card games, coloring, etc. It’s a great little “puzzle-making” nook because you’re surrounded by windows looking out over the water. The painting on the wall is of Native American totem poles reminiscent of the ones that are scattered around the island.

Image above: This is one of the guest bedrooms. My kids usually sleep here. The artwork behind the beds are Native American tapestries hung loosely on the wall.

The rest of the home tour continues after the jump…

Image above: This is the main living room with its big stone fireplace on the left and entire wall of windows on the right, which provide a view across the water to the Olympic Mountain range. All the furniture is original from the 1950s — I still have photos of my great-grandparents sitting in those exact chairs.

Image above: This is the kitchen. It’s small but efficient, particularly with a grandma who cooks as well as mine. I can remember sitting on those stools as a child watching my grandpa cook in the kitchen. My favorite thing in the kitchen is that Peacock art on the wall. It’s made from ceramic and glass tile pieces.

Image above: A totem pole on the exterior wall of the main house welcomes guests as they walk down the path toward the house.

Image above: This is the master ensuite bathroom with views out over the water.

Image above: This is another guest bedroom. I’ve never figured out what the letters on the wall are for. I think they might be random. I believe the carpet in this room went in during the 1970s, hence the bright orange!

Image above: A collection of original Native American woven baskets and clay pots. I used to play with these as a child, but I think they’re probably quite valuable and shouldn’t be used as toys, which is why they’re now up on a shelf out of reach of little hands.

Image above: The Gazebo, a separate little house on a cliff looking out at the water. The Gazebo has a small kitchen, a bathroom and a living area space. (Spare bedrooms are nearby but in a separate building.)

Image above: This is an exterior shot taken of the main house looking up from the beach. I love how the house is low and unimposing, and how the color blends in with its surroundings. From inside the house, you look out to nothing but water — amazing.

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    • My husband and I were caretakers on the island for five years. It’s great to see the photos, it looks exactly the same as when we were there 23 years ago! It brings back lovely memories.

  • Lopez and nearby is so lovely. What a wonderful treasure to have this place. I love the covered walkway and gazebo. And of course that butcher block in the kitchen is fab.

  • What a lovely family story and spectacular home–it is perfect for the setting. I’m crazy about the gazebo. My mother used to live on Orcas Island and the trip out to the islands is memorable.

  • gee what fun to be the caretaker that gets to live there the rest of the year! sign me up.

  • This is one of the best ever sneak peaks. What great stories. What a creative great-grandfather. An true example of how great design, even if relaxed and homey, is timeless.

  • Thank you for sharing what is my favorite sneak peak ever. What a truly authentic family home in one of the world’s most beautiful locations. The native art is truly amazing as is the tasteful mid century furniture. LOVE IT.

  • This is so fabulous! My mom was born in the islands, there is really no place like them. I would love to know the artist of the painting in the first picture…

  • “The feminist in me hates to admit it, but sometimes I think the British had a point in decreeing that the eldest son inherits the entire family estate rather than equally splitting everything.” Really? I love this blog and that really bothers me that anyone would even entertain the idea that only decreeing property to male members of the family would ever be a fair way of doing anything. What.

  • She has a point, though. If the eldest child (son or daughter) had inherited my family cabin, I could still visit it! Now it’s in the hands of someone I don’t know well and ownership will continue to become diluted. It’s hard to own property with a bunch of other people.

  • Relax, Erika. Free speech really is a good thing. Besides, the author said, “…sometimes I think…”. We are left to believe that she does not normally think that way.

    I also lament the sad disappearance of family beach homes. I have two great friends who each lost their families’ homes due to too many sibling shares. So many people owned them that no one owned them; disputes and disrepair ensued, thus they had to sell.

  • Why not just solve the problem with the oldest kid getting the house? Then the feminist in you can be happy and not totally sell out on her values.

  • Wow – this house has true character and a warm rich family history. The essence of that is something you can’t replicate or buy, no matter how well designed a house and/or furniture is. I love this and am envious of all those wonderful childhood memories of family gatherings, playing with valuable artifacts and most of all, that it has been so well kept and preserved, showing that the family honour and respect what they have.

  • OH GOODNESS ME! I am going to sleep tonight and dream of that house! What a dude of a grandad and grandma! What a fab location too. It is so cool yet so homely and not contrived at all! It looks cosy lived in and loved, a real home.

    PS I think that the first born should male or female…annoying for twins tho…either that or the richest offspring who can afford to upkeep the pile :-)

  • This house is amazingly beautiful and full of heart as well, it feels utterly modern and timeless as well. I’ve been to Lopez, and had no idea one person owned it!

  • The thing that bothers me is having the state decree one way of disposing one’s own property. Do people in the UK really not have a choice about it? That seems . . . medieval. We can idealize a situation that one person would best treasure a home like this, but that often isn’t the case either. Whether a property is owned by one or owned by all, ultimately it is the family dynamics which determine whether or not access is maintained/granted.

    That said, what a great place. We’ve done a bunch of kayaking around the islands . . . I wonder if I’ve ever lusted after it from the water. I think I love the grey tones used throughout the most. They literally melt the buildings into their surroundings.

  • This is amazing- the newest version of my dream vacation home. How blessed you are to still have it in the family !

  • What a peculiar introduction to a lovely family house — passed across generations to a WOMAN. Maybe the feminist in you could have referenced Virginia Woolf’s ORLANDO, (as one possible feminist introduction) instead of such a curious compromise of your feminism. If we trade our feminist insights for historic preservation where are we?
    A lovely house…an unfortunate introduction. Seriously.

  • Rinna, you said it. Upkeep costs. Aside from that, this is the couple with that wonderful London kitchen! As for this place, for mid century, it’s done well. I admit I only like a touch of mid century furniture, however, I can see the beauty in the architecture of this amazing place. Kudos that you’ve been able to keep it in the family and visit it.

  • Lovely house! Foolish comment.

    Let’s not get cozy with the idea of (male) primogeniture. Only with the hindsight of 21st century first-world freedoms can you look at something that so obviously resulted in the oppression and dependency of women on their male relatives as a neat real estate strategy.

    Really. . . .

    And “freedom of speech,” JT, is about government suppression of speech, not citizen criticism of another citizen’s speech.

  • To everyone who’s having a fit about the ‘feminist’ comment.

    1) Look up the meaning of the word ‘facetious’
    2) The reason she refers to ‘male’ inheritance is because that is what traditionally occurred
    3) The reason she mentioned it was because of the effort to ensure that the property stay in the family RATHER than being fought over and eventually sold – which in her opinion is too often an occurrence these days

    She is praising the idea of keeping the property within the family, and making reference to a certain traditional way of doing so – that doesn’t mean she agrees with it!

    This is a great article. Learn to put 2+2 together, lighten up, and get over yourselves! Honestly!

  • Lovely home but I wonder if these British people would like to look into the repatriation of Native American objects that were stolen/taken from the indigenous peoples and need to be rightfully returned, no matter how “fabulous” they look as “art” in their “beach home”. Lovely, lovely home, but really disturbed that the writer and those who have commented focused on feminism only, with no regard to the conquest and capture of indigenous people’s lands and belongings. I am especially disturbed by the lack of self-consciousness and shame made in the oh-so privileged statement, “I used to play with these sacred indigenous objects as a child, but now I put them high on the shelf because they might be worth money…or something valuable….” Why not donate them back to the tribal peoples of that area instead of putting them higher on a shelf, more unreachable and unattainable to those they belong to? If you can inherit your grandfather’s cabin, then surely the descendants of those tribal peoples deserve to inherit those objects.

  • haha. Commenters are crazy.

    If only I had a relative that owned an entire island… sigh. This is a fantastic home!

  • Good grief…I though this site was about design, not political correctness.

    Very nice home, great site, and neat that there is still so much original, though the colors are a little dark for me. If it were mine, I’d want a little more white and more seaside influences (shellls, driftwood, flowers) to update and brighten it up it a bit. It would be neat to see each generation remembered for their special touches. But, alas, it’s not mine!

  • I’m in love! I’m in love! and I don’t care who knows it! Seriously, those wooden walls! The Gazebo! That kitchen set (kept so lovely by using it for games and not blueberry pie!) Oh, you are a lucky duck! I’m jealous! this may propel me to write a tawdry and scandelous bestselling novel so that I can have a gajillion dollars and replicate it! Now, off to the typewriter!

  • My mom has a little house outside of East Sound on Orcas Island. Although, not on the water, I hope that it stays in the family for many generations to come. The islands are such a wonderful get-away!

  • @ Susan, I don’t think it’s about political correctness, actually. I think one could argue (and, as a designer, I will argue) that design/architecture/art in and of itself is laden with politics. Choices of an ideological sort are implicitly and explicitly rendered through design — from where you source your materials to who you name as inspirational muse for your sculpture to how you market your work. People can choose not to discuss it and that’s absolutely fine. But denying that the conversation can/should exist? That narrows the field unnecessarily; it renders design only to “pretty stuff”.

    The author can say whatever she wishes, but the people reading it also have the right to respond. The comments — political as they may be — are emphatically of the design world. I find Karen Clark’s comment to be one of the most passionately design-minded comments I’ve ever read on design sponge.

  • I’ll be good if I never hear the term ‘polical correctness’ again. My conservative boss just fixed a plumbing leak; since we live in the desert, she considered it ‘pc’ to finally no longer have a persistent drip. So I guess the term means caring about others, our community, and the environment.

  • this is almost an exact vision of how i have always pictured my dream house. except my kitchen cabinets would be white with that lovely aqua color in glass tile as the backsplash. i love this so so so so so so so so much.

    and ps: my grandparents helped build a school and a clinic for members of the navajo nation in new mexico in the 1970s. they also have a lot of native american artifacts, but theirs were given to them as gifts from the navajo. it would hardly be polite for them to return these gifts. perhaps we are assuming the worst (theft of these artifacts) when we should look for the goodness in others, first.

  • Perfect. In every way. True to the magnificent beauty of the Northwest. Thanks so much for sharing. I am awed and inspired.