The Cliff House gets as close as it can to the wa­ter— and to the own­ers’ orig­i­nal vi­sion

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Real Estate & Homes -

We don’t think you can see Rus­sia from Frank and Kristi Martin’s back deck, but alert lit­tle eyes cer­tainly can spy lots of hilly land­masses from their glo­ri­ously high-up home in Ana­cortes, Wash­ing­ton.

“Guemes, Cy­press, Blakely, De­catur, Lopez — in the dis­tance, Or­cas,” Frank says, point­ing out a who’s who of rock-star is­lands. “And this is sup­pos­edly the only place in town you can see both ferry docks (to Guemes Is­land and to the San Juans).”

Stretch­ing se­curely along an el­e­vated sliver of Old Town, the Martins’ home takes a de­cid­edly mod­ern view­point as well as an ad­van­ta­geous one — and, in do­ing so, has taken a cou­ple of prizes, too.

“We used all lo­cal crafts­men, from our ar­chi­tect, Brooks Mid­dle­ton, to our builder, Nels Strand­berg (of Strand­berg Con­struc­tion),” says Frank. “Their ef­forts were re­warded, as they won two awards from the Sk­agit/ Is­land Coun­ties Builders As­so­ci­a­tion, in­clud­ing Project of the Year.” (The sec­ond was for “sin­gle­fam­ily res­i­den­tial, 3,001 square feet and above.”)

Among their win­ning ef­forts: sit­ing this one-ofa-kind in­hab­it­able ob­ser­va­tory more than 50 dra­matic feet above the Guemes Chan­nel.

“With our engi­neer­ing, 30 pil­ings were built into the foun­da­tion, within 10 feet of the marine buf­fer,” says Frank. “Kristi and I re­fer to it as The Cliff House— we’re as close to it as you can get.”

The dou­bly tri­umphant project be­gan, as so many do, with a prop­erty burst­ing with po­ten­tial, and an in­ter­net-in­spired dream primed for a lit­tle pop­ping.

“There had been a 1950s home here, on kind of a plus-size lot,” Frank says. “A lot of peo­ple had looked but didn’t have a vi­sion. We bought it and had a vi­sion: We wanted to build a mod­ern house.”

The Martins showed

Mid­dle­ton some pho­tos they’d found on­line of a par­tic­u­larly vi­sion­ary mod­ern home in Cape Town, South Africa: “high ceil­ings, lots of glass, right on the edge of the wa­ter,” Frank says.

Mid­dle­ton re­mem­bers re­spond­ing: “That looks ex­pen­sive.”

To which Frank re­sponds: “Brooks brought us back to re­al­ity.”

Still, this dreamy re­al­ity of a Cliff House checks al­most all the Martins’ orig­i­nal wish­list boxes — just not the hoped-for in­fin­ity pool, which the city nixed, Kristi says. In­stead, any­way, “We’re in the hot tub ev­ery sin­gle day.”

“One of the main things we wanted was a wood­burn­ing fire­place,” says Kristi. “An el­e­va­tor, we re­ally needed. The laun­dry chute Brooks de­signed. A big walk-in closet. A big (kitchen) is­land.”

Adds Frank: “Good en­ter­tain­ing spaces. A big built-in book­case just out­side the kitchen. We were re­ally big in terms of a no-main­te­nance ex­te­rior: glass, steel, cor­ru­gated metal, con­crete.”

In other words, Mid­dle­ton says, “They came in and said, ‘We want a cool house.’ That sounded fun to me.”

Know what else is fun? Happy, be­yond-yourimag­i­na­tion sur­prises are fun.

“There are so many things I thought never even could hap­pen,” says Kristi. “The pan­el­ing, the glass shelves float­ing, our big deck, a built-in TV in the floor. Two doggy doors in ex­te­rior walls (for lit­tle Cleo). There’s so much glass, but he found the per­fect spots. Ev­ery­thing in this house has Brooks’ name on it.”

About that pan­el­ing: The word sounds so stan­dard, but this is any­thing but. This is a lam­i­nate man­u­fac­tured in Italy by CLEAF that “comes in gi­ant sheets,” says Mid­dle­ton. It coats the walls with the rich­ness of hot fudge. It fronts the cab­i­netry in melty French vanilla mixed with just one dol­lop of hot fudge. It’s warm and re­ally, re­ally cool, and you can’t not touch it.

And then — sur­prise! — it takes on a whole dif­fer­ent di­men­sion.

“We have a lot of art pieces,” says Frank. “Brooks came up with a way to frame our pic­tures: Sheetrock on the pan­el­ing. We’ve never seen Sheetrock as a frame in­serted in pan­el­ing.”

Says Kristi: “Ev­ery pic­ture just kind of fit — a pic­ture framed in dry­wall. I just couldn’t imag­ine it. It hap­pened, and I said, ‘Oh, I get it.’ ”

Even if Rus­sia re­mains a bit dis­tant, there’s a lot to take in at the Martins’ mod­ern Cliff House — in­clud­ing that spe­cial sen­sa­tion of liv­ing on the edge.

“Here, you feel like you’re float­ing,” says Kristi. “We had a house­boat on Lake Union, and we lived in five house­boats the last 10 years. Now I like pulling into the garage. I’m still on the wa­ter.”

Mike Siegel/The Seat­tle Times/TNS

The view from the liv­ing room in Frank and Kristi Martin’s home is un­ob­structed.

Mike Siegel/The Seat­tle Times/TNS

“In this room, we wanted shelv­ing for pic­tures and knick­knacks,” says home­owner Kristi Martin. “They’re float­ing glass shelves, and they look amaz­ing.” Adds ar­chi­tect Brooks Mid­dle­ton: “They’re pinched in from be­hind.”

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