by Lisa Patterson and Ethan Chung Photos by Jeff Hobson
This is a story about a couple who found something very special at a yard sale.
Two years ago, Scott and Sandra Gjesdahl, owners of Bristol Design and Construction, were looking for items for their clients when they came across an old home in Bothell that had seen better days. Just like finding a Picasso in a pile of paint-by-numbers, when the Gjesdahls saw it, they knew it was one-of-a-kind — even with the overgrown blackberry bushes, shag carpet and outdated kitchen.
“The estate had been left to the kids who had grown up here (now all over 40 years old),” Sandra said. “But it was in such a depressed condition that it was more than any of them could take on.”
Built in 1961, the mid-century modern home had once been the talk of the neighborhood with its remarkably organic design. The Gjesdahls were immediately drawn to the architecture and saw infinite potential.
“We bought it the next day,” she added. Then they rolled up their sleeves and got to work on the 5,200-square-foot home that sits atop a 3-acre wooded site in a quiet neighborhood.
“We literally gutted the interior of house so that we could include state-of-the-art systems and technology, retaining the main structure for the most part, but reconfiguring the rooms and circulation,” Sandra said. Extensive exterior work was done, as well.
Much of the furniture, cabinetry and millwork was custom-made by the couple. “Building for ourselves is easier overall than for our clients. Scott and I are really aligned on aesthetics and function, so making decisions on materials and space happens quickly,” Sandra said. “We were so excited about every aspect of this house. Since we plan on staying put we didn’t hold back on material selections, fabrics or furnishings — most of which we designed and built.
“That said, we still experienced the pain of expanding our budget on many occasions, just as our clients do,” she added.
Some highlights include a stunning dining room table and chairs, a sofa with a wood-woven back, and a unique transition from the top floor to the bottom — thanks to the custom spiral staircase leading down to an 800-bottle wine cellar below. In every room of this home, the architecture is also the art.
One of the aspects that excited Scott and Sandra most was the large, mature plant life at the front of the house. The fauna provided character to go along with the natural textured surfaces of the home. Before the Gjesdahls bought the home, there was no driveway or garage. The couple created a beautiful landscape and driveway that welcomes visitors onto the property. Their three-car garage is essentially an extension of the home in terms of design. “We went to Sultan to a cedar shake mill to find siding to match the exterior of the home. They don’t make cedar cuts like this, so you have to take care of it on your own — so we split it ourselves. It was actually lots of fun,” Scott said.
Observant visitors (it helps if you know a thing or two about architecture) will notice something different about the roof. Most metal roofs run vertically, and are usually small pieces of aluminum or are commonly shingles. But this roof is horizontal, specifically Pacific Pattern horizontal roofing. The Gjesdahls visited Pennsylvania to experience Fallingwater, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s crown jewel masterpiece. “We are so inspired by his work, and we really loved what he did with one of his roofs. We chose ours based on his design of a horizontal copper roof,” Scott said.
One of the more-stunning aspects of the front exterior is the bubbling reflection pond. Glen Mulvey of Mulvey Design installed this beautiful and tranquil addition. The idea is that people are directed to cross this little pond if they want to follow the path that leads to the back of the house. The entire front of the home, from the new circular driveway that surrounds large trees, to the pathway that leads over the pond, gives visitors a flow and sense of direction. All signs point to the back of the house where the Gjesdahls designed a true Northwest oasis.
“Before we started building, this whole backyard was just full of blackberries and weeds. We couldn’t tell what the contour was back here. We didn’t even know there was a hill,” explained Scott. The focal point of the backyard is the hill, or the “volcano,” as the Gjesdahls call it. The light gray-stones are granite from the Cascades and the large flat stones come from Montana. The largest stone at the front of the koi pond weighs in at 7 tons. “We needed two machines to get it in here, and we got 10 guys to stand on it to make sure it was safely in place. We didn’t want it to topple over into the pond,” Scott said with a chuckle.
The koi pond and water cave are on two different systems. The pond is fed by a 15-foot, man-made stream and the tub is kept at a constant 101 degrees. The wading area has a little nook, or cave, and the push of a button adds a waterfall feature that cascades over the open mouth of the cave to massage shoulders. At the top of the volcano is a fire pit, perfect for roasting marshmallows and telling stories. Off to the side is a large Ipe wood deck. “We plan to throw some futons and pillows out here so we can spend the night under the moon and the stars,” Scott said.
The courtyard in front of the loggia actually used to be a swimming pool. The Gjesdahls filled it in and replaced it with gorgeous variegated blue flagstone, then planted different types of groundcover to add nice pops of color.
In the 1960s, it was the grandest on the block, the talk of the neighborhood. And now, thanks to the Gjesdahls, it’s the focal point once again.