With an ocean at your door...
By Stacee Sledge
Whatcom Magazine, August 2007
...the sky's the
limit on magical water-front moments
For about a thousand lucky
Whatcom County residents, home is right at Puget Sound’s
edge, bringing lapping waves, stunning sunsets and
bountiful beach-combing within a stone’s throw of their
They enjoy daily waterfront
wonders that inland homeowners can only visit: waking to
a haze that gives way to sunshine spotlighting faraway
mountain ranges, brine-tinged air teasing sun-warmed
shoulders, the late-night crackle of a dwindling beach
fire on still- damp shell-studded sand.
Learn what life at land’s
end is like, starting at a spectacular yet casual beach
house on Lummi Island, moving on to a gated neighborhood
near Semiahmoo, and finishing at an Edgemoor home with
an enviable eagle’s view.
David and Sharon Loeppky live a double life. Through the
week they work and raise their family in Bellingham, but
when the weekend hits, they make a break for Lummi
and I started coming over to Lummi Island in the
mid-90s, to keep our eye out for something to buy,” says
David, 50. “We felt lucky to be in the right place at
the right time when we saw this house come on the market
in the spring of 2000.”
employed by Premier School Agendas and Premier Graphics,
and Sharon, a stay-at-home mom to sons Mitchell and
George (oldest son Steven is married), were born and
raised in Canada. After living in various cities across
the United States starting in 1984, they settled in
Bellingham in 1992. Both became American citizens last
46, grew up in Newfoundland, and can’t imagine living in
a town without water.
“Sharon’s got a DNA requirement to be close to the
water,” says David with a smile.
— originally two cabins built in the ‘70s which were
remodeled extensively in the ‘90s — gives the remarkably
real feel of being aboard a boat. At high tide, the
views from inside widen to horizon-to-horizon vistas of
house is open and comfortable, incorporating ship-like
railings that echo the exterior decking. The guest house
is actually two separate suites stacked atop one another
for equally wow-worthy water views. Casual white on
white dominates the color scheme throughout both
structures, with soothing blue and taupe accents.
Comfort and relaxation rule in this beach abode.
to keep everything really simple with décor. This is the
scenery,” Sharon says, nodding her head out the window
overlooking endless water below. “The house is gravy.”
west-facing view is ever-changing, from weather patterns
to passing ships. An enormous nearby rock, covered in
summertime with sunning seals, is called “sushi rock,”
since it draws the attention of hungry orca whales. A
sea otter family nests up on the cliff, letting the
family watch them scamper in and out of the water. Bald
eagles and blue heron also abound.
it’s a second residence that the family enjoys
year-round, the couple plan to move there full time once
their youngest graduates high school. They tasted
full-time island life last year, staying on Lummi Island
while their inland home underwent a remodel.
didn’t mind the commute. “If there isn’t a lineup (at
the ferry), I can leave here at 10 to 8 and be at my
desk in Bellingham by 8:30.”
you’re looking at Mount Baker most of your way to work,”
the magic of this place — of the whole island — is that
ferry,” says David. “When you leave the peninsula, your
worries get left behind and the pace of life just slows
memories is what the beachfront getaway is all about for
this close-knit family. A favorite tradition is
celebrating Thanksgiving with David’s sisters and
extended family, a fun-filled weekend of watching and
playing football, eating enormous amounts of food, and
building a beach fire at night.
Loeppkys happily host guests year-round and have even
begun renting the home as a summer vacation escape.
have family and friends here, we don’t even make a big
plan,” says Sharon. “We usually catch crab, people cook
and help, and then do their own thing. One person may be
asleep in the hammock, someone else is reading a book,
and Dave has the kids out in the boat for tubing. It’s
just memories being made.”
house on the water’
Leaving Hollywood Hills home overlooking San
Fernando Valley for a Frank
Lloyd Wright-inspired Prairie Style place perched
above Semiahmoo Bay, John and Barbara Sturdivant landed
a spectacular water view.
friends who moved up here from California, and had
visited the area with them,” he continues. “We were
going to sell our big place in California and downsize.”
couple saw the Semiahmoo spec home when construction was
nearly complete, and fell in love. Instead of
downsizing, they upsized.
couple, who mark their fifth wedding anniversary in
November, had been hit with health challenges early in
their marriage. In April 2003, Barbara, 57, was
diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “Right
off the bat, we go through chemotherapy with me for
eight months,” she says. “I get well and within a year
John goes into total liver failure with an undiagnosed,
‘If I live through this, we’re going to Semiahmoo and
we’re going now; we’re not waiting until we’re 65,’”
says John, 54, who underwent a successful liver
transplant in December 2005. “‘If we’ve got to travel a
little (for work), so be it. We’re going to buy that
house on the water.’”
a deposit down three months after John’s surgery and
moved in with their much-loved dogs Maxx
over the Fourth of July weekend.
couple’s travel-heavy lifestyle — flying off for work as
well as visiting their six children and five
grandchildren scattered across the country — means they
appreciate downtime in their comfortable abode. They
love to cook for friends and John often plays music with
and for their guests.
fly almost every week,” says John, who owns a beverage
brokerage company in California. “Barbara is in the
bio-tech world and her sales territory is San Francisco,
Seattle and Vancouver (B.C.), so she was up here all the
and built by Brad and Diane O’Neill of the O’Neill
Group, The home is 3,085 square feet of carefully
thought-out living spaces. It spans from the atrium roof
of the marble-lined master bath shower to the curved,
granite-topped kitchen island placed at a lower height
for more comfortable cooking.
mahogany floors and mahogany-stained cabinetry and beams
contrast with narrow ledge stone artfully dry-stacked in
massive columns throughout the home. It’s a striking
play of materials and textures.
Puget Sound view takes center stage as you enter the
home and walk through a soaring entry and around the
home’s central kitchen.
virtual wall of glass overlooks Semiahmoo Bay, affording
jaw-dropping water views sprinkled with constant
glimpses of wildlife. “We see seals out here pretty
regularly and bald eagles all the time,” says John. “I
even saw an orca once, way out there.”
optimize natural light in the home, the entire kitchen —
centrally located, between the foyer and great room — is
topped with a commercial pyramid skylight 23 feet above
the cooking space. Light pours down even on the grayest
Pacific Northwest day.
doesn’t exist in California,” says John. “And if it did,
I couldn’t afford it in 10 lifetimes.”
from the financial positives, the quality of life drew
the Sturdivants. “It’s very much a slower pace of life,”
says Barbara, who says her blood pressure has returned
to normal since making the move. “You just come in and
you breathe out.”
quality time is unreal,” agrees John.
love with light
Don and Annetta Van Andel
raised three children in their land-locked Lynden
home. They adored their neighborhood and community, but
the couple always dreamed of a waterfront home.
grew up in Lynden where he owned and operated Van’s
Plumbing and Electrical
for 31 years. Annetta, 58 and also born in
Lynden, was an RN who stayed home to raise the couple’s
children. She returned to school in 1994 to complete her
master’s degree in adult education and has since
finished her Ph.D.
Annetta’s parents emigrated from Holland, her father
worked as a landscaper. This meant few summer escapes.
“The one summer vacation we did get was renting a beach
house for a couple months on the Tulalip Indian
reservation in Marysville,” says Annetta. “That’s where
my love for the water came from. My dream was always to
live on the water.”
couple felt drawn to the Edgemoor area overlooking
Bellingham Bay in south Bellingham. “We kept driving
around this neighborhood,” says Annetta. “We finally bit
the bullet and said, ‘We’re going to do this.’”
years ago the land became theirs. “We came down quite
often,” says Don, fondly remembering visits to the empty
site. “We’d just sit and watch the sun set.” In 2005,
Andels sold their Lynden home and camped out in a
two-bedroom condominium above Boulevard Park during the
building phase, where they captured a taste of the
long-longed-for waterfront life. But nothing could
compare to the spacious, airy home they moved into this
is based on a Long Island, Naussau County
style, providing a distinct New England feel to
the five-bedrooom home. White trim throughout pops
against soft, nature-inspired wall hues reminiscent of
sun-bleached seashells and sand dollars.
Charlotte Kienast, interior designer and owner of CDK
Interior Design, pulled together the overall décor. “Don
and Annetta came to me with an incredible site and a
stack of “Coastal Living”
magazines,” she says, laughing. The colors are
taken from the water and surrounding nature.
encompasses the Lummi peninsula and smaller San Juan
Islands, like Cypress, Eliza and Guemes. On clear days,
Don and Annetta spy ships anchored at Anacortes.
to get up early,” says Don. “I was up at 4 o’clock this
morning and watched the sun come up over the water. It’s
love the light,” says Annetta. “Well, I like cloudy
days, too — any excuse to have a cup of coffee and read
a book. But I do love light. You’ll come in here and
every curtain or shade will be wide open.”
windows above all the interior doors mimic the exterior
window design and help flood the home with light. “It’s
an older style, just beautiful,” says Kienast, “and is
one of the first things people notice.”
a lot of time looking at the water and all the
activity,” says Don. “You can sit here for half an hour
and see an eagle go by, sometimes two or three at once.”
Kayakers, ships and other birds complete the
regularly run right below their home on the Burlington
Northern track that follows Fairhaven’s shores, but
haven’t been a distraction. “We hear the rumble now, but
you get used to it,” Annetta says, “I don’t even hear
Annetta are still settling into their Sound-side
location, but some things never change: Every Sunday
night for 35 years the couple has savored a glass of
wine over a game of Scrabble. Now they enjoy it from the
nook between their magnificent kitchen and great room,
overlooking Bellingham Bay.
sunset is different every night,” says Annetta. “We
never tire of the sky and the changing clouds.”
Stacee Sledge is a
Bellingham freelance writer who has covered food and
homes for The Bellingham Herald and Whatcom Magazine for
photography has appeared in LIFE, TIME, Newsweek,
Fortune, and other national magazines for 20 years.
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