Small Scale, Big Impact
By Stacee Sledge
Whatcom Magazine, Spring 200

Homeowners prove less is more

Even in this age of ever-increasing square footage, many Whatcom County residents choose to embrace less space.

Some folks like the simplicity of smaller homes. Others crave the character that grows with time in older houses, happily trading walk-in closets for original wood floors.

These homeowners have found you can pack a lot of design punch into a small footprint and still live large. 

Sky-High Style
“You can’t miss it,” says Jeff Wicklund, describing his and wife Edalyn’s south Bellingham home. “It sticks out like a sore thumb.”

Perhaps less a sore thumb than a tall, narrow structure seemingly suspended amid the surrounding trees. “We call it our hot-rod tree house,” Jeff says.

The couple purchased the newly built structure last fall as a second home. They signed papers the same day they finalized the lease for their Fairhaven wine shop, Purple Smile Wines.

Jeff runs the shop, while Ed, as she’s nicknamed, works in a dental office in Everett, where daughter Haley is a senior in high school.

The couple began spending time in Bellingham last summer, visiting son Brandon, who attends Whatcom Community College. During one trip, they took in an open house on a lark.

“I love looking at open houses,” admits Ed. “We saw this one and said, ‘Look at that skinny, weird house. We’ve got to see that!’”

Before long, they were the owners of an unusual 1,500-square-foot home designed by Mark Costello of Costello Design.

The three-story home starts with a single-car garage, which opens onto an area suitable for a tiny office or den.

The main entry is on the middle level. “You start slowly climbing up to that second floor area from outside,” says Costello. “You don’t feel like you’re climbing up a big flight of stairs to get to the entry.”

Mark’s original plan called for two bedrooms and baths on the top floor. “But the view on the third floor is just awesome,” he says. So the open living, dining and kitchen area was swapped with the sleeping spaces.

Climb the stairs to the living area and you’re greeted by a whimsical mural painted by Haley. The wine-themed work — heavy on the purples — will one day adorn bottles of the couple’s planned private label.

A small office space is tucked efficiently into this niche, and beyond the colorful wall is the open living dining and kitchen area.

At a mere 15 feet wide, this long space could seem closed in. “But it doesn’t feel like 15 feet at all, because of the high ceilings, roof lines and big windows,” says Ed.

High-end finishes — bamboo floors, slate tile, granite countertops — lend an air of luxury, equaled by striking furnishings and accent pieces.

“The kitchen is what sold me,” admits Ed.

An abundance of custom cabinets in flush cherry lend elegance understated enough to not compete with the views. Stainless appliances give a gourmet touch, and an additional bar and pantry area offers even more storage.

“It’s bigger and more user-friendly than our kitchen in Everett,” says Jeff. “A smaller house, but nicer kitchen.”

Glass plays an enormous part in the airy and spacious feel of the home. Enormous picture windows open up the front of the home to water views, while small panes along the backside give glimpses of moss-covered tree branches in the back yard. “Everywhere you turn,” says Jeff, “there’s nature.”

The couple has ideas for possible additions to the home, including a rooftop deck accessed by a spiral staircase, and a cozy reading loft above the third-floor bath room. “This house will be fun to play with for a long time,” says Jeff. “It has so much character.”

“I knew when we were building it that it was a little different than most spec houses out there,” says Mark. “Jeff and Ed were obviously the perfect couple to find the place; they’re taking the concept to the next level.” 

Big on Charm
Family history alongside deft decorative touches and masculine furnishings fills the small Eldridge neighborhood house owned by Mike Dujmovich.

At slightly over 900 square feet, the snug three-bedroom home was built in 1910. Mike’s great-grandparents, Michael and Beatrice Dujmovich, were earlier owners. Passed down over the years, it has been home to Mike for nearly a decade.

Many original elements remain throughout the home, from moldings to base boards. But after living too long with a design quirk that placed the entry to the lone bathroom in the kitchen, putting commode and sink too close for comfort, Dujmovich, a manager at a local company, decided to remodel.

“Function-wise, it just didn’t work,” he says.

Small structural alterations made a huge impact. “We didn’t add anything to it in terms of space,” says Del Jacobson, president and owner of Advent Construction, who worked on the project with the design team at 23rd Street Interiors. “We just reconfigured what was there.”

Entry to the bathroom was re-routed through the only bedroom with a closet. Dujmovich now uses this as a dressing area and overflow storage for dining room chairs and other furnishings. But even this space is thoughtfully decorated and pleasing to the eye.

The kitchen’s entrance was widened and made taller, and a pass-through was created into the dining room. “By opening up that wall and eliminating cabinets that used to be there, it makes the kitchen feel much bigger than it is,” says Jacobson. “It’s really only about 165 square feet.”

Rich maple custom cabinets are topped with black moldings, complementing black granite tile countertops. In contrast to the cabinets, a slab of lighter, mottled granite tops a large wine cabinet painted black with distressed areas of red peeking through, picked up by a red accent wall.

Before the remodel, Dujmovich had no washer, dryer or a dishwasher. Now stainless steel appliances sparkle against the dark backdrop of the cabinets and counters. A sleek stacked washer and dryer tuck into one corner with an almond finish that matches the tile backsplash.

A café-height table in the same tones as the cabinets anchors this end of the kitchen, offering comfortable breakfast seating and a bit of camouflage to the laundry area.

The new kitchen is quite contemporary in contrast to the rest of the house, yet fits in seamlessly with Dujmovich’s overall design style.

Chock full of oversized, dark furniture pieces set off against backdrops of rich wall color, the home feels cozy, not claustrophobic.

“Most people are afraid to put rich, dark colors in a house that small,” says Ginny Rutherford, owner of 23rd Street Interiors. “But we had five different shades in there and they look fabulous. Paint adds so much drama. And it’s a really cheap form of decorating that has a big wow.”

Jacobson and Rutherford both welcomed the chance to re-work Dujmovich’s tiny place. “We loved the challenge of taking this tiny space and making it fabulous,” says Rutherford.

Adds Jacobson: “It proves you don’t need a huge house to live comfortably.”

Stacee Sledge is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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