Plenty of ideas to pick from at Sunset houses in Seabrook

Plenty of ideas to pick from at Sunset houses in Seabrook

craig.sailor@thenewstribune.comOctober 2, 2013 

  • Disney on the coast or careful urban planning?

    There’s something about Seabrook that splits people into two camps. Developer Casey Roloff acknowledges that some people fall head over heels for the new-but-made-to-look-old town while others find the place off-putting.

    It never was Roloff’s intention to create a polarizing town. He just wanted to create a community from whole cloth that realized his vision of what an ocean-side community could be.

    “There is so much pent up demand for a beach town close to Puget Sound,” Roloff, a University of Puget Sound graduate, said on a recent September afternoon as he gave a tour through the development located just one mile south of Pacific Beach.

    Seabrook is mostly built on the upland side of Highway 109. It has 250 homes of what is now planned to be 350 built over 400 acres. The development has room for a total of 1,000 homes. The homes aren’t cookie cutter but their architectural style harkens back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Over 30 architects have contributed their work to the development, Roloff said.

    Homes have large porches. Street lights are kept low. Front yards are filled with shrubs and perennials rather than lawns. Garages are only accessed off alleys. Community fire pits and bocce ball courts draw neighbors together. The neighborhoods appear more formal the closer they are to the commercial district and then become more casual in the outer lying areas.

    The development builds the homes based on buyer’s preferences. But all follow the community standards of architecture and planning. The development’s architectural committee reviews plans for approval. Though the development allows more modern architecture the vast majority follow the community’s retro style. It’s those conventions that open up Seabrook to criticism sparking snarky comparisons to Disneyland and “The Stepford Wives.”

    But the joke may be on Seabrook’s detractors. The U.S. has no shortage of poor urban planning where municipalities, eager to increase tax bases, let developers call the shots. The result: cheesy strip malls, pedestrians bereft of sidewalks, industrial lighting and eyesore architecture.

    Seabrook has a manufactured rather than organic quaintness, but compared to many suburban developments with their garage-forward “snout houses” it’s a style for which many homeowners are clearly willing to pay a premium.

    Seabrook weathered the storm of the 2008 financial crisis because it was not overextended, Roloff said. While he is a practitioner of new urbanism the decision to go that route was based in economics. If he had built a condo development, as is the style in nearby Ocean Shores, “I would have gone bankrupt,” he said.

    Since the crash he has sold 120 homes and with a profit, he said. But most of those homes were small. Homes in the development range from 416 to 4,600 square feet and sell from $300,000 to $3 million.

    “There was still just as much demand (during the recession) but people wanted half as much,” Roloff said. He acknowledges that the development would be further along if the recession hadn’t happened.

    But now the demand for larger homes is back, he said. So, trees are being felled and land is being cleared in two areas on the ocean side of Highway 109. Roloff held off developing those more desirable areas during the recession to gain better profits, he said. The two areas will bring 40 more lots to the development.

    A commercial district contains a restaurant and bar, a general store, pet boutique, home décor store, bike rental, ceramics shop, a DIY arts and crafts store and a Saturday farmers market with 10 vendors. Soon to be added will be a spa, candy store, pizza restaurant and coffee shop.

    Rentals are big business at Seabrook, Roloff said, with nearly half of the homes in a rental program. Rental revenue has grown 30 percent annually for the past five years, he said. The rentals have become so popular and profitable that some homeowners have purchased a second home in the development. An indoor pool in the town’s park has driven winter rentals.

    The town just finished a large church-looking town hall that can be rented for weddings and other events. It’s also creating a “farm district” with a large barn, equestrian business and community garden.

Every issue of Sunset, the venerable periodical of au courant living in the West, brings a fantasy land of carefree couples and relaxed families inhabiting homes that seem too perfect to be real.

But for the rest of October readers can put down their magazines and touch a Sunset dream home.

Sunset has teamed up with the developers behind the planned community of Seabrook on Washington’s coast to create two “Idea Houses.” The October issue of the magazine contains an 8-page spread on the homes. But for the next month a weekend road trip and $17 will allow a tour of nearly $3 million of real estate.

Seabrook is a 10-year-old community built from scratch on a bluff above the sea, 18 miles north of Ocean Shores in Grays Harbor County. Its developer, Casey Roloff, modeled the community after the new urbanism town of Seaside, Fla. and Oregon beach towns. Seabrook, along with other new urbanism towns, uses careful planning to create neighborhoods where homes front green spaces and have similar architecture. Walking is given as much priority as automobiles.

Because the beach town is itself one large concept Sunset has declared Seabrook as its first ever “Idea Town.”

“It’s about getting out of the car and relying on your feet. Those homes are a microcosms of what is going on in Seabrook overall,” said Sarah Gaffney, senior home programs marketing manager for Sunset.

The two Sunset homes are built next to Highway 109 but views mostly look to the ocean. And what stunning views they are. The living room of the larger, 2,544 square feet home, features floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the sea. The smaller, 1,672 square foot home has a similar view.

Sunset envisioned the two homes as housing two different generations of the same family, Gaffney said. The larger home has three bedrooms and three and half baths spread over three levels. It’s yours for $1.645 million.

The smaller home also has three bedrooms and three and half baths. Its price tag: $1.295 million.

Gaffney said the magazine came up with back stories for the families that might live there in order to help them design the homes. The larger house was built for empty-nesters. “They are world travelers. They are semi-retired. They live at Seabrook fulltime. The smaller house belongs to the son of the older generation. He and his family live there part time,” she said.

The homes are light, airy and colorful. They emphasize good taste and comfortable living rather than high tech gadgetry. Not a TV or stereo can be seen.

The larger house uses a blue and muted grey color scheme.

“It’s more about celebrating the environment. That’s why there’s very little color in that house. The color comes from the outdoors,” Gaffney said. “The smaller house has more color but that reflects a younger person living in that house.”

The kitchen/dining room of the main house is eye catching in its architecture and finishes. It features open rafters and an open staircase to the top floor. A large sliding door - looking as if it came straight from a barn - adds an architectural element. A large cubist chandelier hangs over the table. That area moves seamlessly into the living room with its ocean views.

“That’s Sunset: It’s all about the flow and the relationship to the outdoors,” Gaffney said.

Both homes feature outdoor decks with outdoor gas fireplaces.

Bathrooms don’t vary much in terms of style. Most of them are finished with white subway and hexagon tiles with black grout. But the master bath in the larger home has a freestanding tub in front of a large bank of windows overlooking Highway 109 and the commercial district. Diners at the Seabrook’s sole restaurant, Mill 109, might get an eyeful if they bring binoculars.

Seattle-based designer Brian Paquette chose the finishes, furnishings and art for both homes. Gaffney said the neutral colored tile allows future owners to match it with any color. Paquette had the tile installed in a herringbone pattern.

“You can get a really reasonable tile at a big box store and change it up by designing a pattern,” Gaffney said.

The larger house is not all in subdued colors. Upholstery colors range from orange to green. The smaller house has whitewashed wood floors that add to the beach house feel of the home. “It’s a good balance to the all the colors on the walls. It kind of calms it down,” Gaffney said.

Local art is dispersed throughout the homes. Some of it is striking, some of it curiously placed and some of it is head scratching. The main house has four diner stools mounted on a wall and turned into photo frames. In the smaller house the risers of a staircase are covered in photos of clam diggers.

Paquette found the photos at a local museum and decoupaged them on to the risers. “It would be fun to do with archival family photos or travel photos,” Gaffney said. “We really want people to walk away from these houses with ideas that they can use.”

One of Sunset’s trademark styles is its emphasis on outdoor living and these homes do not disappoint. Currently the two homes share a courtyard that features an outdoor kitchen and dining room, hot tub, cutting and vegetable gardens, a greenhouse and a two-sided fireplace. If different owners eventually purchase the two homes the courtyard can be divided by a fence, Roloff said.

Repurposed metal troughs hold sculpted pine trees. Wine barrels, cut in half, are grow pots for artichokes and other vegetables.

If all that space isn’t enough for the future homeowners both homes feature guest cottages. The larger one is 680 square feet with a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen and the smaller is 280 square feet with a bathroom and kitchenette.

Both homes are just a two minute walk to Seabrook’s restaurant, Mill 109, and its small commercial district.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541 craig.sailor@thenewstribune.com

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