On a Washington Bay, This Couple Built a Large Arched Home Where They Once Pitched Tents
A feeding barn inspired the structure.
Published Oct 6, 2023 1:45 AM
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On a rainy afternoon nearly a decade ago, Anne and Richard De Wolf were driving near Willapa Bay, Washington, when Anne asked her husband to stop and turn around—she had spotted a large feeding barn and wanted a closer look. “I didn’t even want to say anything; I just started sketching on a piece of paper that we had in the car,” she recalls. The couple, who together own the design-build firm Arciform, were on their way to Portland, Oregon, where they live full-time, to secure the permits for a vacation house they had designed for themselves when this aha moment hit her. Once she saw the arched overhang of the barn, she realized everything they had previously drawn up for their house needed to change. This would serve as their new point of inspiration. “I pretty much redesigned and redrafted the whole project in 24 hours,” she says.
The house, which they set out to build on a 12-acre plot of land they’ve owned (and used primarily for camping) since 2005, took years to bring to life. Relying on the dense forest around them, Richard felled the trees and milled them according to the specifications laid out by their engineer. “That’s how from scratch it was,” he notes. It took around two years just to dry out the wood that would eventually make up the bones of their structure. “[The property] looked like a lumberyard for a while,” says Anne.
Constructing just the shell took a year and a half, resulting in what Anne can only liken to a dinosaur skeleton. With strong winds coming from every direction, the structure had to be extra-sturdy. Versatile Wood Products, a custom manufacturing company that the De Wolfs acquired 10 years ago, helped modernize the antique glass windows that frame the exterior—now they’re triple-paned. “I have to credit my husband and my engineer for making all of my ideas work. It’s still standing,” says Anne.
The beauty of designing your own home from the ground up is that you can make way for all your wildest ideas along the way. For the De Wolfs, it was incorporating salvaged architectural elements (most of them from Bloomsbury Antiques in Portland). In the primary bathroom, for instance, they carved out room for a large arched stained-glass door, which Anne now carefully dries off with a towel after every shower, just to make sure the moisture from the steam doesn’t take a toll on the fragile threshold.
The two gothic chandeliers that hang over the dining table in the great room were an eBay score. To his wife’s shock, it only took Richard one night’s worth of browsing to find them. “With all the sweat, blood, and tears I spent trying to design every detail, those lights are what always get so much attention,” jokes Anne.
Most of the other light fixtures, however, didn’t come from a church—they’re from old ships, an especially meaningful source for the couple, who met 30 years ago in Charleston, South Carolina, when they were both living on boats. The two large spotlights that are positioned on the ledge of the upper level only look blinding, but the bulbs inside them are mild, Richard reassures. Two more brass fixtures can be found in what the pair call the bird’s nest, a cozy cot tucked away upstairs underneath a curved beam. “That’s my favorite corner to take a nap,” says Richard. Their dog, Finney, agrees.
When friends come to visit, the De Wolfs have two options to offer: bunk beds or tents. While the former sleeping arrangement is actually quite luxurious (they have full/queen mattresses, reading lights, and an industrial rolling step ladder), most people tend to opt for the latter. The black bathroom downstairs, which has an additional door leading to the yard, was designed with campers in mind. On chilly days, everyone can gather inside and enjoy the radiant-heat flooring in the great room.
Most weekends, though, it’s just the couple and Richard’s mom at the house. While Anne posts up at her designated puzzle table, he’ll head outside during low tide with Finney and—four hours later—return with a bucket of clams for dinner.