Vacation Home to Concert Hall

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November 8, 2010

An hour's travel from downtown Seattle, Washington, lies what some call "Maine West": Whidbey Island. Forming the norther border of Puget Sound, the island is an enclave of "artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs who really love the great outdoors," says architect Brett Webber. In 2007, Webber, founder of Philadelphia-based firm Brett Webber Architects, PC, completed a live/work house for painter and professional musician Judy Geist, which now plays venue for her chamber group Ensemble M.

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  Photo by Benjamin Benschneider Photography.  Courtesy of: © 2007 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved
    Photo by Benjamin Benschneider Photography.

    Courtesy of: © 2007 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved

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  Geist purchased land on Whidbey Island in the early 2000s for a vacation home. Though she started the project with Seattle-based architects, she soon decided working with a local designer would was willing to travel was a preferred partnership and hired Webber for the job.
    Geist purchased land on Whidbey Island in the early 2000s for a vacation home. Though she started the project with Seattle-based architects, she soon decided working with a local designer would was willing to travel was a preferred partnership and hired Webber for the job.
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  The goal of the house was to combine living, painting, and performance spaces, but as in nearly all projects, there were several challenges to overcome. The first was a blessing and a bit of an obstacle, Webber admits: "Having such an incredibly creative client and artist with great ambitions made it tough to edit those ideas into something that was buildable and affordable." The second challenge: keeping the size of the studio in check. "It overtook the house," Webber says.
    The goal of the house was to combine living, painting, and performance spaces, but as in nearly all projects, there were several challenges to overcome. The first was a blessing and a bit of an obstacle, Webber admits: "Having such an incredibly creative client and artist with great ambitions made it tough to edit those ideas into something that was buildable and affordable." The second challenge: keeping the size of the studio in check. "It overtook the house," Webber says.
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  Webber was able to reach a final design by making the spaces as flexible as possible—incorporating double-height ceilings and retractable garage doors on the interior. Geist, however, wasn't sold on the design until construction began. "When she saw the house framed out," Webber says, "then she was 110-percent on board."
    Webber was able to reach a final design by making the spaces as flexible as possible—incorporating double-height ceilings and retractable garage doors on the interior. Geist, however, wasn't sold on the design until construction began. "When she saw the house framed out," Webber says, "then she was 110-percent on board."
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  Webber and general contractor Jeff Hanson of Northwest Timberframes, sourced materials from within a 500-mile radius of the home, using woods like Western Red Cedar on the exterior and Northern White Maple on the floors.
    Webber and general contractor Jeff Hanson of Northwest Timberframes, sourced materials from within a 500-mile radius of the home, using woods like Western Red Cedar on the exterior and Northern White Maple on the floors.
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  The finished home is just 19-feet wide and oriented along a north-west access. The studio, shown here with the living room in the background, is situated at the northern most end of the house to take advantage of the soft, natural light that pours in the windows above. Photo by Benjamin Benschneider Photography.  Courtesy of: © 2007 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved
    The finished home is just 19-feet wide and oriented along a north-west access. The studio, shown here with the living room in the background, is situated at the northern most end of the house to take advantage of the soft, natural light that pours in the windows above. Photo by Benjamin Benschneider Photography.

    Courtesy of: © 2007 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved

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  The living room looks back into the painting and performance studio but can be separated with the rolling garage door, here tucked up and out of sight. Photo by Benjamin Benschneider Photography.  Courtesy of: © 2007 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved
    The living room looks back into the painting and performance studio but can be separated with the rolling garage door, here tucked up and out of sight. Photo by Benjamin Benschneider Photography.

    Courtesy of: © 2007 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved

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  In addition to having a place to practice, Geist also desired a place "for a small group to play chamber concerts in intimate settings," Webber says, "to bring classical and chamber music to remote settings." Here, guests arrive for one such performance.  Courtesy of: Schlechts Photography 2007 copyright all rights reserved
    In addition to having a place to practice, Geist also desired a place "for a small group to play chamber concerts in intimate settings," Webber says, "to bring classical and chamber music to remote settings." Here, guests arrive for one such performance.

    Courtesy of: Schlechts Photography 2007 copyright all rights reserved

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  Webber and Geist collaborated on the home's design around the same time as Geist formed Ensemble M, "a loose grouping of collaborative string players who come together through the Philadelphia Orchestra, Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra,  and the L.A. Philharmonic," says Webber, who attended a performance at the house when it was completed in 2007.  Courtesy of: Schlechts Photography 2007 copyright all rights reserved
    Webber and Geist collaborated on the home's design around the same time as Geist formed Ensemble M, "a loose grouping of collaborative string players who come together through the Philadelphia Orchestra, Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and the L.A. Philharmonic," says Webber, who attended a performance at the house when it was completed in 2007.

    Courtesy of: Schlechts Photography 2007 copyright all rights reserved

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  Much of the 1,800-square-foot space features double-height ceilings. Shown here is a view of concert guests from one of the above catwalks.  Courtesy of: Schlechts Photography 2007 copyright all rights reserved
    Much of the 1,800-square-foot space features double-height ceilings. Shown here is a view of concert guests from one of the above catwalks.

    Courtesy of: Schlechts Photography 2007 copyright all rights reserved

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  The second floor also houses a guest sleeping loft above the studio that can, like the studio, be shut off from the rest of the house by closing the interior garage door. Photo by Benjamin Benschneider Photography.  Courtesy of: © 2007 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved
    The second floor also houses a guest sleeping loft above the studio that can, like the studio, be shut off from the rest of the house by closing the interior garage door. Photo by Benjamin Benschneider Photography.

    Courtesy of: © 2007 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved

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  The south end of the top level houses Geist's master bedroom and bath, which is outfitted with a Toto toilet, Duravit shower and tub, Elkay sink, and Grohe faucet. Photo by Benjamin Benschneider Photography.  Courtesy of: © 2007 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved
    The south end of the top level houses Geist's master bedroom and bath, which is outfitted with a Toto toilet, Duravit shower and tub, Elkay sink, and Grohe faucet. Photo by Benjamin Benschneider Photography.

    Courtesy of: © 2007 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved

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  Behind the living room on the ground floor is a galley kitchen. The oven and range are by Dacor, the fridge by Sub-Zero, and the dishwasher by Bosch. Photo by Benjamin Benschneider Photography.  Courtesy of: © 2007 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved
    Behind the living room on the ground floor is a galley kitchen. The oven and range are by Dacor, the fridge by Sub-Zero, and the dishwasher by Bosch. Photo by Benjamin Benschneider Photography.

    Courtesy of: © 2007 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved

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  Though Geist is able to visit the home for several weeks at a time throughout the year, it's far from a full- or even half-time residence—though Webber surmises that it will one day likely become her place of retirement. In the meantime, she's continuing to host concerts whenever she can.  Courtesy of: Schlechts Photography 2007 copyright all rights reserved
    Though Geist is able to visit the home for several weeks at a time throughout the year, it's far from a full- or even half-time residence—though Webber surmises that it will one day likely become her place of retirement. In the meantime, she's continuing to host concerts whenever she can.

    Courtesy of: Schlechts Photography 2007 copyright all rights reserved

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