Pacific Northwest Magazine / Northwest Living
Light-Hearted House: A Kingston waterfront home just wants to have fun
You don't find many lighthouses in North Dakota. Maybe that's why Barbara Shotwell, who was born landlocked in Fargo, couldn't shake the idea of living in one.
"I've always been fascinated by lighthouses," she says. "They're so picturesque and stark."
When she decided four years ago to move to the Northwest to be closer to her sister and brother-in-law, she bought waterfront property near Kingston and started shopping for someone to design a lighthouse for her. A contractor recommended architect John Armstrong, who had designed an eclectic array of facilities in the past, including bridges, boats, wineries and libraries.
"I've designed chicken houses, dog houses and tree houses," Armstrong says, "but residentially, this was the most unusual project I've ever taken on."
An unusual project for an unusual woman: Shotwell, a financial planner for Paine Webber and author of "Pass It On," a book on estate planning, is the first to admit she's not like ordinary people.
"Many people would say I'm not the norm. That's probably how I ended up with this house," she says. After supervising construction from long distance, she made her move from Minneapolis in March last year.
Her 1,800-square-foot lighthouse responds to her many interests.
The living/dining room, for instance, is designed to resemble an English pub, complete with a bar and bar stools, dart board, open shelves for liquor and an overhead rack for glasses.
She went to bartending school in Minnesota, Shotwell explains. "I got my bartending certificate and thought, I gotta have a bar. I've always wanted to have a pub."
In addition to giving her a great place to entertain, the pub gives the house an international flavor that appeals to Shotwell. "Travel has always been a passion of mine," she says. "Work is something I do between trips."
She belongs to the Travelers' Century Club, an organization limited to members who have traveled to at least 100 countries. Just a year ago, she chalked up her 100th country — Yap, an island nation of Micronesia. A Yap license plate decorates a bookshelf right next to the bar in her "pub."
Shotwell also collects musical instruments on her trips, mostly percussion instruments. "I played drums in a band in college," she says. Hanging on her walls and displayed on bookshelves are, among others, finger drums and a talking drum from Africa, a steel drum from Trinidad, a Celtic harp from Ireland, a sitar from India.
The quirkiness of Shotwell's house is perhaps most evident in her second-floor bedroom and bathroom. Overruling her designer's objections, she used 12 different colors on the walls, including purple, salmon, pink, mint green, bright orange and yellow. "When I told her what I wanted, she said, 'You're on your own,' " Shotwell reports.
On the floor is a throw rug that looks like a giant Monopoly board; metal paperweights shaped like Monopoly pieces (the shoe, the car and so on) sit on various properties.
Of course, the showpiece of the house is the tower. Shotwell initially thought it would contain only a spiral staircase leading to a lookout, but Armstrong encouraged her to make maximum use of the space.
Attached to the tower at ground level is a small guest bedroom designed to look like a ship's stateroom. A red metal, spiral staircase leads to a second level, where Shotwell has her home office. Outside at the office level, a terrace serves as a space buffer between the tower and the rest of the house. "We tried to leave the tower standing by itself, so it's as visible as possible," says Armstrong.
Up a level is her wine "cellar" and extensive collection in a temperature-controlled chamber.
Finally, after another flight of spiral stairs, visitors reach the pièce de résistance, the tower room, with its 360-degree view of trees and water. Here, on built-in seats, one can sit and watch ferries and fishing boats going about their business on the Sound. A fold-out futon accommodates overnight guests.
The light in the tower is a ship's anchor light with a Fresnel lens. It really works, though it's not as powerful as a true lighthouse light. At night, Shotwell says, it's best to leave the light off, anyway, so you can see out.
"So far I haven't had any ships come up on my rocks," she adds.
Lynn Jacobson is a Seattle Times reporter.