Finding Their Way Home // The Perry Family Puts Down Island Roots

By Vicki Wilson

If it’s 2013, this must be Bainbridge Island. For the Perry family, the date is telling. In the 1990s, the location could have been England, Kenya, Uganda, Kazakhstan or Brazil. But since building their home on Wing Point in 2009, the Perrys—parents Dale and Carol and daughters Rachel (16), Shaila (13) and Noelle (10)—have put down roots. A spirit of adventure has long guided both Dale and Carol.

Raised on opposite ends of the country—he in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, she in suburban Glen Ridge, N.J.—they each began putting miles between themselves and their hometown when they furthered their education. At Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Dale was a geographic exotic; Carol took a gap year and lived in Spain before pursuing degrees in Boston and Arizona. Later, Dale’s and Carol’s respective careers in global energy resource development and international banking took the family to seven different countries over 15 years. The moves were sometimes anticipated happily, sometimes not so much.

“The hardest sales job I ever had was convincing Carol to move back to Kazakhstan a second time,” Dale said when reminiscing about the family’s nomadic history. Dale’s powers of persuasion played a particular role in getting the family to Bainbridge. Capitalizing on Carol’s offhand musing about how beautiful the Pacific Northwest was during a visit—specifically hearing her murmur, “I could live here”—Dale was showing her listings for homes in Friday Harbor by the time they had returned to their apartment in Barcelona.

Upon further research and more transglobal visits, they decided the San Juans were too remote, but the idea of an island was too attractive to let go. “We both found an island we liked—but for Dale it was Vashon and for me it was Bainbridge,” Carol recalled. The old saying “happy wife, happy life” prevailed, and Bainbridge became the focus. Next up, where on the island was the right spot? “We knew once we chose Bainbridge Island, we wanted to be in a neighborhood. We saw some homes on the water, but they were often isolated. We wanted to be near town, to feel connected,” Dale said.

A desire for a neighborhood with a water view led them to Wing Point, where they found an existing home on just shy of a quarter acre. But, the 1969 contemporary didn’t fit their needs. The couple decided to build, even though it meant the design phase would be conducted with an ocean and several time zones between them and their Bainbridge-based architect Eric Terry.“I built his sister’s house,” Terry said, by way of explanation as to how he met the Perrys. And even though he admitted the project “scared him to death,” both homeowners and architect now seem delighted with the result, made possible by a big byte into technology and its toolkit.

“Eric put together a 3-D model using Google SketchUp, and we could connect that with Google Earth to see how light and shadows would move through the house throughout the year,” Dale recalled. In fact, the five-bedroom, four-bath 5,250-square-foot home looks remarkably similar to the original computer rendering. But the long-distance design process was just the beginning of an unconventional journey “home.” Once the family left Spain and moved to a rental on Bainbridge, the Perrys decided that Dale would be the job’s general contractor.

Before you start imagining nightmare scenarios of Harry Homeowner and his money pit, bear in mind that Dale is an engineer who has supervised the construction of power plants. Plus, he was willing to dedicate himself full time to the project, rather than trying to squeeze it in between business trips and on weekends. “Dale was one of the easiest homeowner/general contractors we’ve worked with because of his construction management experience. Plus, he kept everyone loose, he wasn’t too serious about it,” said Chris Charters, whose company Allen and Charters Enterprises Inc. completed all the framing and interior carpentry.

And while Dale was spending his days saying “why not” to things like designing the front entry on the fly or changing the orientation of a newel post, Carol found herself thrust into a bunch of decisions that she grew to enjoy with the help of interior designer Connie LaMont of LaMont Design Inc. in Poulsbo. “I never thought it was my thing to build a house. I’m not a fan of the minutiae, spending time deciding on switch plates. But it turned out, I can be more decisive than I thought about those things. And once Connie came on board, it was actually fun.”

“I love to sculpt spaces with color,” LaMont said of her technique. In the Perry home, the palate was comprised of traditional, warm Arts and Crafts tones that some Pacific Northwest homeowners might shy away from, believing that “white makes light.” Not true, according to LaMont. “By forcing a shadow [with darker colors] against other elements like trim or floors, you can create the illusion of light. White alone turns gray against itself.” Other missteps that could have befallen the project were avoided by some combination of good counsel, such as advice given in a weekly meeting with local builder Jim Wohr, who acted as a building consultant, and good friends, like the folks at Great Floors.

Dale’s old school chum is a partner in the Coeur d’Alene-based company and told Dale he’d help him out with “any horizontal surface.” A happy home is one that reflects its inhabitants. The Perry home does that—Dale’s skills are reflected in the design and Carol’s desire for a warm, inviting space shines through in her choices. Dale even made sure each of the girls had something special to call her own by adding a loft in one room, a private deck on another, and (perhaps most important to a 16-year-old girl) an ensuite bathroom for Rachel. Of course, the house is lovingly decorated with treasures from around the world. No doubt they’ll be adding a piece of local artwork or a seashell collection from their backyard beach. Because wherever you go, there you are.