More Than Paradise // Prefab Modern Meets Old World Craftsmanship

By Alli Schuchman

In 2010 when Heather Paradis (formerly Moore) was housesitting at the beautiful dairy barn converted to a home on Windsong Loop, squirrels gnawed holes into the entire south wall of the barn. She could hear them chattering and running up and down within the walls. In a bit of a panic, she called the homeowners to let them know. They asked her to get in touch with Nicholas Paradis, a carpenter they had previously worked with and whom they trusted completely. She did. “At the end of that workday, Nick knocked on the barn door,” recalled Heather. “That was the end of that.”

Nearly a decade later, Heather, Nick and two of Heather’s three kids (her daughter Lily is away at college and Nick’s two grown kids reside on the East Coast) live in More Paradise, their home near Battle Point. More Paradise, a combination and slight rejiggering of last names, is a nod to Nick’s New England roots where many of the homes’ names are displayed on quarterboards—a practice carried over from the nameplates traditionally found on ships’ transoms. Nick has a bunch of quarterboards that he’s collected over the years. The one he is making for More Paradise is underway.

Nick is a fine carpenter by trade, as is his brother and as were his father and grandfather. “He builds a lot of things that have found their way into homes all over the island,” said Heather. Generations of Nick’s family come from the island of Nantucket, which sits 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts in the Atlantic. “A lot of what the family did was remodeling and saving the old homes,” said Heather. “He doesn’t take any shortcuts. He believes that you don’t throw things away, you don’t waste, that the old is good and that there’s depth there. He’s an old-fashioned artisan.

Heather recalled that to set the house, Nick used a proper compass (a bygone skill) because he wanted it to sit exactly square on the north-south and east-west axes. It is to the hair accurate. “You can measure the house by the sun. Twice per year it cuts the house directly in half. It’s so exciting,” said Heather. The Paradises throw equinox parties to mark the occasion.

As important as the home’s precise orientation was to Nick, it also satisfied one of Heather’s must-haves: sun. “I’m solar powered,” she said, explaining that she also came from an island, Sanibel on Florida’s Gulf Coast. “Nick is a sunrise person and I’m a sunset person.”

Straight down the east-west line of the home is a massive, live edge, hand-planed fir dining table, one of the home’s marquis pieces. Nick sourced the wood from the property and crafted the table in his studio in the home’s walkout lower level. “I’m a glutton for punishment,” he joked. Examples of his meticulous woodwork show up throughout the home, including a fir mantle next to one of his non-negotiables, a wood-burning fireplace.

Nick’s traditional work complements the modern bones of the home, which was designed and built by Stillwater Dwellings, a developer of high-end prefabricated homes. The Paradises appreciated Stillwater’s customizable plans, but several other considerations also drove their decision to choose a prefab home. Nick has asthma, which meant an older home, which can be a haven for mold and irritants, was not feasible; and it was their priority to be as environmentally thoughtful as possible.

Prefabricated homes generate far less waste, are energy efficient and are generally made with sustainable nontoxic and low-VOC (vola- tile organic compounds) materials. An added benefit for the Paradises was that Stillwater manufactures its homes in nearby Kingston.

Though they had settled on a prefab house, the Paradises were concerned that such homes can at times look and feel sterile, so soften- ing the design became important. “It was a bit of a conundrum,” said Heather. “We built a modern home but we’re not really a modern family. We have old things, handmade things.”

The couple credits much of the home’s warmth to Heather Pollock Sehulster, owner and curator of Conservatory Coastal Home, with whom they have forged a close partnership and friendship. Heather first fell in love with Sehulster’s style, her wares and smart eye for merchandising when she stepped foot in her Port Townsend store several years ago. “I walked in and I thought, ‘This person might get it.’ I knew that’s who I wanted to design the house.”

Sehulster, who now also has a store on Bainbridge, relied on oversized couches, fluffy rugs, and all-natural materials like metal, stone and wool. “They’re modern but they’re not cold,” she said. “It was very important to Nick to keep the elements real.”

Sehulster is also known for using what is on hand, such as pinecones, moss, an antler or driftwood. “You have the sea right there!” she said. Sehulster also wove in special touches that were significant to the Paradises, like mixing sand from both Nantucket and Sanibel (which Heather brought back from visits) into a succulent planter. “The design becomes better when you realize it’s meaningful.”

A strong value shared by the Paradises and Sehulster was to use local suppliers and artisans—to keep the circle small, said Nick. Sehulster’s store is filled with homegrown fare from the region, friends and even her mother, who is an artist. Sehulster points to the canvas-and-leather floor pillows in the living room made by a local Port Townsend upholsterer, to wooden bowls handmade by Mark Carpenter, and even to the wood stumps that were milled at Neah Bay. The home’s tile all came from Joglo in Port Townsend, and longtime islander Richard Vancil of VanLumen Architectural Lighting designed the striking chandelier that hangs over the table. Its metal arms were made by Rory’s Custom Fabrication on Bainbridge, as were the legs of the dining room table.

The birch kitchen cabinets, which help keep the palette light, are from Markay Cabinets in Poulsbo, made by Mark Donaldson. Edensaw Woods in Port Townsend made the kitchen’s black PaperStone countertop.

Before building More Paradise—which has four bedrooms, three baths and 2,800 square feet—the couple built a smaller prototype (now an ADU) at the bottom of the property on Olympus Beach. Thankfully the prefabricated building process is far faster than conventional because the family—Nick, Heather and Heather’s three kids—lived in the 700-square-foot mini-house while the main home was erected.

Eventually she and Nick think they will move back down to the small house in hopes that one of their kids’ families will want to live in the big house. Whatever happens, they say they will keep the property forever. Ten years after their first chance meeting, it feels meant to be.

So, whatever happened with the squirrels? “Nick repaired the damage to the barn’s south wall,” said Heather, “but he never found any. I always smile when I see a squirrel, wondering….”