Room for Two // An Island Couple Shares Their Beach Retreat

By Erin Jennings

When Birds search for the perfect nesting spot, they flit about from tree to tree looking for just the right place to build their home. When it came to nesting on Bainbridge Island, Zoe Bartlett and Ken Warman took a birdlike approach before finally landing on Pleasant Beach four years ago. Living in Seattle at the time, the couple knew they wanted to eventually move to Bainbridge. They patiently followed the real estate market for years, visiting the island often and exploring different areas.

“Both Ken and I come from military families, so we are used to moving around a lot,” Bartlett said. “And as adults with careers, we moved frequently as well. We’d move to a place and think, ‘This is it.’ But soon we’d find ourselves wanting something different and we’d move again. Nothing felt right until we moved here.” The pair selected a waterfront home nestled along the southwest shore of Bainbridge Island, near Fort Ward Park. Like most nests, the brown facade of their home blends in nicely with the surroundings. The entryway’s focal point is a collection of framed art featuring birds’ nests, which Bartlett said serves as a reminder that they too have found their nest.

“What appealed to me most about this place was the calmness of it,” Warman said, gesturing to his surroundings and pointing out a pair of great blue herons that landed on shore. “I underestimated how important the tranquility is for me.” The couple purchased the property in December of 2011 and did an extensive remodel on the 1960s-era home while keeping its footprint the same. They reconfigured the house, originally a two bedroom, to suit their one bedroom needs. A separate comfortable cottage awaits visiting guests. “There seems to be a trend that busy professionals are no longer interested in mansions. Instead, they seek out and want simplicity and peace,” Bartlett said.

To accommodate the design, walls were moved, rooms were shuffled. The end result is an interior that reflects the property’s beauty and solitude. And Bartlett needed that solitude in a big way. She owns the Bainbridge Island cooking school and store, Intentional Table, which opened for business on the very day the couple moved into their home. “That time of my life is a bit of a blur,” she admitted. Both the school and their house utilize the same stools and dining chairs, which Bartlett can swap around if she needs to accommodate more people in one location or the other.

Many design decisions were made to bring the tranquility of the outside in. By installing glass doors and a wall of windows in the open-concept living area, the beauty of nature is experienced while cooking breakfast or reading a book by the fireplace. And by using the same light fixtures, flooring and countertops throughout the home, the space flows fluidly and its tranquility isn’t jarred by new finishes. Even the home’s color palette was inspired by the outdoors. On a winter beach walk, Bartlett and Warman collected a bag of sand, driftwood, sea glass and stone. These became the colors used throughout the house—a much different color palette than their Seattle house with its gold, cognac and chartreuse.

“Our goal in moving here was to have a year-round beach house,” Bartlett said. “We were looking for simplicity, peace and balance.” For entertainment, the couple often spends time at their outdoor sitting area. The property overlooks Puget Sound, but because of narrow Rich Passage and the visible homes across the way in Port Orchard, Bartlett said it feels much more like living on a lake. The couple basks in the light of the aptly nicknamed “Gold Coast” and enjoys watching kayakers and paddle boarders explore. Ferries pass. And sometimes submarines and aircraft carriers navigate the water.

“It’s never boring out here,” Bartlett said. “We don’t talk much. Instead, we do a lot of staring. We listen to life and watch nature and sometimes are treated to a show from two doors down the street.” They didn’t know it when they purchased the property, but a nearby neighbor trains white doves and they are often visible from the Bartlett-Warman backyard. “I knew we’d be treated to eagles and herons. But synchronized doves? I never expected those!” Bartlett said.

Another unexpected bonus for the couple has been the sense of community they feel in the neighborhood. Homes along that stretch of Bainbridge Island don’t turn over very often—some people have lived there 30-plus years—and Bartlett and Warman didn’t know what to expect being the new kids on the block. “People look out for each other here,” Warman said. “Coming from Seattle and traveling a lot, we were used to not knowing our neighbors. There is definitely a rootedness in this community that contributes to the tranquility.”

Like a bird carefully weaves together twigs and moss when building its nest, Bartlett and Warman wove a hidden feature into their home. Before sealing the drywall and laying down flooring, they asked friends and family to write messages that were then placed in the walls and under the carpet. Knowing the blessings are ever-present and embedded in their home fills the couple with love and gratitude. “We finally are where we were supposed to be. We were looking for sanctuary and we found it,” Bartlett said. Or as some might say, they found their home tweet home.