By Vicki Wilson
Thousands have lived without love, not one without water. —W. H. Auden
It’s amazing that Jani and Bill Pauli do anything besides look out the window and daydream. From the moment you walk into their comfortably rambling one-story home, you are drawn to the wonderful wide-open, no-bank water view. Have a seat in the art-filled living room, and the waves call out. Relax with a book in the family room, and your gaze drifts off the page and out to the Puget Sound, with Mount Rainier rising gloriously in the distance. Climb into bed at night, and fall asleep to the moon and stars reflected in the lapping currents.
“There’s only so much waterfront; you should see if you can get some.” That bit of advice came from Jani’s brother, way back in the late ’80s. Jani had been on the island since 1978, moving to Bainbridge (as many do) from California. “Bainbridge reminded me of visits to Sausalito. Back then, the island was really rural, but it was so very close to such a great city,” she said. She added that even though Seattle wasn’t “fully matured” at the time, it already had good restaurants, live theater and, compared to California, incredible value for your real estate dollar.
“It was my rebellion to live this different life; my parents were just shaking their heads,” Jani said of her choice to move to Bainbridge and to raise chickens, ducks and vegetables on her property in Eagledale. For Bill, small-town life was not quite so exotic. In 1980, he moved to Bainbridge from Missoula, but he had grown up in a town of only 114 people with a one-room schoolhouse. “I decided to give it two years; two years later, I met Jani and decided to stay,” Bill said.
Even their early meeting took them to the water. “We bet a bushel of oysters on the World Series,” Jani recalled. When she lost, the pair drove out to the Hood Canal to collect the wager, and they’ve been together ever since, marrying shortly thereafter. Their first house together was a “funky little 1910 800-square-footer” on Sunrise Drive. Bill, a general contractor, guided the down-to-thefoundation renovation that transformed the cottage into a 3,600 square-foot Northwest Contemporary.
Jani and Bill were married in that house; their two sons were born there. Until that conversation with Jani’s brother, the couple didn’t ever think they would have a reason to leave. Still, the water beckoned. When Bill first saw the 1964-built ranch house on Crystal Springs, he told Jani he didn’t even care if they went inside. He took a peek under the house to judge the construction, but otherwise his attention was focused on the incredible view of Puget Sound and Mount Rainer, and the size and topography of the basically flat lot. He told Jani, “We need to buy this.”
Jani, on the other hand, did look inside, and what she saw made her heart sink a bit. “I had just finished the most beautiful house [on Sunrise],” she said. “And here was this house with strawberry wallpaper on the ceiling, white shag carpeting on the floor and faux slate vinyl in the entry.” And even though the back wall of windows that lets in that waterfront view was part of the original construction, you couldn’t see any water when you initially came through the door. “ The first thing you saw when you walked in was the back of the fireplace,” Bill said.
“They didn’t live in it like it was a beach house.” Jani, who Bill said “designed things and I just built them,” made sure that, through a series of renovations that they executed as they could afford to, the closed-off rambler became the ultimate beach house. Since Bill was in the business, working with locals like Dennis Kirkpatrick, Seri Yeckel, Fred Kelly and Rick Blumenthal meant working with friends they could trust. The first of the construction projects commenced in 1991. It included the repurposing of a covered porch into a family room, as well as a total remodel of the kitchen. That dated white shag carpeting was replaced with hardwood floors in oak.
In 2001, when their two sons were teenagers, they converted the existing garage into a rec room—it still boasts both a pool table and an air hockey table today—and gave the boys two bedrooms and a bath upstairs. A new garage, connected to the house by a covered walkway, completed that project. One particular piece of health news factored heavily in subsequent renovation decisions. In 2000, Jani was diagnosed with MS. As she learned to live with her illness, one thing became clear. “I always felt better in water; the buoyancy offers relief from your skeletal structure,” she explained.
And so, in 2008, the couple replaced a two-tiered wooden deck with a swimmer’s paradise. They added a salt water pool with a waterfall feature that doubles as a Jacuzzi, as well as an ample seating area and an outdoor kitchen and dining space. They converted one of the old bedrooms to a bathroom easily accessible to the pool area. The remodeled master bath includes a roll-in shower. The final remodel tied everything together. They wrapped the house in a stone wainscoting, added metal roofing to the entire structure and extended all the overhangs.
They also enlarged their closet and added a home office and gym space. Even with all of the changes and additions, the couple remains committed to the beauty and sustainability of the place on which their home stands. They’ve installed 40 photovoltaic (solar) panels, offset their pool’s propane use with an evacuated tube system that utilizes copper filament warmed by the sun, and removed their asphalt driveway in order to replace it with a permeable eco-grid system. Their commitment extends to their community involvement as well.
Much of their artwork comes from local artists. Jani is on the board of Bainbridge Arts and Crafts; Bill, now retired, is on the board of Helpline House. They’re very active at Kol Shalom. When they first talked to architects about remodeling the house, suggestions usually turned to adding a second story. But the Paulis were never about that. Jani sums it up best. “You can see the water from the driveway; and you can certainly see it the moment you step inside. The most important thing wasn’t the house; it was always about the land, the mountains and the water.”