Whatcom Magazine

Water-view home in Semiahmoo area invites outdoors in with disappearing wall

Gorgeous waterfront views from the undeveloped Semiahmoo property appealed to the new owners, but posed a problem. How could they best enjoy the view when rules prevented them from building too close to the bluff 25 feet up from the water’s edge?

Solution: Their “outdoor room.”

The sitting room on the water-facing side of the house features a wall made up of five, wood-frame glass doors. Two of the insulated doors can fold back to one side and the other three doors can fold back to the opposite side, leaving a broad expanse open to their view of Semiahmoo Bay and beyond, with the trees outside the doors left standing.

“It’s like suddenly losing a wall; it’s wide open to the outside,” says the man who owns the house with his wife. “We liked the view the way it was, even with the trees.”

The man, who asked to not be identified, originally hails from Vancouver, B.C. He and his wife later worked on the East Coast, then retired and moved back to the Northwest to be close to family in lower British Columbia.

They built their 3,200-square-foot house on an acre and a half on the west side of Birch Point in 2008 and moved in the following year. The house, carport and driveway were situated to preserve as many of the firs and cedars as possible.

“We really wanted the house to fit in the place that we put it,” the co-owner says.

The two-story house has three bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms, with two guest bedrooms and a guest bathroom upstairs. Features include interior wood trim, exposed timbers, a polished concrete floor with radiant propane heating, and plenty of windows. The kitchen has a large nook with a table that slides out to accommodate company.

“We wanted every room to be comfortable and to feel cozy,” the co-owner says. “It’s a home, not a house.”

They can even enjoy the “outdoor room” when the weather isn’t so cozy. Insulated sliding doors can close off the room from the rest of the house.

People in the “outside room” can enjoy the fresh air and views while staying warm with a wood stove and the radiant heat in the floor. That way, they can be close to the outdoors, while staying inside, nearly year-round.

“We wanted the elements of the outside to be reflected inside,” the co-owner says. “We have lived here for five years and every day we say, ‘We don’t how we got this so right.’”