Whatcom Magazine

Whatcom Homes: Modest 1954 home in Broadway in Bellingham remodeled into bright, efficient retirement house

The location of the house fit what Hank Kastner and Karen Kucker had in mind — it’s on Broadway, in Cornwall Park neighborhood and close to Fountain business district.

“It was right in the middle of the near-town location we were looking for,” Kastner says.

The house’s dimensions were fine too; at just over 1,400 square feet it was a comfortable downsize for the retired couple.

But the interior was cramped, with hallways and corners that cut into useful living space. So Kastner and Kucker remained renters while the house underwent a nearly five-month overhaul that opened up the layout, made the house more energy efficient, and refinished all of the surfaces. They moved into their bright, refurbished home a year ago.

“I feel pretty good that we accomplished that with a modest 1954 house, instead of building a new house,” Kastner says.

After the remodel, the three-bedroom, single-story house has a new entry and mudroom, vaulted ceilings, more light for the updated kitchen, and cabinets made from Douglas fir reclaimed from the old Towner Press building in downtown Bellingham.

Kastner had heard about the Community Energy Challenge, a local program that helps homeowners, businesses and contractors save money and resources through energy efficiency. So during the remodel, the house was insulated and air-sealed to prevent leaks, and was given high-performance windows. New landscaping emphasizes native plants and low water consumption, while the gas furnace was removed, replaced by a heat pump powered by electricity from new solar panels on the roof. Hot water is supplied by an on-demand natural gas heater already in place.

“That’s the only gas we use in the house,” Kastner says, “and it’s a bare pittance.”

The kitchen cabinets are made from salvaged wood, with stains from old iron nails still visible. The main kitchen counter was made from a maple tree salvaged from the Lake Samish area.

The southeast-facing living room is more inviting, with a higher ceiling and two skylights. Fir paneling on the ceiling came from wood salvaged from old timber cuts.

“During the day it’s quite nice, between the natural light and the softness of the fir ceiling,” Kastner says. “It was a typical and modest 1954 kind of house. Now it fits us perfectly.”