Learning and Teaching Sustainability

Introducing Gingerhawk Mountain Retreat – The Plan

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Hey friends. You may have seen on Instagram that we've been sharing some sneak peaks and photos from the property we purchased in Washington State earlier this year, but today we're going to be revealing a whole lot more! We're going to show you how we plan to transform this space into a beautiful mountain retreat. The goal is to rent it out for small retreats and family gatherings. To recap, at the beginning of 2019, Adam and I purchased a 25-acre property in Washington State. We are keeping the exact location under wraps for security reasons, but eventually we will let you know where it is. We've decided to name our property Gingerhawk. (Gingerhawk Retreat if we're being formal, but just Gingerhawk for short.) What's in the name, you ask? Well Adam has always loved birds of prey, particularly hawks. And I jokingly call him a ginger because of his reddish-tinged hair. Anyways, Gingerhawk has a nice ring to it. It reminds me of the rusty color of a log cabin tucked into a forest of tall evergreen trees. It evokes nature, and sounds stately and intriguing. What do you think? Do you like the name?

The property currently has three rustic cabins situated on site. I say "rustic" because they are not hooked up to electricity or plumbing. There is a compost toilet in one of the cabins, and you can bring your own generator for electricity. The original owners were lawyers from Seattle who wanted to teach their kids how to live off-grid. Apparently they only stayed here a few times, the kids hated it, and they ended up selling. The next owners after that were into horseback riding, and built a little horse corral on site. They came up a few times a year, and described the property as good for "glamping". Unfortunately, the recent owners decided to sell after a divorce, and that's when Adam and I fell in love with it.

Image via NWMLS

Here's a closer look at those three cabins. The one on the left is a true log cabin with a wood-burning stove inside. The other two are basically sheds, and all three structures are connected by wood decking. It's a really cool setup, and we are pretty stoked about it.

We had been dreaming of finding a large property to build our dream retreat, and this was perfect. We love the three little cabins onsite, but want to expand so that Gingerhawk will be large enough to host small retreats and family gatherings.

Image via NWMLS

Before I go further into our plans for the property, I want to give a shout out to our amazing realtor Laurie Roseth Darrow and her husband Don of First Impressions Group. They were absolutely vital to the success of this project, and I enthusiastically recommend them to anyone looking to purchase in Washington State.

When Adam and I first began our search, we had no clue what we were in for. I'd never actually been to Washington State before, and we were looking at everything online. Adam was really the driving force behind the decision to purchase a property in Washington. He is an avid camper, fisher, and outdoorsman and had fond memories of time spent in Washington State. But I was totally on board. As a former interior designer, I was excited about the opportunity to design our dream mountain retreat.

We narrowed our online search down to about a dozen properties we wanted to see in person, and booked our first flights out to Washington. Adam reached out to a few realtors, and we settled on Laurie - best decision ever!

Our first day of hunting was kind of a bust. We had talked and dreamed about finding an "off-grid" property, but the reality of a truly "off-grid" situation was more than I had bargained for. Some of the properties had a ban on well-drilling, which meant that they might never have running water onsite. Some properties were only accessible part of year, or only via snowcat during the winter. That just didn't seem reasonable for larger groups of people to stay there comfortably. A lot of the properties we looked at were truly in the middle of nowhere, hours from the nearest airport or even cute little towns. Our goal was to make this space easily accessible, and desirable to a broad range of renters. At the end of our first day of searching, I was feeling pretty discouraged. The properties we had looked at were downright depressing, and I was starting to have doubts about purchasing in Washington State. I knew Adam would be so disappointed if I decided to call the whole thing off.

The next day, Laurie and Don suggested we expand our horizons a bit, and consider another area that we had previously ruled out. When we first saw Gingerhawk, we knew we'd found our place. It was easily accessible, but still felt spacious and remote. We loved the three cabins on site, and were excited about the opportunity to build even further. It was perfect!

Image via NWMLS

Let's take a closer look at the property. This is the view of what you see when you pull in the driveway. It's not exactly the cutest view, but it's not bad. Originally, we had wanted to relocate these cabins so we could build a "main house" front and center, and create more curb appeal when you pull into the driveway. Unfortunately, that proved to be too expensive and difficult to pull off, so instead the "main house" will be situated to the right of these little structures.

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Here's a closer look at the log cabin. It's a true log cabin, beautifully built with big thick logs. There's a charming front porch on one side, and a big deck in the back that connects to the other two cabins.

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The other two cabins are located just a few steps above the back deck of the log cabin. There is a compost toilet in the shed on the left, but we are removing that. As much as we love the idea of being totally eco-friendly and off-grid, this was just not going to work for what we envisioned. Washington State gets cold - like really really cold - for half the year, and I am not going to be freezing my butt off on a compost toilet in a tiny shed. I've travelled to Costa Rica, and had an amazing time living in some pretty rustic situations, but this is another story. This is the mountains, not the tropics. And we want Gingerhawk to be a place where families can come together, Gramma, Grampa, kids and all.

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While the property is 25-acres, we can't actually build on all of those acres. As you can see in the picture below, a lot of the property is situated on a slope. It just keeps getting steeper and steeper, with a ravine and small creek in the center. There is actually only a relatively small area of a few acres where we can build. Originally, in our fantasies we had big dreams - we imagined multiple buildings, a big house with a greenhouse, a yoga studio, and an art barn, etc. But all of that isn't really possible financially, or from a practical building aspect.

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Ultimately, we decided that we are going to build two new structures on the property: a three-bedroom "main house", and a small bath house to serve the three little cabins.

We did a little hunting online for ideas, and came up with a basic floor plan we liked. I drew up the conceptual floor plan in AutoCad using my interior designer skills. Our main house would have three bedrooms, with a large, open great room. We envisioned one of those chalet-style pitched roofs that are so typical in a mountain home, with a little loft room above. The basic floor plan we came up was pretty simple, nothing crazy modern or avant-garde, but a classic mountain house plan. We didn't really know how to incorporate a staircase into the space, and we needed an architect to create a workable set of construction drawings with a lot more detail for construction.

We worked with Montgomery Building Design LLC, and they came up with a solid set of plans for us. I am very happy with the plans they designed for us, and our contractor Thad recommended them because they have experience building and know how to put together a practical set of drawings. Still, they weren't the best communicators, and we felt the whole package was rather expensive and took a long time given our clear cut goals and timeline. In my opinion, we were super easy clients. We handed them a conceptual design, and basically had no changes to the drawings they sent us. The only thing we requested was that the garage be angled a bit to create more of a hug when you approach the structure. Having worked as an interior designer, I know that the design process can often be much more complicated than that, with tons of back and forth and big changes. In total we spent about $10,500 for the architectural plans, and $4000 for the engineering for a total of just over $14,500 for architecture and engineering of the main house and bath house. This is the conceptual plan we sketched up:

Gingerhawk Floor Plan

And this is the final plan that the architects came up with. There is good size entry when you walk in because we will need lots of room to store hats and coats and boots. A staircase leads to the open loft above. The great room will have a stone fireplace and double-height ceilings. The house is basically one level (with a loft), and all three of the bedrooms are on the first floor. The master bedroom has a big bathroom and walk-in closet. We had plans for another fireplace here, but may have to scrap it for budget reasons. The guest rooms are on the other side of the house, with a laundry/utility room for cleaning supplies, etc. A short breezeway connects the house to a garage on the right.

Architectural Plan by Montgomery Building Design LLC
Architectural Plan by Montgomery Building Design LLC

And voila! Here is the plan in 3D rendering. Pretty cool, right? It will look even nicer in real life - the materials look a bit flat and computer-y in the rendering. We're thinking of doing a blue-grey paint color on the exterior with a bit of stone accent on the lower portion of the wall.

Main House Rendering by Montgomery Building Design LLC
Main House Rendering by Montgomery Building Design LLC

And the icing on the cake is the bathhouse! This will serve as a bathroom for the three little cabins on the property. We decided a sauna is a must to make this a cozy place to stay during the long cold winters. We feel that the bath house will really elevate the space, and make it feel like a true retreat as opposed to just a nice house on some land.

Bath House 0 Floor Plan

The architects took our plan and really fleshed it out. They added a little breezeway which will help keep the cold out, and will also serve as a good landing place for coats and boots, etc. We're also hoping to have a little deck on the back, but we'll see if we can squeeze it into the budget.

Architectural Plan by Montgomery Building Design LLC
Architectural Plan by Montgomery Building Design LLC

The bath house renderings. Pretty cute!

Bath House Rendering by Montgomery Building Design LLC
Bath House Rendering by Montgomery Building Design LLC
Bath House Rendering by Montgomery Building Design LLC
Bath House Rendering by Montgomery Building Design LLC

So there you have it. Those are our big plans for Gingerhawk. Maybe in the future we'll look into adding more, but that's what we have planned for now. We're hoping the bath house will be complete before the end of the year, and the main house should be done next spring. We've already begun construction, and things are moving along nicely. Stay tuned for a construction progress update soon!

Let us know what you think. In addition to enjoying Gingerhawk with our own family, our goal is to rent this space for small retreats and family gatherings. Eventually we'd love to add a lovely garden and an area to practice yoga. What are some must-haves in your dream vacation home?

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About the author: Laura Weatherbee
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