THIS PLACE — this profound, intensely personal place, tucked between enormous evergreens on the remote edge of a rustic island — was not part of the plan.
Lisa and Dave McCammon, married parents of five, were living in Salt Lake City, sometimes in their converted warehouse loft downtown, sometimes in their high-altitude mountain cabin. Lisa, a self-taught designer and self-professed design fanatic, had collaborated on several restaurant and home projects there; their loft, in particular, attracted its own mountain of media attention.
Dave’s parents were here, two of the 850 or so residents of tiny Marrowstone Island, in the home they’d designed and built in 1987. Dave and Lisa came up frequently to help out, and initially, Lisa designed a 220-square-foot backyard guest space, “old-school, on graph paper,” she says, as “our little happy, private place.”
In January 2015, Dave’s father passed away, and by June, Dave’s mother had decided to move out of state.
“She said, ‘Here you go. The house is yours,’ ” Lisa says. “Those words changed our life forever. We sold our loft and cabin, and slowly eased into the transition full-time.”
This unplanned, life-changing transition — and all the deep emotions involved — helped establish Lisa’s home-renovating mission statement: “How does one honor the custodianship of a much-loved-yet-dated inherited home?”
The home itself was solid, she says, as were her instincts.
“The most challenging aspect of this journey has been re-imagining a well-designed, quintessential Pacific Northwest home with great bones, and a lot of blue carpet (even in the bathrooms), orange wood and fluorescent lighting,” she says. “The tough part was I couldn’t bear the thought of tearing out the basalt-rock fireplace from Mats Mats Bay, hand-picked by Dad. He sat on that hearth in his plaid flannel shirt and grandpa jeans every night, until he couldn’t. I couldn’t bear the thought of replacing the custom oak cabinets that he and Mom splurged for that were excellent quality, except they were … well, orange and dated. There were so many more things I couldn’t bear to part with.”
Some things were a little easier: “I knew I wanted to get rid of the orange fir; it had aged,” she says. “Lots of fluorescent lighting. Blue carpets, toilets, sinks — it just bonked you over the head with blue.” Also out: “the linoleum; the ceramic entry tile; and the ‘artwork,’ which was a scheme of Mickey Mouse, Jesus and teddy bears.”
Even then, she says, “I took a lot of time to look at what was working aesthetically and structurally. I took everything out. I took all the soft furnishings and tables. I needed to just look at the space and combine two households of things. It was a major editing process.”
It was a major home-renovation project.
Structurally, they replaced the original roof and added a custom, copper cupola. (“That’s kind of my signature,” Lisa says. “I applied a several-step acid wash to advance verde patina.”) They reconfigured entry closets to add a first-floor office for Dave, and installed French doors and desk-height windows to improve his water view. Other doors were repurposed; the entry one was replaced. The master bathroom was gutted and modernized. Before Dave had his new office space, they built a stand-alone building in the front yard (it’s now a fitness shed).
Aesthetically, the custom cabinets in the kitchen and upstairs en suite bathroom were customized anew, with updated hardware, drawer boxes, pulls and “a finish that took me several attempts to get right,” Lisa says. The Peachtree windows cleared the bar, after “every single piece of trim and wood” was stained and painted. The kitchen island expanded, with a new PentalQuartz countertop. Lisa rented scaffolding and faux-stained the orangey-wood great-room ceiling, and “dragged a driftwood-look finish on the beams, window trim and columns.
“There was a lot of taking things out, painting, fixing, staining and putting them back,” she says.
And then, “In came only the very carefully edited, sentimental items from two very different homes, collected over 44 years of marriage,” Lisa says. “Our treasured memories of life throughout the U.S., as well as living, working and traveling through Europe for several years.”
There’s a Soumak rug from Cappadocia, Turkey. Papier-Mache plates from Florence. Sculptures from Bellagio, Italy. Bertoia chairs from the Salt Lake City loft. Two trunks from a beloved tree at the Utah cabin, now repurposed as end tables. Chairs and farmhouse light fixtures from Dave’s company headquarters.
Their spectacular setting on Admiralty Inlet inspired a fleet of industrial marine fixtures, including an aged anchor chain as the stair handrail, and a bronze mermaid figurehead in honor of Dave’s father and his sense of humor.
“We call this Casa McCammon,” says Lisa. “Everything has a story. It’s like our life as a house.”
Over their life together, Dave says, he and Lisa have moved more than 25 times for his career. This last move, to a remote northwestern island several states removed from Dave’s business, might have been unexpected, but it also fits a broader plan: of legacies, of family and of the future.
“One of the reasons we needed to hold on to this house is that we lead a pretty nomadic life,” says Lisa. “This is the closest thing to a family homestead. Our kids would come here in the summers. Now they’re bringing their kids. I told Dave: ‘I think we need to have this be our forever home.’ So here we are.”