Lake Chelan Love Nest
Small Space Means Amour
by Jenny Lynn Zappala, Photography by Dane Meyer: 425 Magazine, Seattle
Living in Woodinville’s Hollywood Hill neighborhood, Heidi and Jeffrey Soehren had it all – high-powered jobs, fast-paced lives and a house, one of three that they built there. But ever since their first trip to Minneapolis Beach about 20 years ago, they’d dreamed of slowing down.
It’s not so much downsizing as simplifying, said Heidi Soehren.
“On the west side, we get so busy with work, we barely have time to make friends with our neighbors,” she said. “That’s not true at Lake Chelan. It’s a much slower pace here. You make friends with your neighbors. … It’s a cool community.”
Five years ago, the couple bought an 1,800-square-foot house on the shores of Lake Chelan. With a great room, a master bedroom, a guest bedroom/exercise room and an office, the land-bound house “wasn’t very exciting,” she said.
The real jewel: a 1966 cabana on the lake. Heidi, an interior designer, and Jeffrey, an architect, bought the cabana for its location, remodeling potential and above-the-water lifestyle. Here, they awaken to the calls of loons, black-and-white aquatic birds. Fish splash below, and eagles fly above. Friends boat, sail or swim by to visit. Power boats or sailing boats, like the couple’s 17-foot-long sailboat, a Hunter 17, can be launched from the deck. Feeling and hearing the cabana rock during a storm is part of the aesthetic, said Heidi Soehren.
“Everything is here and within reach. In the summer, we can swim, boat, sail, entertain friends, and I can draw, paint, read and cook great dinners for people I love!” she said. “In the winter, we can snuggle down and watch movies, listen to music, work on our portable computers and listen to the soothing waves below us.”
This 500-square-foot cabana, plus loft and surrounding deck, proves it’s possible to pack big living into a small space. But this is a new package, from ceiling to floor tiles — on the inside. The couple decided to create a classic cabin with modern features that would feel spacious for 6-foot-tall Jeffrey. John Mack of Mack’s Carpentry and Tile accepted the challenge. Starting in 2003, workers pulled everything out, including two bedrooms, the “half-baked” kitchen, an old loft and two layers of carpet, while guide wires held the cabana exterior together.
Architect Jeffrey and interior designer Heidi addressed the design challenge. Now, the grand room works overtime for cooking, dining, entertaining and living. A dining table on casters and stackable aluminum chairs can be moved or stored as needed. Inside, cedar-siding walls with a rough finish, hand-hewn logs and dark-stained floorboards invoke memories of rustic seashore cabins. Replacing the old wooden ladder, a metal spiral staircase offers better access to the bedroom loft and its king-size bed.
To conserve space in the kitchen, cabinets primarily are set against one wall and built around water systems. Matching appliances and white cabinets reduce visual clutter. To bring the aquatic ambiance they love indoors, the couple picked two Kohler Vapour Blue kitchen sinks and kitchen tiles that look like water flowing over beach sand. In the bathroom, beach glass tiles and green slate shower walls continue the theme. The peekaboo spyglasses in the floor are a favorite. The couple drilled out old plumbing holes and filled them with glass so you can see fish swim under the cabana.
The remodel design accounted for the winter temperatures — sometimes as low as 12 degrees — and the lake’s changing water levels. Because a dam controls Lake Chelan’s water levels, the house sits above 14 feet of water in the summer and nothing but sandy beach in the winter. So the house’s pipes are insulated and well-protected. People stay warm now, too. The bathroom floor is warm and made of white pebbles. On the deck, a sauna and a fire pit keep the Soehrens toasty.
All the more reason this couple loves to share this getaway with family, friends, guests and colleagues. Heidi and Jeffrey Soehren find inspiration here for their joint business, Soehren Design and Development. The cabana is the official “think tank” for Chelan Airways, a charter float plane service serving Chelan and the North Cascades. Jeffrey Soehren is Chelan Airways’ president. After hours, it’s the place to party or just relax.
Heidi said, “Our children know they have come truly home when they have their cabana weekends.”
The Soehrens have tentative plans to build their “final, cool but small” house on land near the cabana and retire there, she said. But for now, the cabana is their permanent getaway.
The cabana “brings my husband and I closer together because we can be there by ourselves. It is a love nest. It’s a love nest on the water.”
Jenny Lynn Zappala is a writer who lives in Kirkland.