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Pacific Northwest | July 18, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineJuly 18, home
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GOING WITH the flow
On the Sammamish shore, work and play glide in and out
A key feature of the remodel was to create a year-round outdoor living space off the living room. French doors, open most of the year, lead out to the covered patio that is heated in cooler weather by a stone fireplace and heating units installed in the ceiling. The dock beyond is where Rowland Hanson e-mails business associates and greets neighbors.
TO UNDERSTAND Mary and Rowland Hanson is to realize that their innate spirit and sense of adventure have never veered very far from the teenage chances they took while riding the waves on the beaches of Southern California.

"We're definitely not risk-averse," notes Mary, an interior designer and co-owner of Liberty123, a home-furnishings store in Kirkland.

"I would say we've never been risk-adverse," laughs Rowland, an entrepreneur and former vice president of corporate communications for Microsoft. "We live a humorous life and do kind of crazy things, but it has all worked out."

The 32-year marriage began on the surfing beaches of Beach Boys fame. "She was body surfing, and I was board surfing," says Rowland, who whenever possible still sports beach thongs for his everyday footwear. "I decided to surf down closer to where she was, even though the waves weren't very good."
Originally designed in a Post Modern style, the home was remodeled to bring in the traditional lines and features of the "shingle-style" house that Mary Hanson had wanted all along.
Rowland and Mary Hanson greet the morning around the kitchen island in their Lake Sammamish home. Rowland, with laptop in tow, is able to work from anywhere in the house — and outside — via wireless Internet connectivity. "I am truly the definition of a virtual office," he says.
A bad day of surfing resulted in a good day of flirting. The teenagers soon married and moved into a tiny apartment in Redondo Beach, two blocks from a "really great surf spot." They both worked while Rowland attended college. Mary began to fix up their first home with affordable furniture, infusing the small space with her emerging creative verve. "We had these crates all over our apartment," remembers Rowland.

Through the next few years, the couple crisscrossed the country for graduate school and various career opportunities from Philadelphia to Lake Minnetonka in Minneapolis, then back to Redondo Beach. Each time, they chose to buy a home in a good neighborhood but in need of some serious renovation. Then Mary would work her magic. "Mary has the unique ability to see the true potential of any given project," admires Rowland. "She can walk in and say, this property calls for this, this house calls for that. She's done it in every home we've been in."

"I always have to tweak them and make them my own," she acknowledges.

And, in the case of their current, 4,700-square-foot Lake Sammamish house, she tweaked it twice.

They had moved to the Northwest in 1982 when Rowland was recruited to work for Microsoft to establish the branding strategy for a new operating system called Windows. Mary continued to follow her passion, and decided to study interior design at Bellevue Community College.
From the generously sized tub, you can either enjoy the solitude soaking in the chandelier-lit master bath or choose to watch television. The mirror over the tub has a hidden TV that is only visible when on.
Eventually, they purchased the property in Redmond, where they subdivided the plot and built a spec home on the upper part of the property. Then they went about tearing down the small 1950s house on the lot closest to the water and building a 3,800-square-foot Post Modern home, with a few traditional touches. The contemporary style served them well for many years, especially when their three daughters — Liberty, Vanessa and Corey — were teens.

"It was definitely in vogue at the time. But what I really wanted all along was a shingle-style house," Mary confesses. After the girls moved out, Rowland and Mary decided to create the home she'd dreamed of. Mary went about remodeling the house to a traditional Cape Cod style and, over the years, adding special touches — things like fern prints she found at a flea market or a grandfather clock that was owned by a merchant marine.

"I wanted it to feel like every piece has some story behind it," she says. "I think a house tells a story."
Mary added a coved ceiling in the living room to create some drama. She found the botanicals at a California flea market for $3 each, and had them framed to complement the new space. The doors to the right lead to the outdoor living space and its fireplace.
They had a choice to sell and downsize or bring the house up to the next level, Mary says in explaining how they decided to stay. "We wanted to create something at this stage of our middle years that we could enjoy. This one is classic enough that it should not feel dated 20 years from now. I knew what I wanted to do."

"They weren't novices about what they wanted," says architect Clynn Wilkinson of Architectonics-Inc. Steve Stark, of Stark Construction Inc., contracted the project. One of its key aspects was opening up the house to the outdoors. Another was making interior spaces more free-flowing, both for entertaining and for Rowland, so he could work from house to shore via his laptop and a wireless computer connection.

"I love water noise. I love having the water around me," says the former surfer. "So, I said to Mary, the one thing I really want is a work area outside where I can be next to the water. And, I wanted a fireplace outside."

In answer to that, "we created a large, covered seating area that would allow that indoor/outdoor connection," says Wilkinson. "We worked to increase the view and create a space that would let them enjoy the lake on days when the weather wasn't at its best."

In addition to the exterior traditional touches and new interior spaces, the Hansons blended in high-tech features. "I would say this house is high-tech but functional high tech," notes Rowland. "We did not build what we wouldn't use."

For watching morning news or other programming while relaxing in the tub, a TV is set behind a two-way mirror in the bathroom. Flat-panel TVs in other parts of the house tuck away when not in use. Radiant floor heating is used throughout. The sound system can be controlled inside and outside with discreetly placed speakers, including some on the dock installed in what look like rocks.

So, instead of surfing in the water these days, Rowland surfs the Internet dockside.

"That is my front porch. From very early in the morning, May through September, I'm the greeter on the lake," Rowland says. "I will be parked on my dock and do my e-mail all day. My entire office is on the dock, and I literally work from sunrise to sunset."

When you catch the wave of the future, you're sitting on top of the world.

Robin Fogel Avni is a free-lance writer specializing in lifestyle issues and trends affected by technology. Her e-mail is Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.

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