The smoke alarm never sounded. One minute Cynthia Allen was working on her laptop; the next, smoke was rising into the room. A faulty light fixture in the basement below turned Allen’s quiet day of work into panic, loss and more than a year of displacement and decision-making.
That day in November 2016, when Allen ran downstairs to find her basement engulfed in flames, the Hansville resident had one thought: to save Zoe, her beloved golden retriever. Racing back upstairs to the main level, she led the elderly dog to safety. It was an act of love that earned Allen a stay in the hospital for smoke inhalation.
“It was almost a complete loss,” Allen says. “Nearly everything that didn’t burn was destroyed by smoke and water.”
Allen lost a lifetime of material memories that day. Photos, furniture, art — all were causalities of the fire. What survived had a putrid stench. Surveying the ruin of her self-described sanctuary, Allen struggled for perspective.
“Intellectually, I know I have a lot to be grateful for in my life,” she says, “but emotionally, it was overwhelming.”
In the days that followed, Allen’s gratitude extended in many directions. She was grateful for homeowner’s insurance. She was grateful for friends, such as those who connected her with a waterfront cabin to rent while her home was being rebuilt.
She was grateful for her family, in particular a very grounded daughter who — seeing her mother’s distress — acted as project manager for the reconstruction. Also, she was grateful for neighbors who pitched in. Fortunately for Allen, one of these neighbors is Dave Godbolt, owner of Sentinel Construction.
Godbolt took on the job of restoring the fire-gutted house. In addition to serving as Allen’s contractor, Godbolt helped the traumatized homeowner navigate a nonstop succession of details and decisions on a renovation for which she was wholly unprepared.
“For some people, remodeling is fun,” Allen says. “But the fire made it hard. I’m grateful to Dave for taking pride in the project and using his talents to bring back my house.”
Allen also credits Godbolt for keeping her budget in mind. Some details from the original house, such as knotty pine ceilings, just weren’t in the budget. Others, such as a heat pump to replace the former baseboard heaters, weren’t covered by the insurance settlement. Allen is glad she took Godbolt’s advice to pay the extra cost of a heat pump.
“I didn’t realize how cold the old house was,” she says.
Goldbolt also insulated everything. The fire was an opportunity to make design updates to the 1970-era home, including reconfiguring the kitchen and moving the view deck from the front of the house to the side. The dining area chandelier was replaced by bullet lights and a new chimney was installed.
Cozy and Modern
The fire-driven remodel changed Allen’s “funky beach house” into a cozy, modern residence. Encompassing 900 square feet on the main floor and the same on the basement level, the home makes good use of every inch. The high ceilings of the great room prow and the large view windows were repeated, as was the woodstove.
The beachy-pale laminate flooring that overlies the great room and the handsome alder cabinetry and granite slab counters of the kitchen are updated versions of the original décor. When it came to window coverings to provide privacy from a busy road — while enjoying the Puget Sound view beyond — Allen chose top-down, Hunter Douglas honeycomb shades at the recommendation of Michelle Coddington of Eagle Harbor Window Coverings of Bainbridge Island. Above the woodstove, a slab of rough-milled fir given to Allen as a gift from a friend makes an organic mantle.
With the help of professional fire and restoration services, Allen was able to save a few of her original furnishings. Her late husband, a hobbyist carpenter, built several of the surviving pieces. A family heirloom, a decorative cherry end table from the parlor of her grandparents’ farm, has been beautifully restored. Another piece, a 100-year-old table of quarter-sawn oak, was also brought back from the brink.
When it came to the color scheme, the most important heirloom to be revived was Allen’s mother’s rug, an Oriental type of soft blues and tans. This was the inspiration from which Allen derived her new home’s palette of airy blues and grays.
Walls are white with a whisper of blue. Furniture is blue and tan. Under the dining table, a second area rug is patterned in robin’s egg blue. Padded, swivel bar stools at the kitchen island were picked for comfort.
Allen searched carefully for each piece. In addition to creating a specific look, she demanded good value. She found what she was looking for at HomeGoods, Dania Furniture, Target and Interiors of Edmonds.
There was one other consideration. Allen wanted the option of aging in place in her new home. With that in mind, Godbolt worked with her to design the basement as a self-contained apartment. Since Allen has no immediate plans to move to the downstairs unit, she’s considering using it as a rental.
Most homeowners have the luxury of planning a remodel months or even years in advance. However, in the wake of catastrophe, every part of the process becomes that much more urgent. For Allen, the road to her new home has been a bittersweet journey. Her keepsakes are gone, but the home that rose from the ashes is her sanctuary once again.