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Japanese House With a Japanese View

Every estate sale is a window into people, families, and the landscape of living. When attending these events I invariably analyze the details that are left in the four walls of the house. I don’t mean to be disrespectful. It is in my nature to profile people and places. People are much the same wherever you go. It is an advantage to me to keep my eyes open. This weekend provided a richer field than usual to wander in search of unusual artifacts and meaningful moments.

There are houses, and then, there are homes of distinction. It is a privilege to walk through certain doors because they lead to subtle riches. Sequim, Washington rests in a valley with it’s back to a towering range of mountains. North of the town is a much less imposing ridge running like a barrier to the shore line of the Straits of Juan De Fuca. Last Saturday found me at one of the best organized and best run estate sales I have been to in a long time. It was at a house on Medsker Road which runs along the ridge. The first thing that struck me about the house was the tiled roof. Covered in authentic Japanese ceramic tiles it is an eye catching structure with classic Japanese lines. The glazing is a brilliant blue accentuated by stark white walls.

The sale began in the three car garage where Swallow’s Nest Antique & Estate Sales was setup with cashier and will call tables. The garage had an array of tools and utilitarian household items. Once inside the house I was struck by the tasteful blending of Japanese and western design. Everywhere you looked was clear straight grained wood The rooms were spacious with an open plan that flowed beautifully from one end of the structure to the other. Furnishings throughout were Asian in style with good use of built-in features. A central element of the house is a Japanese tea room complete with shoji screens and tatami mats. When talking to the estate sale staff members I found out that the owners imported craftsmen from Japan to build this particular part of the house.

The merchandise was laid out in various rooms in an organized and uncluttered way which befitted the style of the abode. Prices were quite reasonable and I came away with some interesting smalls and several books that appealed to me personally. As I wandered through the building I was taken by the purposeful harmony of design. This became all the more evident when I looked out through the large windows that open up the south side of the house to a striking view. At that point the house became a complete work of art.

Architecture is at it’s organic best when it joins it’s surroundings seamlessly. A Japanese house needs a Japanese view. The valley extended before the house with a sweeping vista painted in the varying shades of early summer green.  The town spreadout beneath the towering backbone of the Olympic mountains which supported a clear blue sky. The fields below had been recently mowed and where dotted by bales of hay in patterns that crawled in orderly rows, not quite straight, but winding in sinuous progression. The pattern had that natural but intentional, random, but carefully arranged look of Ikebana. The effect was artistically complete and deeply satisfying.

In a business that deals in the tangible manifestations of intangible concepts one may begin to value economics over aesthetics. This is understandable in hard times such as these.  I experienced it long ago as a young woodcarver/sculptor watching his customer base swirl away in a recessionary spiral.  Beauty is not reserved for the fortunate. Even while casting about with dollar signs in my eyes I occasionally come upon a transcendent moment. Payday is any day that you are lifted up to a finer place than first hoped for.

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