Smoke rising from the chimney of the outdoor fireplace is often an unspoken invitation.
“The big signal is when we light a fire in the afternoon and smoke curls out of the chimney — the neighbors usually know,” Donna McKamey says. “And pretty soon, one household or another rounds the corner with a bottle of wine, and they say ‘Hey, are you guys out by the fire?’ People just love it.”
McKamey and Brent Stinnet have an enviable view overlooking the bay from two sides of their Poulsbo home near Liberty Bay Marina. Plenty of homes have water views, but this house has a comfortable outdoor space that’s as splendid as the vista.
It’s like being outdoors without going outside. Even on chilly, rainy days the atmosphere is warm and inviting by the big stone fireplace behind their house, where guests gather beneath a vaulted ceiling and next to a wall of windows facing the bay.
Their house previously had a conventional wood deck out back, which was fine for sitting or dining outside — on those infrequent days when the weather’s ideal.
“It was totally exposed, and on windy days or rainy days, it was unusable,” Stinnet says.
So they considered ways to enhance the space by adding an outdoor fireplace, and covering the deck and enclosing it on one side.
“It would still be like an outdoor area but at the same time be protected from the elements,” he explains.
That concept morphed into putting up a wall on the water-facing side of the deck, “with as much glass as we can so we still have a view, and put in windows that can open all the way so on nice days, we get the fresh air in,” he adds.
The couple who sold them the house two years ago are now next-door neighbors; they built a new house in the small enclave off Fjord Drive. McKamey and Stinnet got to know the neighbors’ builder, Justin Ingalls of Kitsap Trident Homes, so they took the idea for transforming their deck into an outdoor haven to him.
“It turned out to be exactly the way we envisioned it,” McKamey says. “Essentially our goal from the get-go was to be able to enjoy our deck year-round, because the view’s fantastic. We wanted to make it more user-friendly for the Northwest weather.”
Safe to say, the addition built on their house surpassed the user-friendly standard. A stamped-cement surface that looks like flagstone or slate replaced the wood deck; the wall of casement windows on the windward side extends from the back of the house to one corner of the imposing stone fireplace; and the interior of the sheltered space is itself a showpiece.
Four patio tub chairs and a coffee table are closest to the fireplace but the outdoor room’s eye-catching centerpiece is the dining table and six chairs beneath a wooden chandelier.
“That table and chairs is from India; it’s an acacia wood,” McKamey says of the set they purchased at Eclectic, a home furnishings store in Silverdale.
Acacia’s durability, lustrous finish and varied shades make it a prized wood for furniture, and the table and chairs have a striking two-tone grain. The décor’s wood motif starts above with the varied shades of tongue-and-groove cedar that gives the vaulted ceiling an appearance of restored barnwood.
“We did lots of exploring of materials throughout the process,” Ingalls says. “Brent is really into wood… He loves the true wood tones, so we were trying to capture that in whatever capacity we could, while keeping the continuity of the exterior of the home the same.”
Stinnet, whose affinity for wood comes from his career in the timber industry, says the unique wooden chandelier with eight lights that look like candle jars was ordered online from a shop in Montreal.
“We bought (the dining set) to fit the new space, and the chandelier really worked well with it,” McKamey says. “The light reflects off the ceiling, and it’s really spectacular.”
To enclose one side of the space, the couple originally considered installing a large retractable screen. But on a visit to Olympic National Park, they found their model for a wall of windows that preserves the view while keeping the weather at bay.
“We went out to Lake Crescent Lodge and saw their sunroom and saw how the windows were constructed, and that was like an inspiration to us to get casement windows that we could open in the summer,” McKamey says.
The windows also are tinted, Ingalls explains, to temper the evening sunlight so no blinds are needed.
The wood-burning fireplace that anchors the covered space has fiberglass columns on either side that enclose posts supporting the roof beams.
The stonework was done by Winslow Masonry, using stone from Montana. The fireplace has a 42-inch firebox and a gas starter, and the masonry is Cabinet Gorge natural, thin-stone veneer and Pennsylvania Blue Stone on the hearth, caps and all flat areas.
Ingalls notes that Stinnet and McKamey supplied and prepped the live-edge maple mantel. The fireplace also has a swing arm installed within the firebox for cooking over an open flame.
The outdoor space is open on the side opposite the windows, while the fireplace fills most of the space and essentially functions as a wall on its side of the enclosure.
One other feature of the design is a slight gap between the bottom of the wall of windows and the floor.
“What we wanted was to get some ventilation, and we also wanted to be able to clean it easily,” Stinnet says.
So the bottom of the wall is level rather than conforming to the slight incline of the concrete floor for drainage.
There’s also rope lighting that runs beneath the wall and around the perimeter of the covered and open exterior areas behind the house.
McKamey and Stinnet, who were both widowed when they met, are originally from the Pacific Northwest and thought North Kitsap would be an ideal place for them. Having their special outdoor space makes it even better.
“The thing I love most about it is that it’s just such a great gathering place,” Stinnet says. “Everybody seems to be very comfortable when you’re out there around the fireplace; it seems to create an atmosphere of really nice and easy conversation among friends and family.”
There’s another amenity they provide for guests, just in case.
“We have a big basket of fleece blankets,” McKamey says, “for people who think they might be cold.”