Work in Progress

All it took to transform this island home was attention to detail-and about 20 years of labor.

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Work in Progress

Philip Clayton-Thompson; styling by Donna Pizzi

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The first time that Jerry West Sanders saw the tiny house on Steamboat Island, Washington, she couldn't believe her eyes. "I hated it," she says. "I thought, 'I don't know if I can do this.' But I was single, with a budget, and I wanted to live on the water." To avoid bothering the property agent, she climbed through a window into the empty house to scope out the interiors. "After I crawled in, it was instantaneous," she says. The wide-open living space and views of Totten Inlet changed her mind.

To bring the home up to par with its surroundings, Jerry―a designer by trade―replaced the flat roof, remodeled the kitchen and baths, and whitewashed the wood floors. "I wanted a simple, coastal look for easy living," she says. "I like color, but I don't use it in this setting." To keep things simple, she dressed her living room furnishings in easy-to-wash white slipcovers and hung white linen or cotton draperies and shades on doorways and windows.

In the neighboring room, which serves as both Jerry's office and a dining room, she went for a more rustic look, installing Mexican tile floors instead of her standard whitewashed pine. "The room had wood walls and wood beams, so I felt like that was enough wood," Jerry says. "The tiles are earthy and warm." To connect the room with the rest of the interiors, she introduced touches of white in a painted table, corner cupboard, and chandelier.

An enclosed porch off the woodsy room continues Jerry's timeless all-white look, maximizing the views. "I used to have a little French iron bed out there, where I would sleep in the summer," Jerry says. "It's a narrow room, so I had to crawl into the bed from the foot." Now she uses the space as a retreat. "It's a quiet place away from the rest of the house," she says.

Her favorite part of the overhauled home remains the great outdoors. "If I could live outside I would," says Jerry, who takes full advantage of three decks: one off the master bedroom, one off the master bath, and another (with beach access) off the living room. Previous owners built an outdoor room at the end of the main-level deck as a windbreak. Jerry outfitted the space with a hutch, buffet, chandelier, and draperies. "It's a full-service room," she says.

Now, more than 20 years later, Jerry happily shares the little waterside home with Richard, her husband of 10 years. "At first it was very much my house, but he's grown to like it," she says with a laugh. Though Jerry continues to work on the house, its finest features haven't lost any appeal. "I like that you can walk around freely and see the water from every angle," she says. "It's not some million-dollar home, but I love it."

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