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May 5, 2015

Life Is Good On the River

Story by Doug Barker | Photos by Bonell Photography

Brent and Pam Bryan grew up in Aberdeen and thought they knew every nook and cranny in the area. Three years ago they found a new one – a two­acre spot on the Chehalis River, just 15 minutes from work ­and they moved in.

The sweeping view up and down a placid stretch of the Chehalis would sell most people on the house. Factor in a cook­friendly kitchen/dining area that’s perfect for the entertaining they do, a high­ceiling living room that opens onto a long deck overlooking the river and it’s easy to see why they’re so enamored.

The home is in Central Park, just west of downtown Aberdeen, where Brent owns Bryan & Son Jewelers and Pam works as a dental assistant. Originally built for a doctor who has since left the area, the three­bedroom home is large (about 3,200 square feet) but with a well-­thought floor plan that gives it an intimate feel.

The center of the home, literally and functionally, is the kitchen/dining area. It was designed for cooks, especially cooks who do it themselves and entertain. The kitchen is open to the living room, which is open to the deck traversing the length of the house. The effect means no one –whether in the dining or main living area is ever very far removed from the view.

A prep island in the middle of the kitchen is surrounded by granite countertops and cherry­wood cabinets. A half dozen high, leather­covered bar stools on the living room side of the countertop face into the kitchen. The Bryans love to entertain. Since the party inevitably ends up in or near the kitchen, this keeps everybody connected.

Double doors from the dining room open onto the long, covered deck. The first thing one sees when moving out to the deck is a stone­topped table inset with gas­fire logs. The tabletop is edged with plenty of room so one could eat around the fire, or just pass the evening in conversation. If it isn’t a real fire for you unless it pops and makes your clothes smell like smoke, you can walk to the end of the deck and down a short stone path to a fire pit on a little point overlooking the river. Brent laid the stones himself. Chances are good you will share the experience with bald eagles ­­ and maybe a train. The tracks run between the river and the house and trains rumble by at jogging speed several times a day. That might have scared off other buyers, but the Bryans like it. “At parties, people will say, ‘When is the train coming?’” Brent said.

They weren’t looking for a home, when they found this one. “Like everything in life, it was timing. As in health, love, everything you can name, it’s a matter of timing,” said Brent. “I just fell into it and it was golden. I bought the house when I walked through the door. There’s not one thing I’ve found about the house that I don’t like.” The master bedroom has windows overlooking the river and a door onto the deck. “Waking up every morning to the river is just wonderful,” says Pam. “It’s surreal. Every day I just pinch myself.”

In summer, the fire pit is often the first stop for the Bryans when they come home at the end of the day. In the winter, some nights they can sit on the deck, under cover, and a sweater is enough to stay comfortable around the gas fire.

With the exception of pruning, something neither of them is fond of, they do everything around the house – inside and out ­­ themselves. With two acres and a lot of landscaping there is a lot of lawn to mow and plenty to do. A short distance from the front door is a koi pond and landscaping and accents that mimic a Japanese garden.

Except for the furnishings, the home is mostly as it was when they purchased it. Rich woodwork, kept shining by Pam, is evident everywhere and Brazilian walnut floors cast a hue of gold and brown, with tinges of red that complement a brown leather couch and rich­ looking wool rugs. Most of the furnishings were selected to fit the home and purchased at Kaufman Scroggs Home Furnishings in Aberdeen, said Pam.

Wood gets special treatment in the Bryan home. Brent is a woodworker and has a shop in the man cave he’s built in the barn. The walls of the shop are lined in wood he salvaged from a weathered barn near Prosser in Eastern Washington. The meticulous care he’s taken on the work benches he’s built in the shop are a giveaway to his jeweler’s eye for detail.

Outside the shop are neat stacks of lumber from old­growth fir and cedar he’s purchased from someone who salvaged the wood from the beach. He’s not yet sure what he’ll use it for, but the wood was too beautiful to pass up and he had it milled into thick slabs.

Inside, in addition to the vintage wood planes and tools, vintage garage calendars and other guy stuff is a collection of Honda motorbikes from the ‘60s and ‘70s, including a 1974 CL 200 that looks like it just left the showroom.

Brent also has a study just off the living room. Windows line one side offering a sweeping view of the river. The room shares a gas fireplace with the living room, so the flames can be seen through glass doors on either side. The study has a collection of things gathered here and there – an ivory tusk, a telescope and a nickel­plated cash register from an old barbershop, for instance.

And there’s a small taxidermy alligator head displaying a formidable teeth, including one gold one in front. Considering the Bryans didn’t build the home for themselves, the tooth is a little like the house, it could hardly be a better fit.

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