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A Vacation Home as Minimal as a Gallery

While raising their daughter on rugged Orcas Island, Stacey Coleman and Shelley Kimball gave her treasure maps, rusty locks and eye patches to play with. “We more or less raised her like a pirate,” Mr. Coleman said.

“In the best sense,” he clarified. “There was no pillaging or plundering.”

Rather, Mr. Coleman, 62, and Ms. Kimball, 64, who ran a restaurant and store on the island in the northwest corner of Washington, concocted elaborate outdoor treasure hunts amid farm fields and forest for their daughter, Theodora Kimball Coleman, and her friends.

But after she left for college in 2004, the parents found themselves craving a more urban adventure.

They moved to Pasadena, Calif., in 2007, opened a new store and called it Gold Bug, after an Edgar Allan Poe story about buried treasure. Advertised as a “contemporary cabinet of curiosities,” the store resembles an outré natural history museum with artist-made products like armored copper lamps standing on brass octopus tentacles and hawk’s feet; bird and snake specimens mounted in frames as art; and rings cradling large chunks of rock crystal and pyrite.

The retail operation took off, and their daughter, now 31, eventually joined the family business. But after a few years, Mr. Coleman and Ms. Kimball heard the killer-whale call of home. “We decided that Orcas was probably where we’d end up,” in retirement, Mr. Coleman said. “So we started to look around for another piece of property.”

In 2013, they bought a steep 3.5-acre lot for $135,000, with wetlands on one side and views of the water and distant Olympic Mountains on the other, and commissioned the Seattle-based architecture firm Heliotrope to design a house.

“They said, ‘When we walk in and drop our bags and look around, we want to feel like we’re in a modern art gallery,’” said Joseph Herrin, a principal at Heliotrope who has a cabin on the island. “That came before how many bedrooms and bathrooms.”

“Minimalism is really important to us,” Ms. Kimball said. “We have a large collection of art, which we like to be able to change and move around to appreciate.”

In response, Mr. Herrin’s firm designed a low-slung, high-contrast 1,600-square-foot box clad in black painted steel, with cuts for porches and windows highlighted by smooth white stucco. The architects added expanses of glass for taking in the views, balanced with enough wall space for displaying art, and kept the material palette to a minimum: polished concrete floors, Carrara marble counters, more stucco in the showers and white paint.

“There’s almost no visible hardware on anything,” Mr. Herrin said, including the custom fronts covering the Ikea cabinets in the kitchen. “We just beveled the edges,” he noted, to create integrated finger pulls.

The owners were so intent on reducing visual clutter that they were even “initially opposed to having things to hang their towels on,” Mr. Herrin said. “But we talked them into putting towel rods in the bathrooms.”

The prime view is from the open kitchen and living room. “It’s a focused, framed view,” Mr. Herrin said. “Like looking through a telescope.”

Two bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms are positioned on either side of the living room: one for the owners and the other for their daughter. A studio is separated from the living quarters by an integrated carport that doubles as an outdoor dining area in inclement weather.

“We have a large limestone table on wheels that we can just roll out when the weather is poor,” Mr. Coleman said.

Construction was completed last fall for about $850,000, and he and Ms. Kimball have since been alternating visits to the house with their daughter, ensuring that at least one family member is always in Pasadena to mind the store.

For now, Ms. Kimball said, that back-and-forth arrangement between urban and rural living is ideal. “We love art, and we love people,” she said. “So it’s nice getting a little bit of that and then a lot of nature.”

The objects recently on display in the house included a preserved blue-and-gold macaw framed by Christopher Marley, decorative wall-mounted ceramic hearts by FOS Ceramiche, multi-armed glass orbs by Andy Paiko and taxidermy beavers with crowns. Despite the owners’ desire to create a home-cum-gallery, however, nature may be winning out.

“We’re constantly looking out the windows to see what’s happening,” Mr. Coleman said, noting that deer, birds and other creatures frequently pay them visits. “It’s fun to be inside the house, but to feel like you’re outside.”

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