Yakima’s Dale and Midge Peterson moved to this area from California in 1975, so that Dale could become the head pastor of Alliance Church. With a baby girl on the way, they longed for a home of their own, but found themselves “poor as church mice.” Despite their objections, Midge’s father, a general contractor in Spokane, kept telling them to at least look for a lot on which to build.
“One day while I was driving around Yakima,” Dale remembered, “I found a paved street with no houses.” Urged on by his father-in-law, Dale found the property owner’s address and boldly knocked on his door. The gentleman asked him to come back in two weeks. Miraculously, at the second meeting, the property owner allowed the young couple to make monthly payments on the property — exactly the same amount of a car loan they had just paid off.
Two years later, after Dale worked alongside his father-in-law, they pounded the last nail in the family’s 1,360-square-foot, California Craftsman house. Their cozy dwelling stands two stories tall, featuring two baths and two bedrooms — perfect for the small family. But after two more babies arrived (another girl and a boy), their little home was bursting its seams. They remodeled in 1986, adding a bedroom and a family room, and revamped the kitchen. Dale honed his carpentry skills by building a set of sleek maple Shaker cabinets for the kitchen. “I have loved working with my hands since my youth,” he explained.
Rarely do people experience living in their “dream house.” But in the Peterson’s case, their self-built and remodeled abode seems to fit their personalities and lifestyle perfectly. The open-concept main floor was built well before the design trend became popular. As a pastoral couple, Dale and Midge, now 64 and 61, have easily entertained up to 80 people at a time in the living room/ kitchen. The 18-foot ceiling, beamed mantel and tall corner view windows remind one more of a charming mountain lodge than an address in southwest Yakima.
The couple has always appreciated antiques, and can be found frequently on the estate and yard sale circuit; Dale credits his Scottish heritage for his ability to bargain. But it was Midge who claimed their most interesting — and incredible — yard sale purchase.
At an estate sale on Scenic Drive, Midge ran across a pottery mask of a young woman with dead flowers still stuck inside the mask. She instantly recognized the piece as one made by her cousin, noted potter Katherine Straub out of Arizona. The person running the estate sale said the piece wasn’t signed — and that day everything was 50 percent off. Midge bought the mask. Although it took some searching, after Midge removed the dead flowers, she found her cousin’s signature. She had managed to pick up artwork worth hundreds of dollars — and a family heirloom — for less than $20.
Dale loves to refinish old furniture, and many beautifully-restored antiques stand out amidst their more modern furnishings. An example of Dale’s talent can be found in the couple’s two 1930s ribbon maple bow-fronted dressers, which gleam like new upstairs in the master bathroom.
Today the couple enjoys retirement, which allows more time for Dale to refinish and indulge his new obsession, repurposing old household objects. Before retiring, Dale became fascinated by vintage household items and began building one-of-a-kind birdhouses with old wood, hardware and weathered metals. He gives many forgotten pieces a modern twist by repurposing them into decorative pieces. The round, copper coffee table in the living room was made from a 1912 Easy Washing Machine that the couple found in Newport, Idaho. In another room, what looks like an abstract painting on the wall is a piece of old galvanized metal, found in a burn pile near a barn.
Dale also has a fascination for vintage machines. He transformed one of his prize finds, an Ediphone created by Thomas Edison for dictation, into a lamp. Currently he is taking the inner workings of an old washer and creating a chandelier from its parts.
“Things used to be made so well,” Dale said. “The idea of repurposing is something I’ve always done. I love old things.”
Midge also admires antiques, and has spent years searching for pieces of green TECO pottery made by her great grandfather’s American Terra Cotta Tile and Ceramic company, circa 1900, outside of Chicago. The Art Deco “TECO Green” glazed pottery pieces have become very valuable and rare. “I’m still looking for a piece of TECO pottery,” Midge said, undaunted. She is always on the lookout for the real thing, but also collects a similar pottery that she displays on a plate rail in her dining room.
With each passing garage or estate sale, their collecting hobby has outgrown the house. Thinking toward retirement, the couple embarked on a third building project in 2000. “We rolled the garage back and converted it to a studio,” Dale explained. “Then we built a new garage/shop.” An accomplished artist as well, Dale’s studio is filled with antique machines as well as his watercolor paintings. The new garage has room for cars and an attached, well-equipped woodworking shop. He has amassed a remarkable array of vintage light plates, tools and all matter of old hardware, meticulously stored in myriad drawers and displayed in perfect symmetry on the shop’s walls.
“Dale spends 30 hours a week in his shop and acquiring materials for his many repurposing projects,” Midge explained. While Dale creates, Midge’s daily ritual revolves around their multi-generational family, home and garden — and, of course, accompanying Dale on his ongoing quest to find the perfect object to repurpose.