Scenic Drive is known for its dramatic views and has to be one of Yakima’s most coveted streets on which to live. In 1995, local podiatrist Don Orminski and his wife Ann discovered a 1922 farmhouse for sale on Scenic and decided to buy it.
The original owners had lived in the small house for 27 years. The husband worked in construction and only came home about once a year, leaving the wife to attend to their five daughters, who shared a bedroom on the second floor. It’s believed that the house had two other owners over the years as well.
Don and Ann realized the house would need a major remodel, and fortunately over the years Don has developed many building skills when not practicing podiatry. Ann, who is an accomplished artist, was game to help. However, taking on a residential makeover for any couple, let alone newlyweds, can be daunting task.
“I knew Don was a fanatic,” Ann said with a laugh. “Our first year of marriage and I had no social life!” Needless to say, Don taught her a multitude of building skills, including interior painting and tile installation, and also encouraged her to create an “Art Deco meets Mediterranean” design for the home’s windows.
The couple has traveled extensively and were influenced by the homes they saw in southern Italy, Spain, France and also California and Florida. Although Yakima has cold, snowy winters, this Mediterranean style perfectly suits our warm climate with heat that can stretch from May to late September. Some typical features are red terra-cotta tiled roofs, arched doorways and rough plaster exteriors. They also are known for balconies, courtyards, swimming pools and beautiful gardens, and after years of hard work, the couple’s home has it all and more.
For a full year while they lived in Selah, the couple would work on the house from 6 to 8 a.m. and again after work from 5:30 to 9 p.m. With a contractor’s license in hand, he hired Angel and Ishmael Balderas to help. One major job was cutting off the entire roof, making the project more of a rebuild than a remodel. With it uncovered they didn’t expect a major rainstorm to take down all the ceilings. At that point Don hired Lee Schoolcraft to draw up plans, and keeping the Mediterranean style in mind, the project was full-speed-ahead. They moved in when the first floor was finished and slept on a mattress, dragging their makeshift bed to another room when needed. Finally finished in 1997, the house has grown from its original 1,900 square feet to 3,300 square feet of comfortable living space.
Today, when visitors drive through their wrought iron gate to the front courtyard, they are suddenly transported to a Mediterranean oasis complete with raised rose gardens and a villa that would be right at home in the South of France. The home’s rustic curved front door leads to their beautiful living room, a space that is filled with a fascinating variety of artwork, memorabilia from their travels, and Don’s love of anything to do with cowboys. A classical fireplace mantel, and the birdseye maple floorboards are a testament to Don’s skills as a woodworker.
The couple’s open kitchen/dining room is just off the living room. During construction Don anticipated buying new cabinets. “I went to a design store and looked at the cabinets,” he said. When he discovered they cost $600 a running foot, he quickly decided to design and build his own. The result is stunning. The large kitchen has beautiful hardwood floors, creamy white cabinets, built-in stainless steel appliances and travertine countertops. The room also includes a dining area that features one of Don’s beautiful tables that he transformed from a grand piano.
The kitchen’s open staircase to the second story is another example of Don’s woodworking talents and his wife’s artistic sensibilities. While the handrail and treads are natural wood, Don created the white newel post and balusters that have a rope design.
But before we explored the second floor the couple directed us through a nearby door that leads underneath the house. It turns out that during the remodeling their workers noticed cupping of the floor and pulled up the carpet to find it wet. Angel called Don and asked if he had hit a water line? Don’s reply was, “Don’t you think I’d know?” When Don got home, they pulled up the floorboards and tested the depth of water with a T-square and watched it sink. They inserted a rake and it didn’t touch bottom. Eventually they discovered he’d found a cistern underneath the foundation. It took three days to pump out the water, and more time to remove debris. Once it dried out, the couple had an “Aha!” moment and decided to convert the hole into a wine cellar. Today shelves of wine age in the cool, 64-degree cellar — with an emergency pump just in case.
The second story has also undergone extensive remodeling. Don designed his personal office with a large work space. A bank of windows looks into Ann’s adjacent art studio, which offers plenty of room for her to sculpt and draw. Ann grew up on the East Coast and studied life drawing at the National Academy of Fine Arts in New York. She’s always honing her considerable skills and recently the couple traveled to Italy so Ann could attend a class in charcoal portraiture at the Florence Academy of Art.
Their master bedroom, also on the second floor, features a Persian rug and alderwood flooring. A large poster bed completes the space that is decorated with artwork and a mix of antique furnishings. It leads to an impressive master bathroom with a tiled bath and quartz shower. And best of all, for clothes lovers, the walk-in closet is massive. The couple loves original art and displays it throughout their home. A favorite of theirs is local artist Penn Shelton. They display one of her delightful triptychs on the wall opposite the bathroom’s double vanity.
No respectable Mediterranean style house should be without some type of water feature, and the couples’ house does not disappoint. As we return to the main floor and head out the back door, a covered outdoor dining spot makes for perfect alfresco dining. Stepping into the backyard courtyard, the refreshing lap pool with its own waterfall comes into view, along with the adjacent a fire pit and comfortable chairs perfect for cocktail hour. A profusion of beautiful blooms bursts forth from the raised gardens, and the elegant stucco Spanish-style wall with a custom iron top created by Primo Villalobos, provides privacy for this backyard oasis.
If you’re fortunate, you might have the honor of being invited into Don’s favorite space, which happens to be one of his garage bays where he continues to practice woodworking and more. Since finishing the house, Don has taken up a new hobby — making knives. These exquisite yet practical knives have become coveted gifts for friends and family.
But Don is always searching for the next challenge and Ann’s artistic eye is always on the lookout for her next subject to draw. Who knows what magical renovation might take shape in the future?