Over the past 10 years I’ve written about many large homes in Yakima. However, when I was considering what to feature in our January “Abode” section, I felt it was the time to find a smaller house that had stood the test of time in a world where newer and bigger real estate seems to have become the norm.

That determined, I instantly thought about our friends Linda and Doug Cairns, who own what I like to call, “The Perfect Cottage.” Fortunately, they happily agreed. So, here’s the story.

Linda and Doug met at Central Washington University, became engaged, got married and moved to Linda’s hometown of Yakima. After three years in a small duplex, the couple formally started scouting for a house they could afford.

However, it was not until the day they were going up Glen Drive to check out a book sale that they spotted a tiny “Home for Sale” sign. Thinking, “What could we lose?” they parked and walked up to the door and knocked.

They loved the home’s exterior features. Scalloped pieces of wood enhanced each of the roof’s peaks. (Brad Kessinger of Traditional Designs explained to me that these scallops are part of the home’s vertical fluted gables.) When the owner discovered the Cairnses were looking for a house to buy, they were immediately ushered into the living room.

Linda’s gaze scanned the space and stopped at the bookshelves that bordered the brick fireplace. For her, a woman who is always reading, it was love at first sight. That was 45 years ago and they still feel very happy in their home!

It turns out that Doug is quite the handyman. He’s worked on many projects inside and out of the house. As an example, he poured the driveway and sidewalk that leads to a large front porch, where comfortable outdoor chairs await friends who visit. He also enhanced the exterior by installing blue and white striped awnings on all the windows, giving it a true cottage feel.

Today, the living room acts as the heart of their home. The first thing they did was remove the carpets to reveal a beautiful wood floor. They also opened up what had been a dark room by removing the Venetian blinds to reveal the bay windows.

Linda and Doug enjoy antiques and have affixed an old wooden sign above the fireplace with the letters “DAMPHYNO” carved into it. The sign came from her late uncle’s boat and translates as “Damn if I know!” Needless to say, it always elicits a laugh from friends and family.

On the opposite side of the room is a vintage white wicker desk and Linda’s cherished, upright piano waiting to be played.

The master bedroom sits just off the couple’s living room. Their wooden bedstead along with a side desk and mirror-topped dresser represents the Eastlake school of antique furniture popular in the late 1800s. Linda has chosen a delightful red dotted print wallpaper that fits the furnishings perfectly.

Not one to be left out, Doug used his carpentry skills to build a window seat enhanced with a comfy red checkered cushion. Then he built his-and-her closets with storage space above. They bookend the window, which offers a delightful view of the expansive backyard, no matter the weather!

Their two daughters, Anna and Leah, are both happily married and each has a child — Chloe attends Running Start at Central Washington University and Arlo, still a baby, lives with his parents near Seattle. The family is very close and fortunately, Linda and Doug get to frequently see them when they go up to Ellensburg and over the pass to Seattle.

On the other side of the hallway is a bedroom that was once shared by Leah and Anna and is frequently used by the Cairnses’ granddaughter Chloe when she has a break from school.

The most notable thing about the bedroom is the big desk that is stacked high with books of all description. Fortunately, Linda has placed a comfortable chair a few feet away, perfect for settling in and reading a good story. The room’s walls display several pieces of beautiful art created by their children and granddaughter.

The couple’s kitchen and dining room are on the far side of the house. Not wanting to change the home’s exterior, they kept the original small kitchen intact, but Doug built a table with leaves that can be folded out to create a working space.

A doorway leads to the delightful dining room. The space fills with light from the bay window that looks out on the side yard. Over the years Linda has enhanced the room’s décor with pieces of original local paintings that the couple has collected.

At the back of the home is a staircase that leads to the basement. When they moved in the couple realized that the coal furnace was antiquated and needed to be replaced. When a modern furnace was installed, they were able to create a family/TV room next door.

The new furnace also allowed Doug to establish his own space, where he has displayed his impressive collection of musical instruments. As a side note, Linda is also musical and loves playing the upright piano in their living room.

Finally, the couple decided a few years ago that their expansive backyard needed an update. They had a deck built off the back of their house for outdoor dining with stairs that lead down to the home’s backyard. A couple of years after that, just in time for their youngest daughter’s wedding, they updated the garden with new shrubs and plants. Today it makes a wonderful retreat for summer dining.

To me, Linda and Doug represent a couple that were smart enough to realize how special this house was when they happened upon it. I’ve come to appreciate once again that “It doesn’t matter the size of a house, but the amount of love that resides inside it.”