Graham Kerr isn’t downsizing, he’s actualizing. There’s a difference: Kerr already lives by the notion that we should stop purchasing new things. Instead, give away things we don’t need anymore. It’s an act he’s coined “out-doldrum,” taking an active role in revitalizing your sense of purpose and life by unencumbering it with excess materials. It’s safe to say he’s comfortable giving away earthly possessions, but Kerr is still working on discovering himself and how to contribute more meaningfully to society. Taking his new mission seriously, Kerr is selling his incredible home, the Nonsuch Cottage, and downsizing to a smaller dwelling.
Kerr is best known for his television cooking show, The Galloping Gourmet. This was before we had channels devoted to cooking shows and cooking competitions, and before people became self-professed foodies. He was a pioneer who ushered in this culinary era of elaborate meals and fantastic dinner parties made accessible to the average home cook.
It’s no surprise Kerr gained a certain fame: his buoyant and welcoming personality persuades people to sit down and enjoy themselves. Yet Kerr eventually found himself distraught by his celebrity status. He shared a story of a trip he took to Sydney. Once arriving alone in his lavish hotel room he realized, physically and metaphorically, he had “arrived in a place I didn’t belong.” He likened the feeling to the reason why many celebrities often retreat from the limelight. “Celebrity is a form of suffering,” he explained. “It allows people to inflate you into more than who you are.” Kerr wanted a meaningful shift in his lifestyle, he wanted a chance to be just himself.
He settled with his wife Treena and their three children in Washington state. This is after traveling the world by boat and even declaring New Zealand one of his favorite places. The Pacific Northwest, he said, maintains a genuine saltof-the-earth mentality. “People are more pioneer-oriented here versus further south on the West Coast or even the East Coast.” The family lived in Kirkland and Camano Island before settling into their Mount Vernon boat-inspired home, the Nonsuch Cottage. The 2001 Northwest Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects Merit Award winner for design excellence, the home is based on a yacht Kerr and his wife lived on for two years.
In addition to having an exceptional view, Kerr said he was “looking for a city that doesn’t wear itself.” He explained that most major cities have a reputation, but “no one left their heart in Mount Vernon.” The city is unassuming, yet at the same time has plenty of shopping, restaurants, and activities. Then there’s the view from his home that includes a slice of Camano Island, Whidbey Island, and Anacortes as a backdrop to Skagit Valley’s earth-toned farmland squares.
Kerr enjoys seeing the tended fields from his living room windows. He relishes in the knowledge that he can visit the farmers market and stock up on food produced nearby. He wholly believes in eating regionally and, being where we are, having access to fresh produce, meats, dairy, and seafood, a cornucopia of wholesome ingredients all within a few miles. We need to take advantage of this, he says.
As a chef and avid entertainer, Kerr’s philosophy has shifted towards nourishing people wholly. He wants to provide guests with not only delicious food, but a meaningful experience in the short term and long term, affecting the body, mind, and spirit all in one event. He wants to “nourish and delight guests with more than what’s on the plate.” For example, he prepared a smoked salmon bisque with sweet corn and butternut squash, all local ingredients, for an event in February. He also gave away copies of his book on entertaining, “The Gathering Place.” It’s a form of entertaining that Kerr has been hard at work trying to accomplish. It’s not an easy feat to prepare a meal for a crowd, let alone leave your guests satisfied in mind and spirit as well. Since Kerr entertains at home quite often, he designed a home catered to entertaining with copious indoor seating and generous decks for outdoor parties.
Kerr’s boat-inspired home hit the market on March 1. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, it’s smartly designed in an effort to make every square inch count. From spending many months on boats, Kerr values every square inch versus every square foot. Features include curved corners, plenty of storage, and expansive windows which allow plenty of natural light. The layout is designed with a focus to place windows where there are views, storage where there aren’t views. It’s such a simple, rational concept that many modern homes overlook.
In addition to a space saving spiral staircase, there’s a breakfast nook with wrap-around bench seating and a table that rolls down into the floor to become a coffee table. However, just because the home makes efficient use of its rooms, doesn’t mean it’s cramped. Ever the romantic, Kerr said a home must have “space to dance.” He liked the idea of leading Treena in an impromptu twirl in any room. The home is an ideal mesh of practicality and beauty, traits clearly reflected in the home’s designer. It’s this balance of efficiency and love of life that make Kerr such a wonderful inspiration and affable conversationalist.
So what’s next for Kerr? He is staying local, planning to move to a small beach community where he hopes, he says, to “live in a place where people don’t focus on who I was, but rather who I am.” He plans to focus on his life’s philosophy: “Live a life that shares and does less harm, is kind and respectful to other people.” Less harm, because we can’t fully control the repercussions of our actions, but to an extent we can manipulate them. For example, taking the time to recycle properly, and making ideal choices for the planet and society.
Before saying good-bye I asked Kerr if he tries to live life to the fullest. Naively I thought I knew what this sailing, cooking, intelligent, and friendly man would say, but he surprised me.
“No I don’t. I should like to feel that my cup is a quarterfull, and the day I live, it will be topped up because I will have eyes to see and ears to hear.” Kerr described his goal to live from now on with “less commitments, more experiences.” He explained that for too many years he lived according to schedules and to-dos, and missed many opportunities to connect with other humans during spontaneous and relaxed moments. He has accomplished a lot in his career and in his life, but upon reflection there were times that could’ve been lived more in the moment. That’s a goal we can all strive for in our own lives.