Meet Cole & Lea Anne Gerst
Meet our friends Cole and Lea Anne Gerst, and learn how they turned an architect’s dream coast house into a cozy treehouse cabin.
How It All Started
Our friendship with Cole Gerst began nearly a decade ago when he was a featured artist in the Grovemade artist series. Today we collaborate again, putting our workspace products in a beautiful rental home that he and partner Lea Anne created on the Oregon coast.

Like all great design processes, it began with a spark. Belief in the vision carried it through, plus a little help from friends.

I was really excited to reconnect with old friends and hear about their next adventures in design.

Kindred Spirits
Cole is a product and graphic designer. He also wrote this book about Buckminster Fuller. Lea Anne is a creative studio director. Both of them are intentional about their details—the same spirit that guides every design decision here at Grovemade.
Cole and Lea Anne’s work is their art, and the Oregon Coast Modern home is one of their masterpieces. The structure and story of the house was like a muse to them, inviting them to purchase the aging work of architect Marvin Witt and give it new life.

We sort of felt like we were collaborating with the original architect.

With respect for the history and Witt’s intention in building it, they began a year-long renovation that culminated in a meeting of Beauty and Function, a piece of art that seeks peaceful coexistence with the wind and waves of the coast it calls home.
Cole and Lea Anne believe in the power of space to change how you feel. They wanted to share that belief, that feeling, with others. So the Gersts made every decision carefully, prioritizing high quality over low cost, creating a space that you’d want to come to even if it weren’t nestled next to the ocean.

“We feel that art should inspire people in different ways. We wanted our vision for this house to inspire others as well."

It was a pricey leap of faith, but as a couple they’re experienced with such moments of trust.
Trust the Inspiration
When they were living in LA and considering moving to Portland, Lea Anne trusted Cole’s inspiration to uproot. When they were boarding the plane and saw that their dream house had gone into a foreclosure auction, Cole made a bid just before putting his phone on airplane mode (they got the house! This Frank Shell Cedar Mill house).
Fast forward several years. Cole and Lea Anne were in the process of purchasing a house to renovate in Neskowin, Oregon, when Marvin Witt put his home up for sale. Cole and Lea Anne went to check it out.

Lea Anne watched Cole’s eyes fire up on seeing the home, and again, they trusted their inspiration, their intuition. Not without hesitation though! As Cole tells it:

COLE GERST: It’s funny because Lea Anne saw a sparkle in my eye when we first saw the house. I don’t remember feeling that way but she reads me well. I think it took me a few days to get the bravery to tackle such a big project, so my excitement felt subdued. Once we dove in we definitely had many moments of feeling like things were clicking.

In the end, they pulled back from their other purchase and went all-in for this one. Even though their offer wasn’t the highest, Witt accepted it, wanting artists to own the home.

Cole and Lea Anne’s leaps landed them in a sweet spot. What you see when you walk into the Oregon Coast Modern is the way the outside comes in, the way natural materials surround you and dark accents bring them into relief. The way the house invites you to come in and sit down, or adventure up the stairs, or reach out and touch the nice things all around you. Speaking to what’s essential in us: comfort, curiosity, play.
Pop quiz: Who’s the artist behind most of the artwork in the house?

Answer: Cole!
Commit to the Idea
What’s harder to see but is just as present (no, it’s not the TV, though that’s hidden too) is the spirit the Gersts put into renovating the home. The commitment to the Vision. A commitment that led them to open-minded contractor Mark McCorkle and willing architect Risa Boyer. Together the small team tackled problems like a non-code staircase and a teeny triangular bathroom.

The tall, narrow home pushed them to be deliberate about every use of space, every piece of furniture. From the garment racks they found to compensate for lack of closet space, to the creative solution for keeping the fireplace at the top of the staircase.
Smaller space to fill also meant fewer things to purchase, freeing Cole and Lea Anne to opt for top-of-the-line. Fireclay Tile for the kitchen backsplash, a custom kitchen island, globe sconces and bedside table lamps, Society 6 and Pendleton linens.
Cole’s favorite pieces of furniture in the house:

Custom cabinets and island, and the rocker from Sitte Modern
Ultimately they finessed the design integrity of the original into a happy, cozy living space for whomever may enter the front door. It’s a cohesive place, where you feel the care and thought put into it.
But that’s a funny thing. To feel intentionality. Your senses take the cues—the grain of the wood; the sweep of the color tones at first glance; the dance of curves and lines; of smooth versus textured; of the trees growing outside and the milled ones within.

The Gersts put in a year of effort to make it effortless for the person walking in. To make it so the person walking in experiences the moment of spark.
Thoughts on The Moment
Lea Anne witnessed this spark-moment in Cole when she watched him see the house for the first time. The house was eye-lightingly special.
Story has it that Marvin Witt had a similar moment when he saw the house in Willamette Heights that he and his wife Anita would move into and make their home for the remainder of their life. At first sight, without entering the house, he knew it was the one for them.

The moment when you "just know" a design is complete is so elusive. All you can do is keep chasing it.

The artist’s challenge is to take that internal moment and transform it into a physical dimension, visible and tangible. And in the case of a rental home on the coast, desirable too. Beyond trusting that inspiration, you find a way to bring it to life, to share it.

"I get a sense of playfulness from the Manzanita house... we feel like we are almost living in a treehouse at the beach and it just brings us so much more joy."

Joy and play give us life. As artists, Cole and Lea Anne have created a life-giving home, steps away from the life-giving ocean. They’ve brought about the inspiration they dreamed of sparking.

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