Aligned With the Times

By Jenn Director Knudsen

Photos by Bronson Studios

Big things come in little packages.

This was true in 1989 for Hershey’s Kisses, and it’s definitely the case for tiny homes. Just ask Nir Pearlson, owner of Eugene-based Aligned Architecture.

“We have a lot of expertise designing small spaces — that are expansive,” Pearlson says of his firm, which he founded in 2003, and that now comprises a team of five.

Aligned Architecture is “agile,” he says, and to prove it, he has amassed a vast portfolio, including commercial, office, residential and affordable housing. The company has become the go-to expert in the Willamette Valley and beyond for clients who desire to live beautifully, sparsely and sustainably.

“We align ourselves with our clients; we have a good way of really listening to their needs,” Pearlson says.

Designing small homes not only is an industry trend but has become a passion for the company. And Aligned has been attracting attention along the way. In 2013 the firm won the Fine Homebuilding Magazine Best Small Home award for their River Road residence — an 800-square-foot ADU (accessory dwelling unit).

Fast-forward a few years: Miller Henderson, a veterinarian who operates a mobile clinic along the Coast from her specialty-fitted van, wanted a coastal home outside Florence roughly half the size of the River Road residence. She told Pearlson she was seeking a compact, sustainable design with a small ecological footprint that is both functional to live in and cost-effective.

“This is exactly what we love to do. Let’s do it,” Pearlson said. Pearlson hewed to the eight “small footprint” design principles for tiny homes that he developed, including mix, fun, illuminate, stretch, curl and flow.

For example, the placement of her fold-away desk and rolling chair embody both “curl” and “illuminate” in her 400-square-foot home. (This size contrasts with America’s median home size of 2,345 square feet, Pearlson says.) Henderson’s workspace is tucked between her central wood stove that heats her entire dwelling and her uber-functional, full kitchen punctuated by a wall of windows framed in hemlock and a glazed porch door.

“Flow” and “stretch” enter the picture with the unimpeded space between living and dining areas, and with 11.5-foot vaulted ceilings supported by exposed timber elements beneath a “soaring roof,” Pearlson says.

“Fun” plays a role where Henderson lays her head. An 8-foot ladder leads to her loft bedroom and compact meditation space, where the ceiling is nearly 6 feet high at its tip. This bonus area under the raised roof does not increase the tiny home’s footprint, and beneath it lies a luxurious bathroom complete with an antique claw-foot tub.

Pearlson grew up in the 1960s and ’70s on a kibbutz in Israel’s northern Galilee.

“We basically lived in tiny homes, and everything was utilitarian, modest, efficient and sensible,” he says. Using the lingo of folks who grew up like him, he says, “Kibbutzniks oftentimes just remain that way.”

Evolution of a Firm: From a single sunroom to Aligned Architecture

When Nir Pearlson began his architectural practice in 2003, his “office” was a 10’x12’ sunroom attached to his bedroom. During those first two years, Nir did his best to hold
meetings at clients’ homes or project sites, but sometimes circumstances forced him to hold a cozy meeting at his dining room table or to bring clients or consultants through his bedroom and into the sunroom so everyone could huddle around a computer screen or a set of prints. When he hired his first employee in 2005, it was time to move out of the home office–as quickly as possible.

Nir hired a team of builder buddies to remodel the detached garage behind his home–a bold move considering the prime gardening real estate he’d be building over. But, after a round of intense negotiation, he got approval from his wife for a 14’ expansion and set forth. Compared to the cramped sunroom, the new studio was palatial.

As the years passed, the firm grew from its original one-person shop to a team of architects and designers, with work that spans commercial, institutional, multi-family housing, and custom residential projects. With a shared commitment to sustainable design and a passion for innovative housing solutions, the team at Nir Pearlson Architect has designed commercial infill green and high-performance projects and developed award-winning small-house and cluster community prototypes. In 2013,
they received the Fine Homebuilding Small Home Award for our River Road Residence, an 800 SF TimberHybrid ADU. They also donated their time and skills to join the
group of architects, builders, and community members who built Emerald Village Eugene, a tinyhome community for people coming out of homelessness.

They also expanded their geographical reach, from in and around Eugene to throughout Oregon, then into California and Washington state. When they began selling residential prototype plans to clients throughout the US, the alley studio bulged with workstations and client meetings. By 2018, it was again time for a bigger place.

Nir purchased a 1905 two-story bungalow in central Eugene’s old neighborhood. A remodel of the first floor provided everything an established architectural firm needs, from an open design studio lined with workstations to a conference room, a printer/work area, a kitchen, and even a bike storage room.

It was also time for a new name. The firm wanted one that reflected their teamwork style, methodology, philosophy and their core commitments to every project. After lengthy discussions in their sunny new studio, the firm decided on Aligned Architecture: a name that reflects their core commitments to every project: listen deeply to the client’s vision, observe the site and context, study all applicable regulations and identify potential sustainability strategies. Proper alignment is at the heart of the firm’s work. Throughout each step of the design process, they identify and incorporate energy and conservation measures, as well as aligning with the natural environment to support a sustainable future. Equally key to their work is a commitment to grounding their designs in reality. They collaborate with their structural engineers but draw the structural plans in house. They also work with their clients to balance all aspects of sustainability, including financial considerations.

Recently, they celebrated the completion of Sponsor’s Jeffery Commons–a community of 10 tiny homes for homeless individuals returning to Lane County after incarceration. They are currently working with a group in Woodland, CA on a similar project, building a community of 12 tiny homes for homeless veterans.

As Aligned Architecture keeps growing, they plan to continue their leadership in tackling the housing crisis, including building more multi-family and innovative housing projects. Whether they’ll do it all from their current studio or from a future home remains to be seen. Either way, it’ll be just the spot to get the job done.

Location: 433 W 10th Avenue, Eugene 97401
Number of employees: 5 employees, plus part-time bookkeeper
Disciplines the firm provides: architecture, planning, interior design

The Smaller, The Better

Architect Nir Pearlson designs a compact, sustainable home on the edge of an Oregon hamlet.
By Kiley Jacques

After a number of tries to buy land, this homeowner finally found the right property—and the right architect, Nir Pearlson. The two clicked. He appreciated her sustainably-minded, well-articulated vision, and she valued his sensitive design expertise. Working together with builder Amal Stapleton, the 400-sq.-ft. dwelling took shape.

Set back toward the east end of a rural lot on the Oregon Coast, the home looks and feels more remote than it is. Its orientation on the site takes advantage of the prettier aspects of the setting—once inside, trees block views of neighboring houses and outbuildings.

The intent was to build a simple structure for one occupant. It was to have a small ecological footprint and maximum functionality. Connection to the outdoors, ample daylight, and natural materials—most of which took the form of native Douglas fir—were priorities. Another consideration was the need for a structure under which the client could park the van that houses her mobile veterinary business. Pearlson was also asked to keep future plans in mind; they include the addition of an outdoor living area and a covered hot tub, both of which informed the layout. Additionally, he added blocking in the framing to support the potential hanging of an indoor hammock.

Thought was given to installing a composting toilet but county regulations mandate a septic system, which would have complicated matters and taxed the budget. “The client was very pragmatic about it,” Pearlson recalls. “She was committed to sustainability but understood there are diminishing returns on certain things, so she had to pick and choose.” She did opt in favor of a high-efficiency mini-split HVAC and a mini on-demand water heater. Exterior insulation was also considered—though not required in Oregon, Pearlson uses it on most projects. “After discussing its cost and merits, we decided not to use it,” he says. “The budget was a very informing feature of this house.”

Design wise, the roof is of special note. Its two opposing planes slope in different directions, which meant the detailing and flashing required some level of expertise for which Pearlson had to go outside the immediate area. “It took a while to find a roofer who was comfortable with more innovative forms,” he notes, adding that the framing was a bit different, too, with beams located one above another. The upward lift of the roof brings in daylight and views, and its slope shelters two porches. The challenge was to achieve those things while keeping the build simple and giving it some architectural interest.

Toward that end, the 4-ft. by 8-ft. sheets of Hardie fiberboard create a simple pattern for each elevation. Pearlson describes them as “almost Japanese” in style, saying they, too, are meant to create interest without adding too much complexity. Another notable exterior element is the window trim detailing, which was given a minimalistic treatment—only the thin edge of the jamb extensions is visible; the siding dies into the trim for a clean-line look.

On the interior, the space is essentially two intersecting rectangles comprising the kitchen and the living area, which are anchored with a central wood-burning stove. Pearlson explains that the kitchen is essentially a small bump out. “We ended up with something that feels more dynamic than it is in terms of the construction,” he says. “By pulling the kitchen out by 4 ft. and creating two intersecting roofs that expand out, plus the loft—these simple things create a lot of movement for so small a space.” Vaulted ceilings, exposed timber, and multiple windows in all directions heighten that effect.

The kitchen was a place where the homeowner got crafty to keep the budget in check. Rather than true countertops and cabinets, she mixed and matched freestanding pieces to create surface and storage space. “Cabinetry is one of the most expensive items in a house,” Pearlson notes. “She was able to circumvent that cost with pre-made units.” The same idea was at play with the antique claw-foot tub, which required straightforward plumbing and zero embellishments.

All told, this project is a study in efficient design. It is at once thrifty and attractive, pragmatic and special. Or, as Pearlson puts it: “From resource extraction to construction impact to total energy usage over the building’s life cycle, this small home provides a beautiful, functional, and comfortable template for environmentally-conscious living.”

Photos by Bronson Studios Photography, courtesy of Nir Pearlson Architect

2019 People’s Choice Award (Residential)

1st place, Residential Category
Featuring: Coastal Tiny Home

This annual competition will be organized at the Broadway Commerce Center in downtown Eugene during the month of September, where local architects and landscape architects present their featured projects in various categories, and the citizens of Eugene cast their vote for the best project in each category.

ABUNDANTLY SMALL

Project

Costal Tiny Home

Florence, Oregon

Area: 430 SF Exterior Footprint

Architect

Nir Pearlson Architect

Structural Engineer

CMS Engineering & Design

General Contactor

Amal Stapleton

Photos

Bronson Studios Photography

CONCEPTS

Within less than 400 SF of floor area, this compact mini-home provides all the spaces and amenities to support an expansive lifestyle:

  • A living area with ample space for gathering and dining, all anchored with a central wood stove.
  • A full kitchen with fixtures, appliances, and pantry.
  • A luxurious bathroom with an antique claw-foot tub.
  • A desk nook for study or work.
  • A generous sleeping loft with plenty of storage space.
  • With uninterrupted flow between the living areas, tall vaulted ceilings supported with exposed timber elements, and multiple windows in all directions, the interiors are spacious and light-filled.
  • The sloped roof extends to shelter two covered outdoor living porches.

SUSTAINABILITY

  • Sustainable design features include: a tightly sealed and well-insulated envelope; abundant daylight via windows, glazed doors, and clerestories; durable, low-maintenance exterior and interior finish materials; high efficiency mini-split HVAC, and an on-demand mini water heater.
  • The most sustainable aspect of this home is its size, with a diminutive ecological footprint as compared to the 2,345 SF American median home. From resource extraction through construction impact, to total energy usage over the building’s lifecycle, this Tiny Home provides a beautiful, functional, and super-comfortable template for environmentally-conscious living.

2019 People’s Choice Award (Interiors)

1st place, Interiors Category
Featuring: Mahonia Building Interior

This annual competition will be organized at the Broadway Commerce Center in downtown Eugene during the month of September, where local architects and landscape architects present their featured projects in various categories, and the citizens of Eugene cast their vote for the best project in each category.

INSIDE MAHONIA

Project

Mahonia Building Interior

Eugene, Oregon

Project Architect / Shell & Core

Arkin-Tilt Architects

Interior Tenant Improvement Architect

Nir Pearlson Architect

Owner Group

Yew Wood Two

Developer

Downwind Development

General Contactor

Essex General Construction

Photos

Erik Bishoff Photography

Bronson Studios Photography

TENANT COMMUNITY

Mahonia is a 36,000 SF, mixed-use building, housing a diverse group of hard-working, locally-owned tenants including: a bakery, food production kitchens, a restaurant, environmental non-profit organizations, health care clinics, various offices, a dry goods warehouse, and a community room available to the public.

CONCEPTS

The interior design was guided by a set of principles, which allowed for creative freedom within each tenant space, while maintaining a cohesive look and feel for the entire Mahonia community, including:

  • Individual and communal work areas arranged along the perimeter of each floor, so that each space has its own window/s.
  • Spaces that are not along the exterior walls are illuminated with interior windows, bringing borrowed light through the central hallway and the perimeter spaces. On the 3rd floor, skylights deliver light into the deep interior spaces.
  • Outer plaster-coated straw-bale walls that wrap the 2nd & 3rd floor spaces in an envelope of comfort, utility, and beauty.
  • A continuous wooden chair-rail over the plaster wall finish that doubles as a concealed raceway for electrical and communications wiring throughout the spaces.
  • A consistent and natural material palette which includes: exposed structural columns, beams and ceiling wood framing; hardwood floors; wood trim; and naturally-dyed earthen plaster. Reclaimed and sustainably harvested materials were used throughout the building.

Building on history

By Stephanie Basalyga

The Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum is moving forward with an expansion that will nearly double its existing space.

In the nearly 20 years since it found a home in a building on the main drag of Government Camp, the Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum has attracted a steady stream of attention — and donations.

Almost every inch of the 9,000-square-foot, three-story building that houses the museum is filled with enough artifacts to allow visitors to spend more than a few hours learning about the history of the area.

The carefully curated exhibits — including a 146-pound meteorite and a stuffed black bear named Lucy — are just a hint of a trove of historical treasures the museum possesses. Hundreds more pairs of skis, boxes of ski club patches, paintings and drawings by local artists and other donated items are currently in storage because there’s simply not enough room to display them.

“The museum is bursting at the seams,” Diane Lokting, development director for the museum, told the Business Tribune. “The archives are full. The galleries are difficult to rotate things in and out of. We don’t have enough room for traveling exhibits.”

With the museum’s popularity showing no signs of slowing — it currently has 25,000 visitors a year — its board of directors has come to realize it’s time to take steps to find more room. Over the next 10 years, the museum will undergo a three-phase expansion that will nearly double its space to 17,000 square feet and create new areas to benefit everything from research efforts to community gatherings.

Before that happens, though, there’s a fundraising campaign that needs to be officially rolled out. Admission to the museum is free, and the facility operates with money from grants, lectures and other fund-raising events, and gift shop sales. With a goal of at least $8 million for the total expansion project, the museum “needs to get all of its duck in a row,” according to Lokting.

“We have a lot of work to do,” she said. “It’s going to take some time.”

Making do
The museum traces its roots back to the 1990s, when Government Camp began working with Clackamas County on an urban renewal plan. Some local women began talking about starting a museum to chronicle the history of life “on the mountain.” In the early 2000s, they convinced Lloyd Musser, a local historian who had recently retired, to help with the effort.

When one of the women passed away, her daughter offered the woman’s collection of local historical items to get the museum started.

“We took a semi-truck-load of stuff out of the house,” Musser said. “It was a houseful of Mount Hood history.”

The boxes of photos and ski patches, old skis and various other items were almost an entire museum. The only thing missing was the building to put the items in.

Musser and others involved in the museum effort decided to approach a woman who ran a local bedand-breakfast able to accommodate as many as 25 guests. The woman wanted to retire, but she didn’t want the building to go to a developer who might tear it down to make room for condominiums.

“We got it for $900,000,” Musser said. “She gave us a good deal and ‘farmer’ loan – we paid it back when we could.”

The only major change made to the building since then was the addition of an elevator a couple of years ago. The experience with the elevator installation taught the museum’s board of directors a few lessons that came in handy as they moved toward selecting an architectural firm to design the expansion design.

The elevator project was paid for with HUD money from Clackamas County. As part of that deal, the county stipulated that the project contract would be awarded by a low-bid process. In addition, the museum was required to cover any cost overruns.

“The first day started with a cost change, and it went up from there,” Musser said.

The museum, which is mainly volunteer-driven, may turn to HUD money again to help pay for the expansion. This time, though, board members and the county have already agreed to some different ground rules when the time comes to hire a general contractor to do the actual construction work.

“This time around, we’ll be able to look at the contract and have more say in the bidding process,” Musser said.

The right fit
A bad experience with the contractor who installed the elevator also led the museum’s board to move with deliberate precision when it came to choosing an architectural firm for the expansion project.

With the guidance of architect and board member Alene Davis, who recently took over president duties from Musser, a request for proposals was extended to four firms with experience in event and museum space. Of two firms that responded, the board settled on Eugene-based Nir Pearlson Architect Inc.

A walk through of the museum building with Pearlson assured the board members that he and his firm were the right choice, especially when the architect weighed in on a plan to expand the museum’s available space for events.
The museum is one of the few places with enough room for any type of community meeting or gathering. But that space is limited to 100 people at the most, and even a crowd of that size has to be spread out between the main gathering room and an exhibit room.

Musser and Bing Sheldon, a co-founder of Portland-based SERA Architects who was an active member of the museum board during his lifetime, had always envisioned a separate event hall building with enough room to accommodate events like weddings and lectures on an empty patch of land behind the museum building.

But Pearlson suggested the event hall space be made part of the existing building. By putting it on an upper level and adding floor-to-ceiling windows, the 200-person-capacity room will have a head-on view of Mount Hood.

Snow problem
The architect also immediately realized a problem with the dormers and other features on the roof of the existing building. The person who designed the building wasn’t familiar with the type of snow conditions that Government Camp experiences, according to Pearlson. Bay windows with gambled roofs create nooks and crannies that can trap snow as it melts and slides down the roof.

“You can walk around the building and see where the [metal roof] was bent from the great amount of snow and ice,” Pearlson told the Business Tribune. “There’s definitely quite a bit of problems with that.”

To remedy that problem, roof lines will be simplified. Durable materials such as stone wainscoting, stone column bases and wood siding as well as new metal roofing will ensure the renovated exterior of the museum blends with other buildings along Government Camp Loop.

Expanding the front of the building to the sidewalk will solve another existing problem. In addition to providing more interior space, including room for a new research library, it will allow the addition of a covered entry space so that people can “walk right off the street basically to the [front door]” without having to navigate snowy or icy paths, Pearlson said.

Money matters
The museum already has a head start on building a pot of money for the expansion work. During an annual fundraiser in November, an initial $10,000 in soft-launch money was collected. There’s also a place on the museum’s website where people can make donations, and a more formal fundraising campaign is under development.

In creating the campaign, Lokting is tapping previous experience trying to raise money to build a community center building in another city. That project was about $2.5 million. Knowing that the museum project will be more than triple that amount, Lokting and the board decided to break it into phases.

“This is a big project, “Lokting said. “What we realized with this project is, if we create it in phases and then fundraise and write grants for one phase at a time, our chance of success will be a lot better”.

email: sbasalyga@pamplinmedia.com
Twitter: @PortlandBizTrib
Facebook.com/BizTrib
Instagram: @PortlandBizTrib

Sponsors Inc. Plans for New 10 Tiny Homes to open in spring 2019

By Meerah Powell

Renderings by Mike Hopper

Fifty percent of people who are released back into Lane County from the Lane County Jail or the state prison are homeless when they re-enter society, Paul Solomon, executive director of Sponsors Inc., says.

“Housing is one of the fundamental elements in a person’s success re-entering the community post-incarceration,” Solomon tells Eugene Weekly. Sponsors is hoping to make that transition easier with a 10-unit tiny house project next spring.

Sponsors is a nonprofit organization focused on transitional housing and services for local people who have served time in Oregon prisons and Lane County jail. The organization has been around since 1973, its housing services beginning in 1988.

“We now have 20 buildings on seven sites with over 200 units of transitional, long-term and permanent housing for people with criminal histories,” Solomon says. Sponsors offers wraparound services such as drug and alcohol treatment, parenting classes, a veterans’ program and more.

This 10-unit tiny house project not only will serve more people in Sponsors’ programs but could offer a blueprint for other similar housing projects as well.

Solomon says Sponsors has been in conversation with Homes For Good — Lane County’s housing authority, in charge of Section 8 housing vouchers for the area — on using this project to inspire other low-income housing.

“They’re interested in using this as a potential prototype that could be rolled out on a larger scale as well,” Solomon says of Homes For Good.

“We are amazed at Sponsors Inc.’s affordable tiny home housing project and we hope to do similar tiny home projects across Lane County in response to the affordable housing crisis in our community,” Homes For Good Executive Director Jacob Fox says. “Homes for Good is always looking for new ways to serve our community and our partnership with Sponsors Inc. has catalyzed innovative approaches to how we provide housing opportunities for people with criminal histories.”

Sponsors’ 10-unit tiny home project will be made up of five duplexes, as shared walls reduce costs for features like plumbing, Solomon explains. Each house will be 270 square feet with single occupancy. The housing will serve people who have completed the organization’s transitional housing program.

The project will be directly adjacent to Sponsors’ main office on Highway 99 on a lot that the organization already owns. Since it will be so close, Sponsors services and staff will be accessible to tiny house renters, Solomon says.

The tiny home project was a new idea for the organization, Solomon says. “We’ve done big apartment buildings and those are great, but they take a long time to build. They’re very expensive and they’re restrictive,” he says.

For example, Solomon says last year Sponsors constructed a 54-unit apartment complex in west Eugene in partnership with Homes For Good. “It’s an amazing project,” he says, but income restrictions make it so that some people don’t qualify.

“One of the things we’ve found is that we have people barely making over minimum wage who aren’t qualifying to get in because they make too much money,” Solomon says.

The tiny home project will not use any federal funding, to avoid any such income restrictions.

The project already has about two-thirds of the total funding secured, Solomon says, with some grants still pending. Sponsors needs another $75,000 to fully fund the project. It recently launched a capital campaign and is accepting donations from community members.

Solomon says rent pricing is still being discussed for the project, but the units will probably go for $300-$350. As part of that price, renters will be building equity for a future down payment or security deposit.

“A hundred dollars a month of that money will be put into an equity pot, so that when a person is ready to move after two or three years, they should have a few thousand dollars that they can draw on,” he says.

Solomon says housing is the most compelling need for those getting out of prison; he speaks from experience, as someone with a criminal background who has had issues with housing in the past.

“If we provide a modest investment in their success early on, it goes a long ways towards stabilizing folks, getting them to a place of self-sufficiency and ultimately out of the criminal justice system,” Solomon says.

Without these services the outcome for people is “pretty predictable,” he says — mostly ending up back in custody, in environments that led to their incarceration in the first place, or homeless.

He adds: “A project like this has the potential to significantly make a dent in recidivism and homelessness rates in Lane County.”

For more information on this upcoming tiny home project, visit sponsorsinc.org.

Summer Lake / A Small Rural Retreat

By Melissa Dalton

Photos by Jeremy Bronson

Nestled in a prairie at the edge of the Great Basin, this modest, shed-roofed home effortlessly blends in with its natural setting. Located at the PLAYA Artist Retreat Center at Summer Lake, the two-bedroom, 885-square-foot cottage was designed by William Roach, PLAYA’s co-founder, and Nir Pearlson and Roger Ota of Nir Pearlson Architects. While the group referenced the history of the region with the use of corrugated steel siding and a red metal roof on the exterior, the interior framing was more forward-looking. Panelized walls were built in a factory in Eugene, which cuts down on waste and environmental impact during construction, then erected on site and filled with double insulation. As Pearlson recently wrote in Fine Homebuilding magazine: “Early on, we decided to gear the design toward prefabrication, which we believe is the future of affordable and sustainable housing.”

Fine Homebuilding Best Small Home 2013

Best Small Home
Featuring: River Road Mini Home

FineHomebuilding awards a handful of homes their Houses Awards each year that illustrate exceptional residences that balance cost, efficiency, style. Their “award for the best small home this year goes to Nir Pearlson for this 800-sq.-ft secondary dwelling in Eugene, Ore. Set among existing gardens, the third-party certified green house relies on shared spaces and connections to the outdoors to seem larger than its physical boundaries.” We’re pleased to share this honor with the homeowners, Julie Hulme and Rob Handy; the general contractor, Six Degrees Construction; and the consultants and subcontractors. Below is the text of the article published in the FineHomebuilding 2013 Awards Issue.

A Garden Cottage for Low-Impact Living

This 800 sq. ft. infill home was design for its site and its owners lifestyle

By Nir Pearlson

When I first met my clients, Julie, a veteran elementary school teacher, and Rob, a county commissioner, they had been living in a 600-sq.-ft. remodeled chicken coop on a 2.1-acre property for 28 years. Committed to a low-impact and highly self-sufficient lifestyle, they were on a quest to replace the chicken coop with a simple and sustainable home. Their house would need to be durable, low maintenance, and energy efficient, and it would need to complement their sprawling garden. Most of all, they hoped, their home would inspire them with beauty every day.

Julie and Rob’s vision echoed my firm’s mission to design sustainable small-scale homes and to promote urban infill. In addition, I immediately fell in love with their garden, an oasis of tranquility and sustenance minutes from Eugene’s downtown. My firm’s challenge was to design a compact house that would support a modest lifestyle yet foster a sense of abundance.

A verdant site near an urban core
Julie and Rob’s lot is a remnant of the farmland that surrounded Eugene in its early days, most of which has since been subdivided into small residential lots. Oriented east-west, the 700-ft.-long lot provides a generous solar exposure that combines with rich floodplain soil to make this property ideal for gardening. During the summer, the vegetable garden provides most of Julie and Rob’s food, as well as a surplus that they store for the winter. The lot extends between a major traffic arterial on the west and a bike path along the Willamette River to the east. Immediate access to
transportation, city amenities, and the river’s ecosystem translates into urban living at its very best.

In addition to its vegetable and ornamental gardens, the property hosted a weathered barn, a storage shed, Julie and Rob’s chicken coop, and a bungalow from the 1920s that faces the street and is leased by long-term tenants. With no desire for large interiors, Julie and Rob had chosen to live in the smaller accessory house, and they wanted their new home to occupy the same location
among the vegetable beds and fruit trees. Because they spend much of their time tending the land, maintaining visual and physical access to the outdoors was a top priority, so the design of the new house centered on the garden.

Julie and Rob wanted more space than they had in the old coop, but they were content to limit the area and height of their new home to comply with local regulations for secondary dwelling units. To accommodate future growth through greater housing density, Eugene’s zoning code allows construction of accessory dwellings alongside existing homes on single-home residential properties. (For more on this concept, see “Rise of the ADU,” pp. 80-85). Although the zoning code limits the interior of an accessory dwelling to 800 sq. ft. of living space, it allows this living space to be augmented with covered outdoor areas and storage or utility rooms with exterior access.

We took advantage of this allowance to add a mechanical room and multiple covered porches, and because areas with low headroom are not legally considered habitable rooms, we included a bonus space. This area, accessed by a ladder, includes a concealed mechanical-equipment attic and an open, daylit meditation loft.

Designed for the Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is known for its long, rainy winters, prompting a “shed the water and bring in the light” strategy. Summers can be hot, however, so solar protection is necessary. Generous overhangs on the house’s low-sloped shed roofs address all these issues. The south-sloping roof extends the full width of the house and shelters the great-room windows from winter storms and summer heat. It also points two solar arrays toward the sun and allows for north-facing clerestories to illuminate the guest room and loft. The north-facing roof opens the main bedroom to garden views and to mini-clerestories. A small roof on the west shelters the entry. To the south, a roof over the patio springs up and away from the house to frame expansive views and to allow low-angle winter sun to penetrate the indoors. The windows, clerestories, skylights, and three exterior glazed doors provide an ongoing connection with the outdoors and bring in ample daylight.

Julie and Rob wanted their home to represent the Pacific Northwest aesthetically as well. Combining modern forms with traditional craftsmanship, this hybrid timberframe house includes exposed, load-bearing heavy-timber construction as well as standard joists and studs. Posts, beams, rafters, and roof decking were milled from regional Douglas-fir or hemlock timber. The woodwork is clear-coated, which highlights the mineral-tinted Imperial Plaster wall finish (usg.com).

Sightlines and views make a small house feel spacious
Julie and Rob wanted their home to be at what they called a “human scale.” Julie defines that as “not so big as to feel dwarfed and diminished, but not so small as to feel confined and limited.” With Julie and Rob’s human scale in mind, we designed the roof—with its rafters exposed—to define the scale, orientation, and character of each interior space. With no option for vast rooms,
we mixed and overlapped the entry, living, dining, kitchen, and circulation spaces into a great room. Long vistas through spaces, windows, and doors foster a sense of expansion, while coves such as a window seat off the great room allow for repose.

To prevent monotony, spaces are delineated by changes in flooring or with cabinets or built-ins. For example, the slate flooring transitions from the entry into a simple hearth, where a woodstove visually anchors the great room.

Third-party certification confirms the home’s quality construction
Julie and Rob’s commitment to sustainable living allowed us to select strategies to reduce their carbon footprint significantly. This earned their home an Earth Advantage Platinum Certification, the highest level offered by Earth Advantage New Homes, an Oregon-based third-party certification program. Earth Advantage weighs energy efficiency, indoor-air quality, resource efficiency, environmental responsibility, and water conservation.

The roof and walls were sheathed with a continuous layer of rigid foam, 1 in. on the walls and 2 in. on the roof. This foam prevents thermal bridging and insulates well beyond code levels. Daylight from the windows minimizes the need for electric lighting, and a minisplit heat pump couples with a heat-recovery ventilator to heat and ventilate the home efficiently. A woodstove provides backup heat and ambiance.

A grid-tied solar photovoltaic array offsets summertime electricity use; domestic hot water is provided by a solar hot-water collector. In the future, a gray-water diversion system and rainwater catchment cisterns will supply irrigation water to the gardens.

Julie and Rob are satisfied with their new home. Julie says, “Our home is the intimate interplay of inside cozy places of sanctuary and outside gardens splashing light and life through windows. The eye and heart dance from one angle of beauty to another as the intersections create a peaceful harmony.”