esidential designer Rick Berry’s clients, a couple with teenage children, had two requests for the home they planned to build near the Willamette River: It needed to relate to its site, and it needed to facilitate family time. “They’re close-knit,” Berry explains. “They didn’t want a lot of space where people could go off and hide with their devices.”
Berry discovered just how close-knit the family was when he began the design process. “There was a lot of back-and-forth with everyone,” he says. “The kids came to some of the meetings and had questions and input.” The children’s involvement wasn’t much of a surprise since their father also happens to have built the house. “They all got to be part of this,” says Berry.
After getting to know the family and hearing their ideas, Berry decided on a collection of three separate rectangular pavilions. A taller, two-level volume contains the bedrooms and the baths; an open-plan kitchen, dining and living areas comprise the public-space volume. “It’s the hub,” he says. “The family gathers in that one open space and it’s where everything happens.” He placed the entry and an office in a smaller volume that links the public and the private buildings, allowing passage between them. An exterior bridge crosses over a garden area–Berry and the husband designed the exterior spaces together–and connects the public and private volumes to a separate guesthouse. The incorporation of the bridge offers guests an outdoor experience as they move between the buildings. “There’s an adjacent park and daily views of eagles and blue herons,” says Berry, who set each of the buildings on a 10-foot-tall concrete base. “The lot is in a 100-year floodplain,” he says. “In 1996, the water rose to what would be three-quarters of the way up those concrete walls, so we wanted no living space beneath that point.” Berry marked the 1996 flood level with a line on the concrete walls to “keep the family in tune with nature,” he says. “It’s a reminder of how powerful it is.”
To maintain everyone’s link to the environment when they’re inside, Berry employed mostly glass for the structures’ riverfront rear facade. For the public volume, he created a pavilion-like effect in the living area by adding a clerestory. “I wanted it to feel like the roof is just floating, like there’s nothing holding it up,” he says. Views of foliage explode through the glass above a blackened steel fire surround. “It acts as a simple background because what’s most beautiful is everything outside, the light coming in and all of the trees,” Berry says. “And within that background is cabinetry for games they can hide behind the doors.” The residential designer rounded out his material choices with stucco and cedar siding, the latter stained a dark gray. Satisfying the homeowners’ desire for durability, “It will last forever,” he notes.
The home’s surroundings figured heavily into designer Jenny Baines’ interior selections. Behind the built-in buffet in the dining area, she installed an antique-glass mirror, and the backsplash in the kitchen is reverse-painted glass. “Those shiny or glassy finishes reference the surface of the water and its reflective nature,” says Baines. Inspired by the region’s weather and the seasons, she clustered decorative mercury glass spheres above the leather-upholstered bed in the master bedroom. “I think of them as giant raindrops,” she says. “We live in Portland. Rain is a big part of our lives.”
Nature–and the home’s architecture–also informed Baines’ approach to the palette. “I kept it muted and just did subtle interest with more subtle interest with texture, so it doesn’t fight with what you see out the window,” she says, adding, “The strength of the architecture shines through if you just keep the materials about texture versus color.” Shades of gray, white and warm brown predominate. In the living room, Baines arranged a sofa upholstered with chocolate-colored leather that echoes the tree trunks dotting the landscape and a second sofa covered in a silvery gray fabric reminiscent of the river. “The gray sofa has a wood base and blackened steel legs that are consistent with the blackened steel of the fireplace,” Baines points out. The coffee table, ottomans and the dining chairs are also charcoal-colored. The kitchen includes a live-edge walnut table and walnut cabinetry. To add some dynamism, Baines incorporated white-painted cabinetry and white quartz counters.
And while the clients gave both Berry and Baines quite a bit of latitude when it came to crafting their home, the residential designer shares that the couple brought plenty of their own ideas to the table. “They would discover little areas and they would think, ‘What can I do with this?’ That’s the fun of building it yourself,” he says. “They got to be creative and were just able to find these interesting moments along the way, refine the plan, tailor it to themselves and make it even better.”
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