River Road house is a small timber frame dwelling in Oregon designed by Nir Pearlson, Architect Inc., a small firm with an interest in green design. They were asked to create a comfortable and energy-efficient home built from sustainable materials. The clients, a couple nearing retirement, also wanted a home that would work for them as they aged, hence the decision to build a single-story house.
With an efficient layout that maximizes views between spaces, the small house feels deceptively large. In reality it is only 800 ft2 (74.3 m2), and that includes two good-sized bedrooms. Vaulted ceilings contribute to the perception of space and openness.
One of the stand-out features of this small house is its hybrid timber frame by builder Six Degrees Construction. The Douglas Fir posts and beams are exposed on the inside, giving the home a feeling of solidity and adding architectural interest. Wood is also used on the floor, ceiling, trim and cabinets. All the wood combined with the earthen plaster wall finish makes for a warm and welcoming home.
The front door opens to an entry hall whose slate tile floor extends to provide a fire-proof base for the woodstove. The centrally located woodstove not only ensures even heating but also serves as a divider between the hall and the main living space, separating them without cutting off sightlines. Kitchen, eating and sitting areas form one large room. A large window seat in the sitting area provides a cozy spot to read or nap. The skylights and many windows fill the space with light and connect the occupants to the surrounding gardens. A door leads out to a covered sitting area on the expansive cedar deck that wraps around two sides of the small house.
On the other side of the house, opposite the woodstove and entry hall, are the two bedrooms and bathroom. Like the living area, the master bedroom has a soaring ceiling, large windows and direct access to the deck. Clerestory windows at the peak of the roof allow southern light to wash over the hemlock ceiling. The second bedroom has double sliding doors that can open the room to the living area, allowing for flexibility of use.
To keep the house comfortable and energy-efficient, the timber frame was wrapped in double layers of insulation, eliminating the thermal bridging that occurs when the insulation is interrupted by structural lumber. Photovoltaic panels and a solar water heater mounted on the south-facing roof provide much of the home’s energy needs.
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Photographs courtesy of Michael Dean Photography.
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