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 (

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.”

The Art of Architectural Sustainability

By Ryan Beltram

Finding Nir Pearlson’s architect studio is a bit tricky. Located off of Agate Alley, the quaint and unassuming space might go unnoticed to a passing jogger, but if you stop and actually look at it, the small studio is a perfect representation of the kind of business Pearlson is focused on; architectural sustainability.

Attempting to avoid the rain on an early February day, I take shelter under the covered entrance of what appears to be a typical awning. But a closer look reveals that it is a recycled car windshield. Inside, the beautiful space is blanketed by site-fabricated steel scissors trusses supporting an angular vaulted ceiling. Using sustainable lumber, the structure features reclaimed wood doors, bamboo flooring and a night-flush ventilation system designed to “flush” heat away from the building at night.What was once Pearlson’s residential garage designed to house cars has been transformed into a creative studio environment that the architect has worked from for nearly a decade. Working a few feet away from home was a convenient and easy decision to make for Pearlson as his work and home life before the conversion was even closer than it is now.

“I worked in a really tiny room that was directly outside of my bedroom so the only way to get into it was through my bedroom which meant that if I ever had a client meeting, they typically happened in my dining room because it was better than taking them through the bedroom. But sometimes I did have meetings in there,” said Pearlson.

Despite the close proximity between his work and his wife and kids, Pearlson is used to working creatively in a family environment. He grew up in a small communal village in Israel where he was constantly exposed to the way things are made not only within the small communal village, but also in his own household where his mother was a teacher.

“There’s always been some form of an art studio in our house and my mom was doing it with jewelry and macrame. She had her own shop since she was a teacher and she taught elementary and middle-school kids so I always had a key and access as a boy if I ever wanted to build something or fix something. I took the key and went to her workshops and had access to all of it,” said Pearlson.

As a young man, Pearlson travelled through different cities and supported himself as a builder and carpenter. He decided he wanted to study architecture after being drawn to both the composition of a building which challenged him artistically, and the simple workings of a building as a carpenter.Eventually he landed in Eugene where he earned his Architectural Degree from the University of Oregon in 1995. Soon after graduating, Pearlson was able to find work almost immediately and he gained valuable experience working on a number of different projects.

“I worked for a company which is now called PIVOT and for five years I worked mainly on Government projects in Salem and Tillamook for the Oregon Department of Forestry. That was a very good education on how to work on big projects and how to work within an office environment, how to manage teams and building campuses and just really complex commercial projects on a very big scale,” said Pearlson.

Eventually he decided he was ready to move on and start his own business. In 2003, Nir Pearlson Architect, Inc. was formed. Since starting the business, Pearlson has consistently had a team of three to four people working in the office. The studio provides a full range of architectural services for commercial and residential projects including site selection & assessment, architectural design, interior design and construction administration.

With all of these services, the architect emphasizes the importance of green-building and sustainability when taking on a new project.

“I’m most excited about the design when doing a project, but you always try to come back to sustainable practices. I think it has definitely influenced our designs a lot. Are designs are rooted in sustainability with regards to efficiency of space, efficiency of material, emphasizing the light and air and making sure we insulate properly.”

Pearlson believes it’s important for architects to constantly research smarter and more efficient ways to design buildings. Pearlson will always push for a more responsible way to design something, but ultimately it depends on what the client wants.

“During initial conversations with clients we ask them, are you interested in capturing the sun’s energy or using solar thermal or are you interested in capturing rain water and reusing it for irrigation or recycling gray water? A lot of times it’s pretty clear from the beginning what they want and many times people actually come to us and say, we want to have this, we want to have that and then we say hallelujah, we don’t even have to ask them.”But there was a time when Pearlson wasn’t getting as many clients as he wanted. Like most small businesses, Pearlson was affected by the recession and a couple of times was forced to contract and work on his own. But because he worked out of a small space that didn’t require as much overhead as a larger business might, Pearlson was able to survive and develop new relationships.

“I like marketing and staying connected with the community with regards to sending emails and newsletters and greeting cards in order to keep my connections and keep people aware of what I’m doing and I was also lucky to have some projects that were fairly high-profile and I think that helped as well. The caliber or level of projects and project recognition helped me through those tough times as well.”

Those high-profile projects he’s referring to include La Perla Pizzeria, Imagine Graphics and the new headquarters and remodel of Hummingbird Wholesale which will open its doors this week. Besides the commercial projects, the studio has also completed residential homes and cottages.

Over the last few years, Pearlson has seen a shift to more remodels and additions than original design projects for the company. More and more people are investing in what they already have and hoping to turn their homes into potential assets to sell in the future. Pearlson believes it is a sign of the times that the housing crisis is still prevalent.

Despite a shortage of new homes, Pearlson is keeping busy with redesigns and feels they prove to be more difficult and rewarding than original structures.

“Generally, redesigning is more challenging because there is always going to be a lot of constraints. In a way that makes it more interesting because you have to focus on the site with regards to the access and the view and vegetation and slope. It’s never like building from thin air. In a way, redesign is more rewarding because there’s more of a transformative process because you have to first undue what’s wrong with it and create what’s right so it’s really fun and challenging.“

As far as future projects, Pearlson has a full plate. The studio recently helped the Lane County Historical Society with a preliminary feasibility study of the Eugene Post Office as a potential future home for the Lane County Historical Museum. The studio is also completing an 800 square-foot residential house on River Road which will be equipped with energy-efficient systems and Pearlson also has a couple of residential remodel addition projects.

This seems like a lot of work for a small architecture studio, but Pearlson maintains the importance of past experiences in project management as the key to balancing not only all of the projects, but also all of the little things that go into running a successful business.

“It’s all part of the creative process actually and I don’t find it loathsome at all but it definitely takes a lot of time. I’m very involved in the different aspects like the building and timekeeping and writing proposals and when I started this business I was unaware of how much depth of knowledge I needed to have in so many aspects that seemingly have nothing to do with architecture,” said Pearlson.But he is proud of the different projects he’s worked on over the years and all the people he’s gotten to know. He’s excited about improving his skills and collaborating with new people who are talented and have a passion for architectural design. Eventually he would like to move out of his small studio and take on bigger and more challenging projects and he feels it has to happen and will happen. But for now he’s content with where he’s at.

“I’m learning how it’s completely impossible to stop learning. We’ve definitely ventured into a lot of areas that I haven’t before like restaurants and a brewery and a grocery store. I hope the economy allows me to do more and I would like to have a team of people where we’re big enough to create great things but small enough to manage.”

2012 People’s Choice Award (Residential)

1st Place – Residential
Featuring: River Road Mini Home

In this competition which takes place annually during the Eugene Celebration weekend, 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.



River Road Mini-Home
River Road, Eugene

Julie Hulme and Rob Handy

Nir Pearlson Architect, Inc.:
Nir Pearlson, Rachel Auerbach

Pioneer Engineering

Six Degrees Construction

Solar Assist


• Design a sustainable Mini-Home.
• Combine expansive, connected spaces with cozy nooks.
• Weave the interiors into the surrounding garden to celebrate the cycle of seasons.


• Transition between the front porch and the interiors via a slate-tiled entryway.
• Combine and overlap living, dining, and cooking areas within an open central space.
• Expand the great room into the study/guest room and onto the partly-sheltered deck overlooking the garden.
• Anchor the great room with the centrally located wood stove.
• Delineate the passage into the private realm, a master bedroom and a light-fi lled bathroom, with a peaceful altar.
• Expose the hybrid timber-frame structure and the trimwork to frame the naturally-dyed earthen plaster walls and the serene garden vistas.

Footprint: The 800 SF home includes a bonus loft for meditation and storage.
Envelope: Double-insulated walls and roof far exceed code minimums.
Daylighting: Windows, doors, transoms, clerestories, and skylights provide abundant daylight.
Energy Conservation: A super-efficient mini-split heat pump combines with a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to heat and ventilate the home.
Energy Harvest: The south-facing roof carries a solar photovoltaic (PV) array and a solar hot water collector.
Water Reclamation: The pre-plumbed future graywater system and rainwater cisterns will supply water to the landscape.

“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 sense of harmony.”

2012 People’s Choice Award (Commercial)

1st place, commercial category
Featuring: Hummingbird Wholesale

In this competition which takes place annually during the Eugene Celebration weekend, 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.



Hummingbird in the Stellaria Building
150 Shelton-McMurphey Blvd, Eugene

Lichen Yew, LLC

Nir Pearlson Architect, Inc.:
Nir Pearlson, Rachel Auerbach, Ryan Rojas

Goebel Engineering & Surveying, Inc.

Landcurrent Landscape Architecture

Pioneer Engineering and JKN Engineering

Paradigm Engineering

Paddock Masonry, Inc.

Innovative Air, Inc.

Hawks Plumbing, Inc.

JND Fire Sprinklers, Inc.

Energy Design with Sunstone Solar

Day One Design


• Transform a 24,000 SF, 1950’s warehouse into a 38,000 SF, multi-tenant, mixed-use building.
• Create a model of resource reuse and stewardship.


• Reveal the building’s barn-spirit by removing layers of industrialization from the site.
• Create an iconic, utilitarian structure where food-crops are processed and distributed to sustain human life.
• Replace existing paving with gardens around the building.
• Peel and lift the industrial metal skin to form sheltering canopies marking the building openings.
• Soften the entry walls to echo the earthen warmth of fields.
• Add a partial second floor to create space for offices, manufacturing, warehouses, food production, and retail.
• Support a diverse family of tenants providing services, specialty products, and organic food.


Reclamation: Inserting the second floor below the existing timber trusses allowed the building structure to remain in place. Old metal siding panels, wood boards, and concrete sections found new purposes and uses on-site.

Envelope: New high-density insulation in the thickened walls and roof far exceed code minimums. A strawbale wall finished with earthen plaster and rough wood elements fronts Hummingbird’s lobby.

Daylighting: Abundant daylight pours deep into offices and warehouses via new windows, transoms, clerestories, and skylights – some of which reach the first floor via reflective light-shafts.

Energy Conservation: High-efficiency zoned mechanical systems utilize ground and air-source heat pumps, and upgraded lighting controls include zoning, dimming, and occupancy sensors. Electricity, natural gas, and hot and cold water are all metered in-house, allowing tenants to track usage via a digital network and optimize their energy-use trends.

Energy Harvest: Roof and canopy-mounted solar PV arrays offset electrical loads. A thermal solar array pre-heats the central hot water loop and the radiant slab under Hummingbird’s Honey Warmer. Excess heat from food dryers supplements winter heating in production areas.

Storm Water Management: A planted bio-swale for storm run-off infiltrates water on-site and irrigates the landscape.


Elements Acupuncture and Wellness
Eliel Fionn’s Felties & Consultations
Healthy Democracy Fund
Healing Scapes Ayurveda
Hummingbird Wholesale
Incubator Kitchen
Inner Sight
Lane County Farmer’s Market
Mark Donahue Rolfing
Momentum Therapies
Not Your Mom’s Sandwich Shop
Rolf Prima
Rural Development Initiatives
Well Balanced Acupuncture
Willamette Farm and Food Coalition

Small House, Super-sized Living

It’s just 800 square feet, but new home in River Road area feels like a palace to Rob Handy and Julie Hulme.

By Kelly Fenley
Photos by Collin Andrew

Give it up for ol’ Ben again. His waste-not, want-not maxim proves “spot on” in Rob Handy and Julie Hulme’s new one-bedroom, 800-square-foot home in north Eugene.

Every square inch so counts in this hybrid timber-framed cottage, Handy and Hulme say they lack for nothing with livability. And this in a full-on dwelling smaller than many apartment units.

“Small is beautiful,” says Hulme, effusive in her praise for the home’s designer, architect Nir Pearlson, and builder, Six Degrees Construction.

“It fits us,” she continues. “It’s on a human scale. We live a very simple lifestyle, and it fits us perfectly. It has everything.”

In fact Hulme, a longtime teacher at Edgewood Elementary School in Eugene, and Handy, a Lane County commissioner, look at their home more as a spacious retreat than charming but cozy quarters.

The property helps, too: a 2-plus acre lot with flowers, vegetables and fruit trees. But with abundant windows to absorb the verdant outdoors, with sloped ceilings of Douglas fir beams and hemlock decking, and with upscale but soothing finishes like reddish marble for the walk-in shower and a streambed of earth tones in the honed-granite kitchen counters, the house itself is “very calming,” Hulme says.

“It’s like a sanctuary-type feel to it,” she expounds. “We both have very public lives, so it’s very nice to have that kind of sanctuary space. It’s just lovely for us.”

Before and after

Many baby-boomers dream of downsizing to a small home with upscale quality. But the funny thing for Hulme, 56, and Handy, 55, is that they’re actually “up-sizing.”

For 28 years, the couple had lived in a 620-square-foot hodgepodge house — likely dating to the 1940s — on the same property. “We had a bedroom that was literally a ‘bed’ room,” muses Handy, who worked as a landscaper before becoming a county commissioner. “We crawled into bed. We came in (from) the bottom, because there was literally no room on the sides. It was an old tool shed.”

The old home would become a giant recycling project before finally demolished. But first, Hulme gathered ideas for a new house from prominent author Sarah Susanka, an architect who studied at the University of Oregon.

“I have all of her books. She was one of my inspirations,” says Hulme in reference to Susanka’s “The Not So Big House” series.

Then, at the home show in Eugene, Hulme found a visionary soulmate in Pearlson. “Within a minute I knew, ‘This is the man who’s going to build our home,’” Hulme says.

Before starting in, Pearlson spent time with Handy and Hulme, observing how they lived and asking about their lifestyle values. What emerged was the outline for a light-footprint, locally sourced, hyper-energy-efficient home with sustainable materials and quality conveniences befitting a lifetime home.

“This is our forever home,” Hulme explains. “We thought about things. People said, ‘Why don’t you build two stories?’ Because when I’m 85, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get upstairs.”

Eye pleasers

To give Hulme and Handy their one small step up in square footage but giant leap in livability, Pearlson and his assistant designer, Rachel Auerbach, maximized “connectivity” between spaces.

“Connectivity results in expansion,” he explains.

From any one place in the great room, you can see to the other. Spaces are “separated” by physical elements, such as the wood stove that helps delineate living room from kitchen, and the curved dining bar that helps distinguish kitchen space from the front entry.

No hallways or corridors means no wasted square footage. Vertical space soars, thanks to ramped ceilings framed with Douglas fir beams and hemlock decking.

“That sense of exposed structure helps with the openness as well,” Pearlson says.

What Hulme loves “is that feeling of having spaciousness, and yet having these cozy little intimate spaces, too. It feels like someplace you want to be.”

French doors, each double glazed in a rainwater pattern, separate the home’s guest room from great room. But when left open, “the two rooms become one,” Pearlson says.

Even when closed, transom windows above the guest room’s doors create a sense of expanding volume between both rooms.

Perhaps most striking, the modest-size bathroom seems to expand before your eyes. First comes a curved, architectural glass wall, followed by a single sink pedestal, entry to the marble walk-in shower, stepped-up ceiling, and window view to the garden.

In terra-cotta tones, the marble shower with bench seat reminds Hulme “of walking in Utah, all of those big red rock canyons.”

Twenty-six windows connect earth and sky to indoor spaces, bringing daily joy to a couple who grow much of their own food and lace their grounds with flowers and fruit.

“So much of our life revolves around being outside,” Hulme says while sitting on the home’s cedar deck, which also merges indoor/outdoor living spaces on two sides of the house.

With the kitchen windows, Hulme says she feels like she’s “out in the garden cooking.”

“And when you’re in bed, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ It’s sort of like being in a tree house. You’ve got clerestory windows up there that bring in beautiful light in the morning.”

Heart of the matter

But her favorite connection of all in the house?

“There’s no separation between the kitchen and other (great room) spaces,” Hulme says. “People can hang out while you’re cooking, so you can still have fun cooking. … I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven.”

Kitchen therapy, says Handy.

“She (Julie) is one of these amazing people who, when she’s tired, she wants to go to the kitchen and cook,” he elaborates. “That helps her relax.”

There’s no dishwasher — “that’s called ‘Rob,’” Hulme quips — but the stainless-steel fridge and power gas stove help testify to upgrades made possible when building smaller.

Spot on, that is, for splendid livability.

A Tiny Oregon House Reaches Beyond Its Walls

A tiny Oregon house reaches beyond its walls to embrace the outdoors, regardless of weather.

“Human scale” is the term owner Julie uses to describe the cozy spaciousness accomplished through her 800-square-foot home. Located on just over two acres at the urban edge of Eugene, Oregon, “it welcomes you in a very open way that feels natural–not confining but definitely embracing.” She and her partner, Rob, sought an earth-friendly home that would bridge the traditional indoor-outdoor barrier while paying practical homage to the often rainy Oregon weather and addressing Julie’s craving for natural light.

The outcome of a close and collaborative process with Architect Nir Pearlson and craftsman Dave Veldhuizen of Six Degrees Construction, the home consists of approximately two-thirds common space with the remainder given to a cozy bedroom bathed in morning light and a highly functional and beautiful bathroom complete with fully accessible tiled shower. “This is our forever house and we designed for that,” the spry, mid-50s Julie says. “The shower doesn’t look like it, but it’s us being realistic about the future.”

Although attention to detail themes the project, the outcome is far from forced. A tall wall of warm tinted plaster anchored by a simple “altar” centers the homeowners and guests as soon as they step over the threshold. The eye travels from the minimalist shelf holding a Buddha, across the room to a series of repeating, horizontal planes of the same wood. Forming windowsills and built-ins, the overall effect is a sweep that directs attention to the verdant greens of the gardens and lawn that sweeps toward the Willamette River. Should you not be distracted by the beauty outdoors (the homeowners hope you are), your eyes come to rest at the center of the home, a traditional woodstove that Julie and Rob used to heat the humble structure that stood in the same place and served as their home for 28 years.

This new home makes living a little easier on the owners–and the environment; it ranks at Earth Advantage “Gold” level. Photovoltaic panels produce electricity, a solar thermal collector delivers hot water, a mini-split heat pump and heat recovery ventilator keep the temperatures comfortable and advanced insulation and air-sealing minimize the need for either.

A stunning butterfly shed roof provides aesthetic interest but more practically, allows for strategically placed skylights, taller windows and clerestories. Light bounces in from expansive decking, which is partially covered by a cantilevered “wing” that offers rain coverage while shuttling more light inside. Not surprisingly, even on an overcast and rainy day, not a single light is on in the house.

The home is situated on 2.12 acres on one edge of an urban core. Even with this space, thought had to be given to a cluster of homes sharing the driveway, and existing gardens and outbuildings: A den/guest room has strategically placed windows that eliminate a view of the neighbors. The bedroom is situated in the most private corner of the home, which faces southeast to capture as much morning sun as possible. A clerestory successfully lights what would otherwise be a dark “hole” above an open-topped closet that would be classified as large even in a much bigger home. In this small home it’s a welcome surprise.

Because entertaining friends and welcoming guests is so important to the couple, the team deliberately framed the den/guest room to be ultimately flexible. A pair of rain glass-inset doors with a clear glass transom above opens wide and multiplies the gathering space if the weather keeps the group inside. But when the doors are closed, the space returns to its primary function of den/guest room. An added bonus is hidden in this room: Another very large closet demonstrates the home’s practical nature. And not content to leave space unused, the closet ceiling forms the floor of an unobtrusive yet significant storage loft.

The homeowners, architect and builder each credit the collective for this stunning and easy living home. “We really dreamt up the space together,” says Dave. “Julie led with her very clear vision of a space that grounds you, that lets you nest while also letting you take in the outside. Nir translated her vision to an intriguing shape with highly functional details that made the most of every ray of light. And my team honored the desire for craftsmanship that respects the vision and the materials. We helped bring that initial dreaming to fruition. We are a bit sad that it’s over,” he confesses.

Museum Fine Fit for Post Office

Bob Hart, executive director of the Lane County Historical Society, could double as actor Richard Dreyfuss, but, in terms of public regard, Rodney Dangerfield might be the better fit for museum folks such as him.

They get no respect — historically speaking, that is.

In 1937, the museum was promised downtown Eugene’s old post office building, but then along came a war, and the government needed the space, which it rented until 1957, at which point the building was torn down.

When Hart took the historical society reins in 2003, the museum at the Lane Events Center already was so run down that he found a salamander living beneath a catch basin used for the leaky roof.

And the Lane County commissioners’ unanimous vote in March to support moving the museum off the fairground property was one of those good news/bad news deals; nice that they granted the society’s desires to relocate, but telling that nobody thought the museum had a future at the fairgrounds.

I mean, come on, when does this discordant bunch vote 5-0 on anything?

All of which brings me to my tour Monday of the for-sale downtown post office as a possible future home for the historical museum.

Frankly, it would be a beautiful fit, a way to literally meld history with history while serving it up to the public with a bit more panache.

“It’s really our best shot,” says Hart, who also is director of the museum.

The New Museum Committee also is considering a new building as part of the Eugene Water & Electric Board’s Riverfront Master Plan. But Hart prefers the post office location at Willamette Street and West Fifth Avenue. Why?

Location. “It’s on the most historically intact block in the city,” Hart says. “We could get some foot traffic.”

Size. At 28,500 feet, it would more than double the museum’s current location, where the building is wedged, like an afterthought, between the Lane Events Center’s massive main building and a parking lot.

Climate control. The current museum, built in 1951 with an expansion in 1959, leans to the cool and damp side, Hart says, even if the roof was replaced after he arrived in 2003.

Ambiance. The old post office isn’t the Louvre, but it has high ceilings, marble, artsy moulding and, of course, the 1940s Oregon-esque murals by Portland artist Carl Morris. And, at 72 years old, it has a bit of history itself.

“We’d be preserving a building that deserves preserving,” Hart says, pointing out that the post office is the oldest brick building in Eugene.

“It’s a starting point for making a beautiful place where people can come to get excited about the history of their county,” says Rachel Auerbach, a designer with Nir Pearlson Architecture Inc., who along with firm namesake Nir Pearlson led Monday’s tour by 18 people.

Imagine a building that maintains its own historic personality but allows for ways to showcase the county’s past at the same time. On the north side, a cafe and gift shop; on the south, a floor-level extension featuring the 1853 “Clerk’s Building,” the oldest structure in Lane County.

Imagine two floors. A library upstairs. And a mezzanine level wrapped around a sort of “grand room” first-floor for major exhibits.

“We want to protect the historical elements of the building,” says architect Pearlson, whose firm has done a “preconceptual” design. “I see taking marble from the bathrooms and using it other places, incorporating some of these historic mailboxes in our cloak room.”

A move to the new location, of course, is a huge financial undertaking; the government wants $2.5 million for the property. The cost to convert the building to its new use is expected to be in the $3.5 million range. And a move necessitates other costs.

Those are big numbers for a museum that pays a $1-a-year lease to the county and operates on a $225,000 annual budget funded by a sliver of transient-tax revenues. And you wouldn’t expect the county to roll up its sleeves too far on this one.

But the post office building won’t even be available for three to five years, which, Hart figures, allows plenty of time for running a capital campaign and seeking grants. And that’s still sooner than a building would get done as part of the riverfront plan.

“We have a lot of work to do,” says Alice Parman, historical society board member and museum consultant. “We’ve got to get museums on people’s radar.”

Hart has taken steps to doing that; he understands that history isn’t just a covered wagon, but might be a blog site for the museum’s recent Tie Dye & Tofu Exhibit. That’s good.

And so would moving the museum to the old post office to better connect people to their own pasts and to give that history the respect it deserves.

“When you understand a place,” says Jim Giustina, head of the historical society board, “you’re more likely to invest in it.”

Likewise, when you invest in it, you’re more likely to understand it.

So, let’s make history. Let’s go postal.

Relatively Wonderful Redo

Relationships of all kinds — human, structural, spatial, visual — were the forces at play in this compelling, colorful remodel and addition.

By Joel Gorthy

The Eugene home of Andy Traisman and his partner, Lola, is a study in relationships and transformation.

The same might be said for anything that is purposefully altered to better satisfy its users.

But this house, built in 1922 and subjected to a hodgepodge of alterations over the decades, ascended to its new, truly harmonious state only after relationships between spaces and uses were defined; problematic structural relationships solved; and human relationships nurtured during a major renovation fraught with stressful potential.

Human, structural relationships

Traisman, a middle-school teacher, bought the house eight years ago. Lola moved in earlier this year after the addition of a 350-square-foot master suite atop the once flat-roofed garage and a total renovation of the other 2,000 square feet of living space.

“Remodels in and of themselves can be hellacious, but we were also turning this from ‘my’ house to ‘our’ house,” Traisman reflects. “Because we were just moving in together, the scope of the project kept metamorphosing.”

One goal was clear from the outset: to build the bed and bath above the garage, which itself had been added to the two-story house — along with an upper-story bedroom and unfinished utility room below — by previous owners in the early 2000s.

“On top of the garage was just empty space,” Traisman says. “In the summer we’d put lawn furniture out there” to talk while enjoying sunrise-sunset views toward Hendricks Park on one side, the Coast Range on the other. “When I was buying the house, I wondered if it was plausible to put an addition on top. Nir thought about it and said, ‘yep.’”

“The main challenge was structural; the roof wasn’t going to carry it,” says architect and longtime friend Nir Pearlson, who was privy to some of those rooftop gatherings.

Pearlson signed on to design the project despite Traisman’s initial hesitation.

“Nir is like family, so I had reservations because I felt it might be too hard on the relationship,” Traisman says. “But he really wanted the job because of his relationship to us and to this house.”

Pearlson, working with general contractor Paul Allen (of Allen Co. Design It! Build It!) and structural engineer Craig Lawrence, devised a solution that involved strategically placing new footings and posts with beams beneath the floor of the suite.

They also puzzled over ways to eke out usable space for the bed-bath unit, which is offset between the first and second levels of the house. For example, the corner formed by the upper wall and ceiling of the first-floor pantry is just below countertop level of the new bathroom. The vanity’s cabinet doors offer no clues to this space-saving configuration, though inside are shallow storage spaces that extend just a matter of inches before ending at the pantry’s outer wall.

“We mined space out of this house wherever we could,” Pearlson says. “One of the reasons we were limited in space is that Andy and Lola were adamant about having a deck here and a deck there,” he says, indicating the railed terraces on either side of the elevated suite. “I think it worked great.”

Relationships of space, color, light

Just as human and structural relationships required careful navigation throughout this project, relationships of the occupants to their environment were fully considered.

“We touched every corner of the house,” Pearlson says. “There were so many additions that were done in the past, so the whole notion was to unify everything and make it all work.”

Fixes, he says, included replacing a previously removed wall to turn an open dining room into an office; adding a door off the living room and new windows for light and indoor-outdoor connections; opening up a “funky” entryway vestibule and creating an obvious artery from there to the back of the house through the kitchen.

“The kitchen always bugged me,” says Pearlson, who lamented the awkwardly placed refrigerator along a partial wall that hemmed in the room. “I wanted to figure the kitchen out because it’s so central to the life of the house. I felt it was important to create this passage very clearly here,” he says, pointing along the line that now extends from the front door through to the stairway at the rear of the house, carried visually by the alignment of a new butcher-block kitchen island and row of hanging pendant lights.

Copious windows and vibrant, varied colors brighten the refreshed home. Twenty-seven different hues coat the interior and exterior in a rainbow of warm tones. At the junction between the dining room, kitchen and living room, rich red, yellow and orange shades converge harmoniously at wall corners — successful relationships made possible by Traisman’s countless paint-sampling trips to The Home Depot and consultations with painter Steve Derminer.

The once light-gray/sage-green interior now radiates color not only from the walls, but from artful accents including Leonie Daniels’ multi-hued mosaic backsplashes of recycled tile in the kitchen and master bath.

“I just lived with the previous owners’ taste for seven years,” Traisman says. “I wouldn’t have done all this if we weren’t moving in together. But Lola was coming into a new home …”

“And I needed color and light,” she interjects. “Part of the reason I didn’t want to move in earlier was because it felt so dark and cold.”

She and Traisman had to overcome some dark times during construction, too, including her unanticipated back surgery and the death of two older dogs. They say they’re thankful for how much Allen and his crews mitigated disruptions during the nine-month, $150,000-plus job, but still, Traisman says, “the project took on a different gravity after a while. There was nothing light about it.”

The lightness came afterward.

“Sometimes I’ll just sit in different places and watch how the light plays across the colors,” Lila ponders. “My favorite part is the light.”

“Depending on the leaves on the trees, the angle of the sun and the light dappling on the walls,” Traisman adds, “nothing ever looks the same twice.”

And that would seem to portend well for a long, happy and interesting relationship with this well-evolved home.


New Digs for Food Wholesaler

The grass may always be greener on the other side of the fence, but, for Hummingbird Wholesale, so is the building.

The seven-year-old, Eugene-based organic bulk food distributor is putting the finishing touches on its new digs: A completely renovated 36,000-square-foot warehouse about two blocks away from its old location at 254 Lincoln St.

Not long ago, the monolithic corrugated metal structure was poorly insulated, sported green paint and few windows, had 24,000 square feet of floor space on a single floor and housed Down to Earth, a local home and garden goods retailer and distributor.

Now the former warehouse — bought for $1.39 million last August — is two stories, “barn red,” fully insulated with rows of windows and rife with sustainable materials and hardware. Blueprints allot the company 19,000 square feet of floor space, while tenants and community areas will make up the rest.

Hummingbird’s owners, Charlie and Julie Tilt, hope to move their headquarters to the new site at 150 Shelton-McMurphey Blvd. by late September.

Averaging 20 percent growth a year, the 6,900-square-foot building the company now occupies has begun to stretch at the seams.

“We are out of room,” Charlie Tilt said. “The timing couldn’t be better.”

In anticipation of the move, Hummingbird has already hired three new full-time and one part-time employees. This puts the growing business’ work force at 29, including two owners and six part-timers. Tilt said the company will also likely need two more full-time employees in the coming year.

Before the roughly $1.5 million renovation began in January, Tilt envisioned the building as a comfortable, communal space.

“The philosophy I brought to it is to create a space where I would want to be,” Tilt said. “The building is designed to create interaction.”

And with its community meeting rooms, shared kitchen and bathrooms, large windows and skylights and wide hallways all starting to take shape, the renovation reflects this ideal.

The owner even has plans to host a farmer’s market under the front awning.

“It’s an opportunity to make a better life for all of us and to have good food to eat,” he said. “This building represents that we are sharing something.”

The building will include manufacturing, storage, office and retail space.

The Tilts have lined up two confirmed tenants so far — Rolf Prima, a performance bicycle wheel manufacturer, and Not Your Mom’s Sandwich Shop.

The warehouse still has about 3,000 square feet of unleased tenant space upstairs and 1,400 square feet downstairs, for which Hummingbird is considering prospective tenants.

Nir Pearlson, the project’s architect, said that although he worked many sustainable construction practices into its design, he mainly focused on how employees and customers would interact with the building.

“We wanted to create a space where people come to work whistling in the morning,” Pearlson said.

Even so, the warehouse is still well on its way to looking — in the architect’s words — “organic.” The front entrance to Hummingbird’s section of the building will have a straw bale wall, and the interior’s finished wood beams and floor planks will be left uncovered.

On the second story, walls have been built around the warehouse’s original truss rods, now exposed 7 feet from the floor.

“You can really see how the building is built,” Pearlson said. “It’s an architectural notion of keeping it exposed and expressed, and really celebrating it, of not concealing anything.”

Concrete cut out from the old warehouse floor will be integrated into its perimeter of garden beds and retaining walls.

Employees will also have access to communal showers as an incentive to bike to work.

The roof will be lined with photovoltaic solar cells and hot water panels, both of which, Tilt said, will pay for themselves in less than five years if tax breaks are included.

Similarly, the added insulation has an approximate payoff period of 15 to 20 years.

The building’s backup power generators can run on biodiesel made from in-house food waste.

Tenants will have individual electricity, gas and water meters — an incentive to conserve energy — and will share in the benefit from the building’s energy saving features.

As the growing season comes to an end, pallets of Oregon and California grown grains and nuts will soon be forked through loading docks on the warehouse’s south end and divided into smaller portions in Hummingbird’s production room.

Cool 55-gallon drums of Willamette Valley honey will be placed in Hummingbird’s honey-warming room to become less viscous before being divvied up into small containers. Blueprints call for the room to be warmed by solar-heated water pumped through looped hoses in its cement floor.

Across the hall, an industrial-strength granola dehydrator will be equipped with energy-saving heat recovery ventilation to transfer heat between outgoing warm and incoming cold air.