Should you start a home-based business?

Architect Nir Pearlson’s work can be seen all around town.

He said the years he spent working for other firms gave him the skills he needed to start his own business — from home

“I can step out here at night or early in the morning or on the weekend and still be somewhat connected to what’s going on at home,” said Pearlson.

Pearlson said he was not excited about aspects of his business like accounting. So he sought out the services of Lane Community College Small Business Development Center.

The Small Business Development Center assists people with plans for starting their own business. The program is a three year commitment.

“I owe so much of what I do now and most of my business to all my friends and mentors,” said Pearlson.

Gary E. Smith is an instructor at the center who worked with Pearlson on a business plan. Smith meets with his students one on one to give them advice based on their specific needs. He said more of his students want to own their own business and work from home.

“You have to make sure that it is suitable for the business, that you can have a business and it can be ran from your home,” said Smith.

But Smith said a desire to run your own company isn’t enough. He stated four things people should think about before they start their own company.

1. Delegate vs. Abdicate: Someone who delegates is involved in the entire business process and gives someone else a task when they are unable to tackle it. Someone who abdicates puts things off and isn’t involved in the process at all. Smith said this person is not an ideal candidate to run a business.

2. Have to be good at what you do: Ask yourself if you can compete with the top 20 percent in the market.

3. Know your product: Remember just because you love to do something doesn’t mean people will pay you for it.

4. Resources: Ask yourself do you have the money to survive the start up period?
Smith said the faculty at the Small Business Development Center wants businesses to succeed. He said it is this success that will employ people in the community and boost the local economy.

Hearth and home

Pearlson said staying close to family was his main motivation for building his office.

He converted his garage into an office that is just the right fit for his employees and himself. He said owning his own business has been a dream of his for years.

“It is a creative process. It is really a creative endeavor, creating a business,” said Pearlson.

He said running a home office saves him money on taxes, rent and expenses like Internet and phone.

He has also invested in his property by adding to the garage and making it a fully functional room.

“Pay yourself enough so you can create something that you can use when things start going up again,” said Pearlson.

And Pearlson is confident that once the housing market is back up, the changes he has made will be money well spent.

Once a Cocoon, Now a Butterfly

It may seem the fairy godmother had a hand in this remodel — the transformation was almost as radical as a frog becoming a prince — but that would have been wishful thinking for owner Clark Fagot.

Instead he paid top dollar, in the literal sense, to remove the core of his modest-size, single-level home in south Eugene and reconstruct it with Northwest woods and a boxy but daring second-floor master suite oriented for window light and city views.

Fagot declines to say how much the remodel cost, but declares “I’ve never had a moment of buyer’s remorse.” The 42-year-old video game programmer attended schools in this 30th-Avenue neighborhood, graduating from South Eugene High School in 1985, and he’s grateful for its lifestyle conveniences.

“Now I have a nice place to live, and it’s where I want it,” says Fagot (pronounced fuh-go), noting the easy commute by bicycle, bus or car to his office on Fifth Avenue. “It’s something where it affects your lifestyle, where you want to put your money.”

Shady past

If ever a little house needed to sprout wings for a breezy new interior, it could be this one. In fact the original 1,200-square-foot home had such a low-slung roof with dark overhangs, made all the more gloomy indoors by soffited drop ceilings, it was almost like living in a cocoon.

A cramped cocoon at that. The little galley kitchen was separated from the diminutive dining room, and a slim hallway — just beyond 2 feet wide — made for dim passage to three small bedrooms and the home’s only bathroom.

And yet, when Eugene architect Nir Pearlson arrived on the scene, hired by Fagot to remake the home, he took cheer in certain of the little abode’s mid-century modern features.

He especially loved how glass-block columns illuminated the cozy front entry, how a slight butterfly roof graced the one-car garage, and how ’50s charm still shone through various fixtures and surfaces.

“We definitely took modernist cues that existed in the house,” Pearlson says in explaining his plan of attack for remodeling the core of the original house and adding 750 square feet of soaring new space above.

The trick, he adds, was to “liberate” the mid-century modernism elements with livability luxuries relished in today’s Pacific Northwest homes, namely generous window light, native woods, taller ceilings and enduring craftsmanship. Once work began, the project was nothing short of major surgery for general contractor Nick Russo.

“Very little, if any, of the central section remains of the original structure,” sums up Russo, a home designer himself and owner of Renaissance Remodeling & Restoration in Eugene. “I’d say 80 percent of it is new.”

Up, up and away

Building up on a modest, older home gets spendy. Complex structural elements — reinforced foundation, load-bearing framing — must be retrofitted to support the new second floor.

But it was the best option for Fagot’s home, says Pearlson. “It’s an urban infill. The rationale of going up makes complete sense: small house on a small lot in a dense environment.”

No mistaking Fagot’s home now. The upper-floor addition sets atop the original house like a big box, only with a slight V-shaped roofline. The minimalist design, which Pearlson says was like taking the baby-butterfly shape of the original garage roof and “putting it on steroids,” helps open the house to the outdoors. “Our goal (for the second floor) was an upward motion as you move out,” Pearlson says. “You bring the outside in, as opposed to what you would have with a flat roof or a vault.”

Contractor Russo allows the remodel “makes a pretty strong statement” in what he refers to as a post-war neighborhood built during the dawn of mass-production tract housing. But the rebuilt house would fit right in with neighborhoods in his native Bay Area, Russo says, and he expects to see more of such bold additions as buildable land becomes scarce in Eugene.

“Those neighborhoods that used to be in decline, like (this) Alder Street neighborhood, are going to turn around again,” he predicts. “Hopefully, for people like me, they will choose to renovate. I tell people, ‘We’re reinventing these structures into the modern era.’ That’s what we do.”

Fresh start

The new day in Fagot’s home starts with brighter living.

Upstairs and down, ceilings capture an Oregon essence with hemlock decking atop exposed Douglas fir beams. Most floors in the home are now white oak, and recycled fir — milled from old bleacher seats — makes for window sills, door casings and rails on the new stairway.

Upstairs, the open bedroom suite has luxuries like a jetted soaking tub — sitting out in the open all on its own — next to a modernist gas warming stove. A “wet zone” swath of slate extends from the tub to a bathroom adorned with travertine tile and glass-block shower.

Lofty windows illuminate the suite, with views extending east to the south hills and west to Amazon Park. For lounging around on sunny days, Fagot can step from the suite’s home office onto an 8-by-10-foot outside deck.

Downstairs, a radical new grand space combines kitchen, dining room and a modernistic, wide-open reverse stairway where a bedroom had been. Taller ceilings help brighten the living room, which also now merges with the grand space.

The rebuilt kitchen preens with brushed-metal appliances, beech cabinets and luxurious granite countertops. New built-ins include a work island and pantry.

Pearlson made good on his promise for modernistic cues with clean lines and exposed structures, such as the ceiling beams, which extend outside of the home for sheltering eaves. The new, wide-open staircase also is a bit stark with steel cables in place of balusters.

Windows upstairs have no wood framing, other than the sills, for a so-called sheetrock return.

It all adds up to a new realm of livability for Fagot. “When I’m lying around, it’s very homey,” he says. “It makes me feel at ease.”

The Nature of Design

Joy Watson and her husband, Doug, probably are every architect’s dream clients: When it came time to design their new home overlooking the McKenzie River east of Springfield, she said, “We just got out of the way and let Nir (Pearlson) do it.”

The result was something the couple never would have come up with themselves, “and we’re more than happy with it,” Watson said. “If I had been there putting my two cents in, we wouldn’t have gotten this.”

A lot of other people also appreciated the effort, because during the voting held last month during the Eugene Celebration, the Watson home won the single-family residential prize in the People’s Choice Awards, an annual competition sponsored by the Southwestern Oregon chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Pearlson also won the top spot in the commercial category for another of his projects, La Perla Pizzeria Napoletana, a complete redo of the building at 13th and Pearl streets in downtown Eugene that formerly housed the iconic red-and-white striped Farrell’s ice cream parlor and served as the birthday party capital for generations of local children.

You’d never recognize it now. Gone are the dark wood (and vaguely sticky) tabletops, the red-hot walls and the clamoring decor that gave the place a nonstop fever pitch. By contrast, La Perla is spare, sophisticated and subtle, a combination of Pacific Northwest sensibilities and overtones of traditional Italian shapes and colors. It’s just what Pearlson was aiming for when he and the building’s owners, Beppe Macchi and John “Gianni” Barofsky — who first made their culinary mark with Beppe & Gianni’s Trattoria at 19th and Agate streets — first sat down to come up with a design for La Perla, which opened at the end of June.

“The basic idea is a feeling of Italy moved to Eugene, but it’s a totally Northwest product with mostly local materials and lots of light,” Pearlson said. “We took some ideas from traditional Italian architecture, like arches and columns, and stripped them down to their essence, like a shadow of the original.”

After removing the old checkerboard floor tiles, the beat-up slab floor got a coat of stain and clear finish reminiscent of “a floor with a history and a story,” he said. The skylit atrium in the entry recalls shafts of light between tall Italian buildings, and the masonry and stone in the oven area recalls the earthen colors and textures of Mediterranean culture.

To Pearlson’s surprise, La Perla’s new vibrant green exterior and metal-clad base raised more eyebrows than any other aspect of its design.

“Someone called and said they didn’t like the color and that other people didn’t either,” he said. “What we did here, which we really didn’t think was radical at all, apparently was a little bit of a push for some people.”

Both of Pearlson’s prizewinning designs, and many others in the competition, share what appears to be a value among architects in the area to introduce interesting — if sometimes unexpected — building materials in designs that build on rather than dominate their landscape.

A major exception, of course, is Eugene’s two-year-old Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse that makes no pretense of anything but garnering attention. But Pearlson acknowledges that architect Thom Mayne’s controversial glass and stainless steel edifice with its swoops and angles “probably has helped to release something in local architecture.”

“Many people here are so hooked on gabled, traditional forms of design that it can be difficult to introduce new things,” he said. “I think a lot of architects in town wish they could move things a little faster, but the public is often quite conservative (about design). But I think the courthouse probably did help with that, that people who didn’t like it at first are getting used to it and feeling more relaxed about it.”


“We were originally thinking of building in traditional farmhouse style — old, old,” Joy Watson said. “We originally were trying to buy 100 acres near Creswell, and that went on for a long time and then the whole thing fell through. So we started looking at river property instead.”

After losing out on two other riverfront properties, they jumped at the chance to buy their five acres on Deerhorn Road, only to find afterward that most of it is zoned for exclusive forestry use, leaving just a small homesite area with a steep hill immediately behind it available for building.

“At that point, I was so upset about losing my original idea of farmhouse, acreage and chickens, I decided to do the total opposite and go completely modern,” Watson said. “We told Nir that we wanted a simple, very modern, minimalist house, and this is what he gave us.”

Essentially, the Watson house is two sections facing opposite directions, joined by a central corridor. The roof of the “public” area — open kitchen, dining and living rooms — slants upward from back to front to capture the view of the trees and the river. On the private side, the roof slants upward front to back, giving the master bedroom the opened-up view of the rocky hillside just beyond.

“Before I did the design, I came out and sat here for hours, getting the feel of the land,” Pearlson said. “This house is definitely designed for this site — it was not brought in, it ‘became’ here.”

A huge “sentinel” rock outcropping dominates the building site, and the house was pushed as close as legally allowed to the property line “to keep the building away from the rock’s line of energy,” he said. “But it’s an important part of the site — it looms there, definitely part of the design, and we wanted to incorporate it.”

Other large basalt boulders removed during excavation for the house’s underpinnings also have been incorporated in its landscaping, “merging the human creation with the natural,” Pearlson said. The house is mostly wood and glass, with exposed concrete floors and plastered walls whose colors blend into the hues on the adjoining outside surfaces. The roof sections, beam ends and trim are zinc-treated steel.

At 1,500 square feet with an additional 500 square feet of unfinished space below the main floor, the house is small by recent standards. Because of the challenging building site, the cost came in at about $220 per square foot, Watson said. Its size and clean, open spaces has encouraged the couple to declutter their lives. She’s delighted at the impetus to keep and acquire only what is essential.

“I’m addicted to modern now,” Watson said. “Design is something I just never thought much about, but this is just gorgeous.”

New Chapter for Bookmark

Hugh Duvall is a Eugene attorney, but now he can be called something else: a downtown developer. Duvall is renovating the former Bookmark building at 856 Olive St. to create a new office for himself and other lawyers. His building is a few steps from the two-block stretch of Broadway that has been considered for redevelopment during the past two years.

Duvall, a 46-year old criminal defense attorney, bought the building from Broadway landlords Tom Connor and Don Woolley in December for $350,000. Connor, Woolley and Opus Northwest, a Portland-based developer, once thought of using the property as part of a large retail, housing and entertainment project on Broadway. Those plans fizzled, but the city has acquired options to buy many of the same properties that were sought by Connor-Woolley-Opus, keeping the redevelopment idea alive. Duvall rents an office in the Citizens Building on Oak Street. He had looked for a year for a building to buy near the Lane County courthouse.

“I did have some reservations about buying the building because I did not want to stand in the way of a downtown redevelopment,” Duvall said. “But it’s not very often that a building within walking distance of the courthouse is available.” Duvall expects to pour $450,000 or more into a massive renovation of the 100-year-old building, originally called the Eugene Farmers Creamery. The building’s interior has been gutted to accommodate six law offices, one for Duvall and five for tenants. The buildings’ original window openings on the north wall, facing an alley and measuring about 4 feet wide by 7 feet tall, have been uncovered. They will be refitted with glass and glass blocks to let in light. A mezzanine will be constructed for storage space. Other interior treatments will include a vaulted ceiling above the lobby, Douglas fir beams, and steel and cable staircase railings.

“It’s going to be a dramatic renovation,” Duvall said. The building’s purchase and redevelopment shows there is demand for small, reasonably priced downtown office buildings, said Sue Prichard, the commercial real estate broker who handled the sale for Connor and Woolley. Such buyers typically remodel the buildings and occupy them, she said. Recent examples of that trend include the owners of the Oveissi & Co. building at Broadway and Willamette Street, the Ulum Group building on Oak Street, and the KLCC building on West Eighth Avenue.