When developer Nick Stearns bought his circa 1910 home in a historic Portland, Ore., neighborhood it came with a lucrative bonus right in the backyard. The home's 7,000-square-foot rear yard was a separate tax lot. The site is just blocks from the shops and restaurants of the area's now trendy 23rd Avenue, and Stearns seized the opportunity to develop a residential infill project to appeal to professional couples eager to live in this convenient, established neighborhood.
Named for Stearns' Chesapeake Bay retriever, who used to romp in the yard, Jake's Run is wedged into a steeply sloping site. Three, four-story townhouse units and a simple shingled carriage house, containing a pair of smaller, two-story units, flank an English Mews like center brick court. "In Portland we say that form follows parking," explains Schulz of Fletcher Farr Ayote. The site is zoned for one parking spot per unit, and that's what drove the plan. Three two-car garages for the townhome units are tucked beneath the carriage house, and the residents of the carriage house park in front on the street.
For design inspiration, the architect and developer compiled dozens of photos of the surrounding architecture. They also knocked on doors and visited neighbors, some of whom live in homes designed by Wade Pipes, a well-respected early Portland architect who practiced from the 1910s to the 1930s. They settled on what Schulz describes as a pure expression of English Arts and Crafts, characterized by stucco exteriors, steeply pitched roofs, square window bays, and very little overhangs. "Some mistake it for Tudor, but it doesn't have the heavy timbers," he says.
Authentic materials provide the project with a look of permanence. Schulz wrapped the townhomes entirely in smooth, 1-inch-thick cement stucco plaster, the square bays are clad in clear-stained cedar siding with old-fashioned mitered corners, and the windows are solid fir with a clear finish. The carriage house is clad with cedar shingles on all sides, and conventional, off-the-shelf garage doors were dressed up with applied cedar and fir trim. "It added some weight, so we had to use extra heavy springs on the doors to help lift them up," Schulz notes.
Inside, hand-forged iron railings, art glass, period tiles and fixtures, quarter sawn oak floors, and custom-made, clear-stained fir jazz up the typical row house designs. Fir cabinets and slab slate countertops create a dramatic kitchen. "The finishes are a really refreshing break from the ubiquitous cherry and granite," says Schulz.
The attention to scale and detail generated positive reactions from the community, and the team was even commended by a city council member, who declared that Jake's Run was an example for all infill builders. "I've done a lot of projects, but I've enjoyed this one more than anything in my career," says Schulz, who is proud of the enduring appeal of the design. "It was especially gratifying when passersby would stop to admire the quality of the restoration we were doing."