ONE OF THE BEST THINGS about this Craftsman-inspired home, perched on a windswept bluff overlooking a secluded cove on Oregon’s central coast, is that you can appreciate its beauty long before you ever step inside. The road leading to it meanders past a vista point, then makes its way around the cove while crossing a bridge over a small gorge, affording unimpeded views of the home nearly the entire way.
“The approach to this property and that feeling of curious anticipation that you get as you see it from the road is part of what drew us to it so many years ago,” says David Eikrem. That was back in the early 1980s, when he and his wife, Pamela, would drive past the cove on trips up and down the central coast from a vacation cottage they maintained in nearby Lincoln City. The house that stood on the bluff back then was not the house that stands there today, but it was attractive enough in its magnificent setting to whet the appetites of countless travelers passing by.
“One day we drove past and I said to Pam, “I wonder if it’s for sale?” We turned off the road and pulled up to the property. Much to our dismay, there was a big sign in the front yard that read No this house is not for sale. No this house is not for rent. Don’t ask.”
Fast forward about a dozen years, to another drive down that same stretch of coast, after they had moved their primary residence from Portland to Longview, Wash. This time they didn’t see the house they had so often admired. It was gone. They drove down to have a closer look at the property, now vacant except for the chimney and the ghostly remnants of the house’s foundation, where a “For Sale” sign now stood in the yard.
They made their way to the edge of the cliff and gazed out over the ocean and the panoramic view of the graceful 1920s-era arching bridge that spans a small creek on the innermost corner of the cove. Realizing again what a special place this was, they decided to inquire about buying it. They learned that the couple who had owned the house had passed away and left it to their heirs. It sat vacant and deteriorating for several years, succumbing to the harsh coastal conditions, until it was eventually declared a hazard and taken down by the local fire department with a controlled burn.
“Without knowing whether we would ever build on the site, we just thought that since we had admired it for so long, and we now might have a chance to own it, we had to try,” Dave says. They did, and soon it was theirs.
It would be several more years before they would make the decision to replace the Lincoln City cottage with a new house on the cove. During those years, through crucial relationships they established with an architect and a stonemason working on their Longview home, they were awakened to the architecture of Charles and Henry Greene and the Craftsman aesthetic, and a vision of the unique Craftsman house that stands on their coastal bluff today began to emerge.
“LITTLE RED SHED”
In the early 1990s, Dave and his partners in their Longview dental and orthodontics practice had met with Tom Shaw, a Portland-based architect whose style and approach had made an indelible impression on Dave during their interviews in connection with the practice’s need for new offices. Although the partners decided to retain another architect instead, the two men stayed in touch.
“I told him that at some point Pam and I were going to remodel our kitchen, and when we did, we would ask him to design it.” Dave says. That project, the Eikrems’ first experience working with Shaw, expanded beyond its original scope when Dave and Pam asked Shaw to convert an existing utility room into a study and add a new corner fireplace to better reflect the era the home was built in.
Later, when they needed to replace the garage of the Longview home, they again called on Shaw. At the heart of that project was the addition of a modest, cozy room that Dave and Pam named the “Little Red Shed” after a tiny pub of the same name located at Historic Edgefield, a lodge in Troutdale, Ore. The couple had often visited the pub when they lived in Portland and drew much of the inspiration for the room from it.
The room’s most striking feature was to be a dramatic raised-hearth fireplace similar to the one in the home Dave had grown up in. He had assembled a supply of clinker bricks and sketched out a design for the fireplace when he agreed to hire Alan Bauch, a stonemason whose 20-page bid on the job—describing at great length the intricacies of the fireplace venting, the damper, specifics about the throat dimensions and how the design as a whole would allow for maximum draft—amounted, in Dave’s words, to a masterful “dissertation” on the subject of fireplace and chimney design.
As it turned out, the experience of designing and working on the Little Red Shed room in turn provided the seminal design ideas and shared experiences that enabled the Eikrems, Shaw and Bauch to become the team that would eventually create the Craftsman masterpiece on the bluff overlooking the Pacific in Depoe Bay.
During the three years the home was under construction, Al took up residence at the Eikrems’ older cottage in Lincoln City while he worked on the extensive stonework at the new house. Dave would come down on weekends to help out, and the two became close friends.
“We got into a little routine,” Dave says. “I’d drive down on Thursday night after work and go right to bed. When I’d get up in the morning, Al would be downstairs playing his guitar, we’d have breakfast, I’d pack us some lunch and we’d go off to work.”
The stones used in the construction of the house came from a glacial moraine near Flathead Lake outside of Polson, Montana.
“Some of those stones are enormous, well over 1,000 pounds,” Dave says. “We had to figure out how to get them from the driveway down to the house, so we built an impromptu sled. We figured out that to transport them, we could run a rope from the sled over to a pulley on the foundation, then back around to the bumper of my old Ford Explorer. On a good day we could maybe get two of those bigger stones moved to the base of the chimney. Lifting them into place required an additional pulley apparatus and at times even more ingenuity. It was exhausting work, but the end result is quite spectacular.”
Taking cues from some of the stonework on Greene & Greene–designed homes like the Mary E. Cole House and the Edgar W. Camp House, both in Pasadena, Tom and Al flared out the bases of the foundation walls and columns to appear as though they arose out of the earth itself, while also acting as a foundation for the massive weight they support.
Tom detailed the basic look and proportions of the fireplace and chimney, but Al was given creative license to design how it all came together.
“Al chose the stones, put in the orders, and specified how many of each type of rock he wanted,” Dave says. “Then once they were on site, he had them laid out all over the driveway, separated by size, color and shape. He would then handpick where each stone would go and make sure its face was speaking in harmony with the others.”
The home’s signature stonework is the lifeblood of the home. “Al is the most honest craftsman I’ve ever known or worked with,” Dave says. “He loves his craft and he’s proud of what he’s accomplished, and when he’s done, the money he’s made from it is secondary to the satisfaction he gets from the work itself.”
WORTH THE WAIT
Now that the years of planning and building are over, the Eikrems spend as much time as they can at their home on the coast, and they routinely welcome friends and family to enjoy the house as well.
“One of the things our friends always tell us is that they immediately feel comfortable here and find it to be very peaceful and relaxing, almost therapeutic,” Dave says. “It’s a real sanctuary because there’s no television, no Internet, no phone and none of the other things that normally distract us. There are just the waves, the wind, the trees and a warm fire.
“There’s an expression that goes something like, ‘you can’t build an old house,’ but you can build a house the way the old houses were built and furnish it with things that are old. Seeking out antiques and artifacts, and using salvaged hardware and repurposed architectural elements, we’ve tried to disguise the fact that it’s new construction. Gradually, it has become an old house.
“We’ll continue to share this home with our kids and grandkids—and maybe even their kids—for generations to come. There’s something very satisfying about that. If we had bought and built on this property when we first saw it, it might have turned out to be completely different. We anticipated that everything was going to take a long time. If it hadn’t, it wouldn’t have been worth waiting for.”
David Kramer is a Portland-based freelance writer and curator of the website TheCraftsmanBungalow.com. He is grateful to David and Pamela Eikrem, Tom Shaw, Alan Bauch, and Craig and Reisha Bryan for helping to make this article possible.
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