Page H1 . 15 October 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Patterns of Home
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    Patterns of Home
    Pattern Ten Composing with Materials : Small House, Beautiful Materials

    ArchWeek Photo

    The simple exterior of the Davis House has a powerful entry centered and given importance by the gable roof above it.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston


    When Howard Davis decided to build a house for himself in Eugene, Oregon, his budget constraints led him to economize on the size of the site, the overall size of the house, and the simplicity of its design. But he refused to scrimp on materials.

    As an architect, Davis knew that he could squeeze a lot of usefulness out of a limited area, but he also understood that the beauty of materials, carefully chosen, would enrich the experience of the house.

    The exterior appearance of the 1,200-square-foot (110-square-meter) house is modest and straightforward.

    From the street, a simple front porch is covered with a shed roof, but given more prominence by the presence of an intersecting gable roof just above. In Oregon, a land of conifers, Davis chose to sheathe not only the walls in cedar shingles but also the roof. The result is a little furry bear of a house, a cottage.

    This could have led to a rather monotone appearance, but Davis contrasted the shingles with the cool blue-green paint of the window, door, and rafter trim, a color that is complementary to the rich, warm, reddish and brown hues of the shingles.

    And Davis had a couple of tricks up his sleeve. First, he added special punch and excitement to the entry by treating the front door to a bright yellow paint job, with sympathetic echoes in the three inset ceramic tiles just above it.

    Next, Davis embellished the entry by using smooth, tightly fitted wooden boards for the porch roof, railing material, and bench an echo of the fine paneling and wainscoting found inside.

    ArchWeek Photo

    The large central living/ dining room, a simple rectangle in plan, is enriched by small surrounding spaces: the study through the glass door, the stairs, and the partly open kitchen.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston

    ArchWeek Photo

    The modest plan can be thought of as a great room enriched by surrounding support spaces.
    Image: The Taunton Press

    ArchWeek Photo

    The kitchen repeats the warm-spectrum color scheme of the main living/ dining room, but in a more intense form, with whiter white, redder red, and so on.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston

    ArchWeek Photo

    Unpainted wood draws attention to the innate qualities of the material itself. Painted wood shelving can recede and allow the displayed objects to shine.
    Photo: David Duncan Livingston

    Click on thumbnail images to view full-size pictures.

    The large central room is surrounded by subsidiary spaces that are as small as practical and as open to the main space as possible (an example of the pattern Private Edges, Common Core). The kitchen is tiny but open to the main room, and the study is compressed but looks back into the living room through its entry and interior window. Even the stairs are kept open to the central large space, thereby adding to its visual generousness.

    Contrast and Link

    The material theme of the interior begins with the floors of patterned oak strip flooring, which are left a natural color. This continuous, uninterrupted floor plane is partnered on the first floor with a wooden ceiling of exposed Douglas fir floor joists and clear Douglas fir ceiling boards. Connecting these two horizontal surfaces are the walls of smooth drywall, painted an even, sunny, light yellow. We appreciate the raw beauty of the natural wood floor and ceiling precisely because they contrast with the plain, creamy smooth, textureless walls that connect them.

    Strong contrast such as between wood and drywall can be refined by linking the materials to each other in some way for a more integrated, richer, complex composition. In this room, Davis has linked the walls to the wood floor and ceiling by running wood wainscoting around the perimeter of the room. Breaking out of this wainscoting are the door and window trim, built-in seats, cabinets, and shelving all of the same Douglas fir as the overhead beams and ceiling, but closer in smoothness to the drywall.

    Patterns of Home

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    Part of the ArchitectureWeek Patterns series. Text and images excerpted with permission from Patterns of Home: The Ten Essentials of Enduring Design by Max Jacobson, Murray Silverstein, and Barbara Winslow, copyright © 2002 The Taunton Press, Inc. The book is available from The Taunton Press and at

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