Sprawling Out and Lighting Up

Unlike most lots in Oregon that feature slopes, the site for this house in Wilsonville, Ore., presented a rare opportunity with its large, flat space. A modern ranch design with an abundance of glass was chosen to take advantage of this distinctive lot and minimize the need for turning on light switches during gray winter days.

Located on an old quarry, this home site features six long, narrow acres with the majority of the acreage behind the house. Why not take advantage of the lot and spread the house out on one level, thought Eric Schnell, design director for Portland, Ore.-based Alan Mascord Design Associates. The work of respected architect Fay Jones and his sprawling one-story houses also inspired the design of this home.

A family of four, including two children, lives in this house, so the main goal was to separate areas into wings for privacy and sound isolation. “The different wings include the kids’ bedrooms in one wing, master bedroom in another wing, garage off another wing, and the center portion of the house is the public area. Separate wings provide privacy within the house and also set up outdoor spaces,” Schnell says.

The qualities of the views in each room were coordinated with the importance of each room. “Most all of the prominent rooms — family room, master bedroom, master bathroom — have views to the rear which are the strongest distant views. The kids’ bedroom and guest bedroom face front. Those spaces that are secondary get lesser views,” he adds.

Building Green

Because the environment provided such a spacious site on which to build, it was only fair to return the favor by protecting the environment through green building practices. Therefore, the back of the house faces due south and features passive solar qualities. “[We] put as much glass on the [south] side of the house. Overhangs were used to control the hotter summer sun, and in the winter allow the low sun to come in and warm it up,” Schnell says.

A 75 ft.-skylight stretching across the middle of the roof was used to bring daylighting into the center of the house.
This increase in natural light minimizes the need to turn on lights during the day. “Living in Oregon, our winter months can be very gray. I didn’t want the house to feel dark in any way,” he says.

A wood grill panel consisting of premade deck rails was used on the underside of the skylight for diffusion. “It softens the light coming in during the day and offers a pattern as well. In the night, it reflects the light instead of creating a black hole that would swallow light without the grill,” Schnell says. The wood grill also was used in other areas of the house to help define each area’s space.

The inclusion of the skylight wasn’t challenging for Schnell; however, lighting the skylight was a challenge. “It was a continuous opening in the roof that was filled in with a skylight system. There were some tricks to the lighting on the underside of the wood grill. So we put a continuous uplight on the lower side,” he adds.

Slate flooring was used both inside and outside the house to blur the lines of separation between indoors and out. The slate flooring is beneficial in another way by absorbing solar heat gain during the winter months, and being cooler during the summer months. Extra insulation was used in the walls, ceilings and floors to maintain the home’s energy efficiency level.
Schnell is proud of the outcome and wouldn’t change anything in the design. “It turned out awesome,” Schnell says. “[The success is due to] a client who trusted my ideas.”