The Wilkinson Residence

House Tour

Name: The Wilkinson Residence
Location: Portland, Oregon
Size: 3300 square feet indoors, 500 square feet of deck space
Years lived in: 6

One look at the exterior of the Wilkinson house (which is referred to as "The Treehouse" by some and "Wave House" by others) and you know you're not about to enter an ordinary home. You may love this house. (Goodness knows, I do.) You may not. But that's not the point. Designed to suit the exact tastes of its occupant – who loves playing the viola, choral singing, and making ice cream on his deck – this house is an inspiring reminder of what's possible when you abandon trends and really think about the kind of home that will make you happy.

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Beyond lending his name to the house, the homeowner prefers to maintain his privacy. However, we were lucky enough to chat with the architect, Robert Harvey Oshatz, who also took a hands-on role during the construction process.

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This is obviously a unique home. But do you subscribe to any particular architectural style as a rule?

I don't work in styles. I design structures from the inside out, building something that suits the requirements of my client.

So how did the homeowner's requirements inspire this design?

He enjoys wine and making ice cream, playing the viola, choral singing, entertaining. The wavy ceiling was designed for acoustic reasons, to reflect sound when he plays his viola or plays music.

He has friends who cook, so he wanted a gourmet kitchen for them to cook in. He wanted a big deck for making ice cream in the summer time. He loves nature, so he wanted to be able to look out into the trees, open up the windows and doors, and listen to the birds sing.

He also wanted to use natural materials as much as possible, creating a continuation of the interior and exterior space. We saved all the trees on the site and made sure the design worked around the trees. Ultimately we wanted a structure that would be at peace in its environment and that people would feel at peace inside.

There's so much to love in this house. Now that a few years have passed since it was built, what's your favorite element today?

I love the little meditation room at the end of the kitchen. There's a little daybed that lets you look out on nature.

We had a lot of interns helping out – architectural students who were learning new skills on the job. The shingles on the exterior of the house were done by an intern who'd never done it before, and he did a beautiful job. Two other interns who had never framed before did all the framing, and their craftsmanship was amazing.

What kind of response does the house get from visitors?

People say they feel at peace within the house.

As an architect, what's your advice for anyone who wants to create their own dream home?

You don't need to hire a local architect; you can hire any architect, anywhere. If you want a house that is special and that reflects your personality and wishes, you have to search for an architect who can provide you with what you want, and not just settle for someone local. I work with clients all over the place. With today's technology, the client and the architect don't always have to be in the same part of the world.

It's the responsibility of the client to find an architect who can understand their dreams and make them a reality. Make sure you and your architect are compatible with one another. Find someone you feel comfortable talking with, with whom you can talk about your wishes. Ultimately, the client and the architect have to be able to talk so that they can move in the same direction and end up exactly where you need to be.

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Thanks so much for the tour, Robert!

Images: Robert Harvey Oshatz

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