Upon an overlook in the Hood River Valley, an hour outside of Portland, Eau House gazes between the green sloping Cascade Mountains onto the wind-rushed waters of the Columbia River Gorge. It’s a region that’s been designated as a National Scenic Area–the largest in the United States–but this modest single-family home doesn’t attempt to compete with the grandeur of its natural setting. Rather, in concept as well as form, Eau House mirrors the elegance and flow of the waterways it calls home.
Eau House finds an unlikely organizing element in its mud room, which occupies a central position in the floorplan. Although practically this space fulfills a standard household function, as a small, freestanding cedar-clad enclosure, spatially, it engenders balance. To its north sleeps the primary suite and, across the hall, two bedrooms and a bathroom. To the south, the living, dining, and kitchen spaces breathe into one another. In effect, the mud room guides the flow of circulation in the home, between the private and public spaces, as a rock guides the flow of water in a stream.
The western facade gazes through a wall of windows onto the expanse of mountains and river. In summer the sun is low and harsh, but the structure’s extruded overhang offers relief in the form of shade, even as the windows maintain generous lines of sight to the gorge.
These heating and cooling considerations and their relationship to the view lend Eau House its singular form, guiding the slope of the roof, the inward angle of the western wall, and the pattern of recesses along the structure’s perimeter.
Corten steel clads most of the exterior, a resilient, durable material composed of an alloy that changes color over time–from bright silver to burnt red to a purplish brown shade–but in contrast to other types of steel, this one is meant to weather rust and retain its structural integrity.
That’s important in a region like the one Eau House occupies, famous for wind and watersports, where gusts reach speeds of up to 35mph. Cedar paneling highlights other exterior features, like the home’s entry and the primary suite’s outdoor shower, while their recessed position keeps them well protected from the elements.
Plural’s Director of Design, Adelle York, designed Eau House while working at Johnston Architects. The owners of Eau House were amazing–collaborative, accommodating, and warmhearted. To visit the site during construction, York had to take a prop plane from Seattle to Portland and then go on a drive, and the clients always had an old 4Runner waiting for her at the airport. She’d hop in and groove to whatever tunes were left in the CD player. Ryan Coyner and his team at Hawk Butte Construction, who translated the design into a built structure, were a joy to work with. By the end of the project, everyone was hugging and celebrating. Both stories are emblematic of the trust and connection that went into designing and building Eau House, sentiments that bode well for any lasting home.
Ryan Coyner and team at Hawk Butte Construction
Photography by Skip Armstrong