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New Craftsman House, Oregon Coast Rustic Overbay

The new house was sited down the embankment to avoid spoiling a neighbor’s view. Rocks (451 of them) stabilize the bank.

The house might have been here for a hundred years, perched above the windswept shore near Astoria, Oregon. Its unique Arts & Crafts spirit features include a prominent masonry chimney that seems to have morphed from the rocks below, and a furniture-quality entry door. The house is new, however, and owes many of its artful details to builder Edward Overbay of Overbay Houseworks.

Overbay had been pursuing a degree in architecture when he took a left turn into woodworking and construction, after doing remodeling jobs with a friend.

“That’s when I realized I had a real aptitude for furniture-making,” he says. Overbay buried himself in research, poring over tomes by or about such masters as George Nakashima, the Japanese–American woodworker, furniture-maker, and architect. In the 40 years since, Overbay has become known for his masterful staircases, mantelpieces, entry doors, furniture—and whole-house construction.

Arts & Crafts woodworker details

The woodworker recommended casually elegant sapele wood over Douglas fir. Overbay himself crafted the graduated finger joints in the mantelpiece, cutting them freehand.

Homeowners Russ and Sue Farmer hired an architect when they decided to build a home. Jeffrey Miller of Portland was highly recommended by a friend of the Farmers. Overbay was the contractor of choice.

The Farmers told Miller they wanted a rustic, cabin-like house in the trees. “Miller’s original views featured cedar shingles,” Russ remembers.

But, “we bumped the shingles up to 18" Alaskan yellow cedar,” says Overbay, “a real stout material with triple coverage to withstand the 135-mph hurricane-strength winds that pushed water uphill during construction.” This site gets some weather.

Arts & Crafts woodwork details

A marble façade was chosen for the metal firebox trim system.

Slip-resistant natural slate leads to Overbay’s handcrafted entry doors of African sapele. A regional artist handcrafted the door handle, which depicts a Chinook salmon—the pectoral fin actuates the thumb latch. To create a transition from the round rocks at the base of the chimney to its more regular engineered stone, mason Mark Brause recommended the flare that echoes the hipped roof, which architect Miller designed to deflect rainwater away from windows below.

Overbay and Russ Farmer, who is himself experienced in construction, collaborated on interior details. Overbay added a continuous head band, common in Arts & Crafts houses, which travels across the window and door heads for a unifying trim effect. Overbay’s hand-cut finger joints on the mantel are a nod to Greene & Greene woodwork. (“I had a talented crew working on this house,” Overbay explains, “but I like to do the fussier, more challenging aspects myself.”)

Builder Overbay handcrafted stove hood

Builder Overbay handcrafted the stove hood and the three-legged chopping block. Countertops are black granite with an antiqued finish; the backsplash is colorful Van Gogh granite.

The cabinets of African sapele feature Cambodian Maidu panels made from burl wood, cut in sequence. At first, “Sue was determined to use Douglas fir,” recalls her husband, Russ. “But Ed Overbay thought fir was too casual for this house.” Sapele, he said, is understated but very elegant.

“I was doing a series of tansu chests,” Overbay recalls, “and I wanted to incorporate burl into them.” When he stumbled upon an extraordinarily rare stash of burl at Gilmer Wood in Portland, Overbay returned and bought up the whole lot, which he continues to use as accent wood.

Shingle-style house elements

Though the front of the house is cabin-like, the rear has Shingle-style elements.

A striking feature of the kitchen is the Van Gogh (a.k.a. Blue Luise) granite used as a backsplash behind the stove. The Farmers’ then-8-year-old granddaughter Mackensie chose it. At the stone yard, Russ says she shouted to Sue: “Grammy, look, there’s a bird!” And sure enough, a bird shape appears in the orange portion of stone, which also has teal, aqua, white, and burgundy veins. Sue bought the piece on the spot.

Craftsman Entry Doors, Arts & Crafts Doors

The entry door is African sapele, built with mortise-and-tenon joinery (tenons are 4" deep).

The kitchen has little space for an island, so Overbay crafted a round, easy-to-navigate chopping block with three legs instead of four. The woodworker told Russ he could accept it or reject it, and Russ answered: “It’s never leaving this house!”

Architect Jeffrey L. Miller Architect, PC, Portland, OR: (503) 222-2234,
Construction / details Overbay Houseworks, Warrenton, OR: (503) 861-1379,
Excavator Aba Company, Astoria, OR: (503) 325-7801
Masonry Mark H. Brause, Astoria, OR: (503) 325-2365
Windows Bergerson Cedar Windows, Hammond, OR: (800) 240-4365,
Granite EleMar Oregon, Tualatin, OR: (503) 692-8020,
Maidu wood Gilmer Wood, Portland, OR: (503) 274-1271,
Vintage lighting Lumen Essence Lighting, Portland, OR: (503) 721-0939

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