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Crafted Subtlety

Pleasingly understated design and fine woodworking belie the expert engineering that went into this new house on the Oregon coast.
lighthouse-evoking stair newel, fine woodworking

The lighthouse-evoking stair newel is a key feature of the beach house. 

Built to fit the Cannon Beach neighborhood, this cozy shingled cottage filled with handcrafted details replaced a 1940s building with a failing foundation and a pronounced list. Contractor Rich Elstrom was first on board, and brought in architect Jay Raskin, interior designer Nan Ryder, and fine woodworker Edward Overbay. For 40 years, Overbay has been crafting sumptuous works of art, ranging from fine furniture to spiral staircases, mantelpieces, and whole houses.

simple roofline, unpainted cedar shingles

The simple roofline and unpainted cedar shingles recall the 1940s house thatoccupied the site.

“Oregon red cedar shingles were secured with stainless steel nails and flashing and fasteners, to withstand the corrosive environment,” Overbay says of Elstrom’s ability to build in a challenging marine environment. For the handcrafted entry door, Overbay echoed the architect’s choice of a copper-sheathed garage door, adding copper inlays with a hammered texture, which “will weather to a warm cedar color.”

hammered copper panel door, fine woodworking

Arts & Crafts elements include the hammered copper panel in the entry door.

Elstrom knew that Overbay should build the staircase, calling him a visionary. “I wanted to come up with a beach theme that wasn’t overplayed,” says Overbay, “so I suggested we have the main newel posts subtly evoke a lighthouse, while marrying the materials to the entry door and the basic bones of the house.” Overbay chose African sapele mahogany, a very stable wood that doesn’t need stain to bring out its color. Highlights are in western maple burl. “With its sensuous grab rail and 180-degree turn,” says Elstrom, “you don’t need to remove your thumb from the groove either going up or down; it’s fluid, continuous, with a very nice hand to it.”

new art glass

Early plans called for solid doors in the bank of linen cabinets; Overbay suggested glass above and drawers below for greater interest and better storage. New art glass adds beauty and provides privacy for the hobby room beyond.

When the bright color on a neighbor’s house and its proximity intruded upon the privacy of the kitchen, the team came up with the idea of using art glass by Portland stained glass artist David Schlicker, another A&C touch. “Nan [Ryder] chose the blue paint color for the island,” notes Overbay, “which adds a casual splash of color in an otherwise neutral area…and speaks of the sea.”

high end cabinetry, fine woodworking

Exquisite cabinetry details evoke a butler's pantry.

“We all worked on the transition between the kitchen and the adjacent living room,” recalls Elstrom. “We’d be in Jay [Raskin’s] office, modeling on his CAD program, one way, and then the other way. Since the house was framed, roof on, I said, ‘The hell with CAD, let’s get everything in context.’” So off they went with plywood and cardboard boxes to develop the space on site.

The house is built over a creek ravine, requiring pilings set 35' down into ancient beach sand. Both its engineering and its fine details are the result of a gratifying collaboration. The homeowners, who have built six custom homes, are pleased.

cottage on Cannon Beach

The cozy cottage on Cannon Beach has a great view of Haystack Rock. New landscaping with a firepit takes advantage of a cliff edge protected from the wind.

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