The small, nearly century-old cottage on the banks of the Deschutes River in Bend may have been humble, but architect Karen Smuland and designer Lucy Roland knew it well—not for its design, but for its enviable location. “The property it sat on is unbeatable: right on the river and next to one of the greatest parks in town,” Roland says. What’s more, the double lot is elevated above the water, “so you get incredible views from the ground level,” Smuland adds.
For a young family making the move from Hong Kong to Bend, the location provided an opportunity to pursue their active lifestyle without restraint. “They’re the most outdoorsy people I’ve ever met, and the perfect representation of why people move to Bend,” Roland says. “Here, they could have space and a true indoor-outdoor living situation.”
But not in the old cottage. Though Smuland and general contractor Trevin Duey explored ways to expand the structure, a feasibility study revealed that the foundation only supported a fraction of the home’s footprint—a patchwork of additions made over the years—and that the second story the homeowners required wouldn’t be possible without a cost-prohibitive retrofit. “When we came to the conclusion that the house had to go, we wanted to avoid sending everything to the landfill,” Duey recalls. So, the team invited neighbors and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore to salvage windows, doors, cabinets, appliances, and plumbing and lighting fixtures, then embarked on a painstaking deconstruction process, separating and recycling siding, concrete, asphalt shingles and wood.
While the complete demolition of the existing structure offered something of a blank slate, Smuland still needed to work within some other parameters on the site. A 40-foot setback from the Deschutes’ rock bluffs and riparian habitat would shape her design, as would the property’s heritage apple and Russian olive trees, which the architect chose to save. “Although we didn’t have to preserve everything, it felt important to keep some aspects of the former house,” she says. The shade of another large tree dictated the shape and placement of shed roofs that accommodate a large photovoltaic array.
Working within these parameters—and keeping in mind the homeowners’ taste for Scandinavian-modern style—Smuland designed a two-story home with river views and outdoor access from nearly every room. On the main floor, a large, folding glass door connects the open-plan kitchen, dining and great room to a multilevel patio. The second-floor owners’ suite includes a bedroom and den that open onto a balcony overlooking the water.
A dark exterior palette of charred, stained and brushed tongue-and-groove cedar, stucco and board-formed concrete exudes a quiet presence nestled into a setting by landscape architect Michael Szabo. Light cedar soffits and beams hint at the airier mood inside, where soft white walls, cool gray concrete countertops, and white oak floors and cabinets amplify the natural light that streams in through broad windows. “The linear windows make the house feel more horizontal and less vertical; less cluttered and more open to the sky,” Smuland says.
Roland also had views in mind when selecting clean-lined, neutral furnishings that rely on rich textures for warmth and impact. “We don’t have a lot of bold patterns in here,” she says. “It’s very subdued—because when you have a view like this, why would you try to fight it? When you walk in the house, your eye flows through and out to the river.”
In the great room, a daybed upholstered in a green bouclé, a vintage brass drum table and a sofa covered in gray wool gather around a concrete hearth. “A cement-faced fireplace could read very cool and contemporary,” Roland says, “but when you add in a rustic oak mantel, it changes everything.” Wood plays a similar role in the kitchen. Applied to the hood and the face of the island, it provides a warm contrast to white flat-panel cabinets and handmade, three-dimensional backsplash tile, which Roland loves for its eye-catching texture. “It’s subtle yet dramatic,” she says. “It’s kind of unexpected, too.”
But the most surprising design moment awaits in the powder room, where Roland papered the walls in a bold, abstract pattern in vibrant shades of blue. “The powder room is where you can go big and outside the box,” she says. But not too far—with shapes and colors evocative of cool rapids, even this detail ensures that the river is never far from mind.