A Bright Yellow Reading Nook Steals the Show in This Energy-Efficient Portland Abode

In Portland, Oregon, an eco-friendly home boasts sustainable design and vibrant pops of color.

When clients approached Portland–based In Situ Architecture to construct a new dwelling for their small family, they had several requests. Not only were they looking to build a property with enough space to accommodate frequent visits from in-laws, they were also looking to create an eco-friendly, non-toxic home that would be extremely energy efficient.

The home is a unique response to a standard 50’ x 100’ infill lot. Rather than a typical full-width house with a front and backyard, the architects have designed a long and narrow floor plan to create a sunny south façade. The house presents its very narrow end with a cantilevered balcony and front porch to the street, allowing it to visually recede. The long, built-in planter separates the porch from the street and creates an additional layer of privacy.  Built Photo

The material palette is simple and designed to age gracefully, featuring stained cedar siding and bright interiors with exposed ceiling structures and pops of primary colors throughout. 

"Although certification wasn’t their initial goal, Passivhaus provided the perfect benchmark to ensure that the home would satisfy expectations," explains Jeff Stern, the principle of In Situ Architecture, a firm known for their energy-efficient systems. 

A floor-to-ceiling sliding door offers direct access to the patio and yard. A yellow custom-built reading nook packs a playful punch of bold color, and certainly brightens up the gray days that the Pacific Northwest is known for. 

Designed to meet the Passivhaus standard (yet not certified), the resulting 2,700-square-foot home—also known as the 18th Avenue House—features airtight construction, while employing continuous exterior insulation. It houses high-performing triple glazed windows, as well as a super-efficient heat recovery ventilator to maintain comfortable temperatures and healthy indoor air quality. 

Thanks to a spacious bookshelf and plenty of seating, this vibrant area is an inviting spot to read and relax.

The main floor features an open kitchen and dining room, which are placed over the basement.  

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The ceiling throughout the main floor is exposed wood joists and plywood sheathing, all of which were painted white to provide texture and give more character to the room. 

 Custom white oak faces for the IKEA cabinets were made locally by Kokeena. 

A view from the kitchen. The use of white on the walls and ceilings combined with the glazing provide a great sense of space throughout. 

The kitchen features white quartz counters, a mounted induction cooktop, and a full-height backsplash with white penny-round tiles. 

Concrete floors are balanced with natural European Larch windows.

A guest room is tucked behind a primary yellow pocket door on the ground floor.

An up-close view of the guest room.

The master bedroom, the child's room, two bathrooms, and an office space are located on the second level. The white cabinets allow for additional storage space. 

Most of the framing lumber and decking came from FSC certified sources, while the FSC certified oak flooring was grown and manufactured locally by Zena Forest Products.

The bathrooms feature simple white tiles with concrete floors, while pocket doors throughout the home are painted in primary colors to create a subtle pop of bright color. 

A built-in desk in the kid's room is simple, yet fully functional. 

The master bedroom is located near the back, and has a private balcony that provides cover for the patio off the living room below. 

A home office is located on the upper floor at the front of the house with a private balcony that also serves as the covering of the front porch. 

The clients' desire of a modern house that fit comfortably into the neighborhood was definitely met. A simple flat roof with a surrounding parapet keeps the height below the other two-story houses in the neighborhood. The simple exterior palette of stained cedar siding and Larch windows were all designed to allow the house to age gracefully over time.

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: In Situ Architecture, Jeff Stern

Builder/General Contractor: JRA Green Building, Inc, James Arnold

Structural Engineer: Structural Department, Zac Blodget

Photography: Built Photo

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