One couple works hard to realize their rustic dream.
Story & photos by Connie Anderson
My husband, Scott, and I are native-born Oregonians. Both originally from Portland, we lived in the city most of our lives, but I always dreamed of moving out of the city and into the woods. I wanted to live in a rustic home in the country, surrounded by tall Douglas fir trees. After our fourth year of marriage, we decided to sell our house in Portland and buy a one-acre parcel 30 minutes away in the Redland/Oregon City area, a beautiful countryside consisting of Christmas tree farms and horse ranches. It is one hour from Mount Hood and about 45 minutes from the many waterfalls of Columbia River Gorge, including the historic Multnomah Falls. In the fall of 1990, we enlisted the help of our growing children, family members and friends to help us clear the acre for a house. This took several months of cutting down and burning a minimal amount of trees and brush.
We acted as our own contractors, hiring only a few subcontractors. By ourselves, we installed the ductwork and kitchen cabinets, stained and clear-coated interior woodwork, and painted. Scott is very handy and adept at building and fixing anything. We have been married 29 years now, and I have always said that Scott could build a mall in the jungle with just a matchstick and a Q-tip! Construction took place through the dead of winter, so there was snow on the ground at times. We faced other challenges as well. We were busy raising our three children, and one of our sons was finishing up three years of chemotherapy to treat his leukemia. My mother was dying of cancer and sadly never got to see the home built. It was a very hard time. We had to commute from Portland every evening and on weekends when Scott was off from his full-time job as a sheet metal journeyman and foreman in the city.
After selling our Portland home, we had to live in a rental house for 13 months while our new home was being completed. My grandfather helped build Timberline Lodge up on Mount Hood with the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, so I’ve always felt that I have “rustic” in my blood. I have always loved little cabins and lodges and anything rustic. I definitely have “cabin fever.” Our new house didn’t start out rustic, other than the river rock fireplace I had to have, because we were already over budget after construction. But it was a start! Over the last 24 years, we’ve turned our ordinary house in Oregon City into a rustic retreat. Starting in the living room, we began installing tongue-and-groove pine throughout the entire house, applying stain and clear-coat to all the boards. We pulled out all of the wall-to-wall carpeting and tore out all of the flooring down to the subfloors, then installed solid 6-inch rustic hickory hardwood floors ourselves. Additionally, we laid stone tile in the kitchen and dining area. We landscaped almost all of the property ourselves, only hiring professionals to install a stream that fed into a pond. We also hired out the completion of all the outside rock work on the house, as well as the metal roofing and new cedar board-and-batten siding. But we stained every single board ourselves, working alongside the pros daily for a whole month. I insisted on having poplar bark siding put on our three dormer windows, a look that’s been popular in the Adirondacks since the 1920s.
Finally, we tore out the original staircase I never liked, and I found a local craftsman to rebuild it. I showed him photos of the kind of staircase I wanted, and he made my dreams come true. Over the years, we have collected many primitives and rustic antiques to decorate our home. We have an ever-growing collection of American Indian Skookum dolls and antique pictures of Mount Hood, Crater Lake, Multnomah Falls, the Columbia River Gorge, Lake Tahoe, Washington’s Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. We are now living out our dream, and we couldn’t be happier!