Williams couple’s contemporary home rooted in relationship to nature
For homebodies Bill and Kathy Hoffman, their decision to build a dwelling came only through assurance of daily joy and contentment in the space and environment.
The Napa, Calif., transplants achieved that and more in their dream home, constructed on a gently sloping 22-acre site of mixed woodlands in the Williams Valley near Applegate.
It has five different plant communities: a meadow, oak savanna, spring wetlands, a young second-growth forest and a couple acres of old growth.
“It attracts a long, diverse list of plants, insects and animals,” says Bill, who had a landscape business in the Napa Valley for 40 years.
“With our plant-based work backgrounds, the land was important to both of us,” says Kathy, who owned a floral business for more than 25 years.
The house, designed by Milo Shubat of Ashland Design Solutions and constructed by Asher Homes of Ashland, sits on the south edge of the meadow, tucked a little into the hill. It’s a simple house with an open plan and big, generous spaces.
“We were so grateful to find Steve Asher and his amazing team,” says Kathy.
“With their vision and creativity, Kathy and Bill were both wonderful to work with,” says Asher.
Inside 2,000 square feet of interior living space are two bedrooms, two and a half baths, a utility room and a great room that includes the kitchen, dining and living spaces.
“Since we have no garage, the utility room is a catch-all,” says Bill. “It has the laundry and all the mechanical systems.”
The L-shaped, 10-foot-deep porch adds 800 square feet of living space.
“Although the porch is not a conditioned space, it is such a necessary part of our day-to-day living,” says Kathy.
There is no handy architectural label for what they built.
“We wanted the house to feel rustic but also contemporary,” says Bill. “We wanted it to have a timeless feel, to fit into the land and the community around us.”
About 20 years ago, the couple decided to build a home from the ground up, but they allowed plenty of time for their plan to take shape.
“I had lived in Napa my whole life,” says Bill. “We were ready for a change.
“The cost of building in Napa was out of our reach, so we decided to look for a new area.”
His father grew up on a berry farm outside Portland and always missed his home state. They decided to check out Southern Oregon and the Rogue Valley. The views of mountains, fields and clouds — and four distinct seasons — sealed the deal.
“After driving over the Jacksonville Hill and looking down on the valley, it looked like the Napa of my youth, before the grapes took over,” says Bill.
Over a period of two years, they drove up and spent three to four days in Ashland, making a point to visit in all seasons. To get the feel of the area, they ventured in many directions looking for that special place. Finally finding a piece of property they loved, they bought it long before they developed it, drawing up rough designs and layouts over the years. Construction of the house began in October 2017, and it was ready by Christmas 2018.
Shubat helped steer them in a clear direction, fleshing out their ideas and dreams.
“Every design session with Milo was a joy for us,” says Kathy.
“He shared with us his love of hemlock. It became one of the most important design decisions that made our house special. The warmth and quality of that wood still knocks us out.”
They like the interplay of clean, sleek hemlock with rough, unfinished cement board-framed walls. Shubat helped them achieve the spaciousness they desired.
“Scale and proportion are so vital in good design,” says Kathy, “and he had such a good sense of that.”
The master bedroom and bathroom are oversized, with a comfy sitting area and views of the meadow. The other bedroom and bath are quite different, but also large with private spaces. During the day, the soaring interiors are awash with natural light from the large Sierra Pacific windows and skylights.
There are no hallways in the house, a design component to which they were both committed. Multipurpose functionality won out over the number of rooms. Quality and beauty counted more for them than square footage.
The main living, kitchen and dining space is large and open. “Each area is distinct, while integrating together beautifully,” says Kathy.
What really makes it all work, they believe, are the concrete walls enclosing the pantry and back entry area, dividing the living space from their bedroom.
“They form the heart and soul of the house, anchoring it to the earth,” says Kathy. “The texture is simple but dramatic, and sculptural in itself.”
The kitchen is the heart of the home. Kathy’s parents started The French Laundry, a world-acclaimed restaurant in Yountville, Calif., and she worked with them for many years.
“I designed the kitchen and redrew it many times over a period of at least five years,” she says.
The star is a 6-by-6-foot center island with a custom madrone butcher block top, 2 1/2 inches thick, crafted by Green Mountain Woodworks of Talent.
“Timberline Designs in Grants Pass did our amazing cherry cabinets, and we had floating shelves milled of heart pine from 100-year-old reclaimed timbers provided by Rogue Pacific Lumber Company of Medford,” she says.
A nephew from Napa, a renowned concrete fabricator, cast the green one-piece kitchen sink and drain board. They cook on an orange commercial Viking range, but have a simple fridge, no dishwasher by choice and very few appliances. “Just a drawer full of sharp knives,” says Kathy, smiling.
“We are a big family of cooks and chefs,” adds Bill, “so having a beautiful and functional kitchen was a must.”
Building the house wasn’t just about the living spaces.
“For a gardener and an artist, the relationship of the interior of our home to the outside forest and meadow was of the highest priority,” says Bill.
“The views are everything,” says Kathy. “We have hardly any artwork on the walls and feel no need for it.”
One of Bill’s projects was finding a use for the pine that had to be cut down to clear the building site.
“The big walk-in closet in our bedroom and the storage in the utility room have shelving and hanging space I designed using that pine,” he says.
“We had it milled by a local guy, then sticked and dried it in advance. I stained it a beautiful grey-green. Steve Asher’s finish guys got a kick out of building with it, and it makes us feel good to use it, a piece of the property repurposed and preserved.”
The Earth Advantage-certified home also has concrete floors with radiant heat, a Swedish Rais wood stove, and mini-splits in the bedrooms for cooling.
The large porch isn’t the only outdoor living amenity. In an alcove, they have built an outside bathing area with a vintage bathtub and adjacent shower.
They’ve also created special places throughout the property where they can sit, relax, muse or read. There is a small refuge in the big cedar and pine forest, a cozy spot at the edge of the meadow to catch the winter sun and other spots just for the views.
The Hoffmans are delighted with the house. Continuing to develop the gardens, plantings and outdoor spaces firmly roots these transplants in Southern Oregon.