Sunday, October 26, 2008
By JEFF KUECHLE
Of all the rooms in her house on Beaverton's Southwest Glenn Court, Mary Smith prefers the atrium -- a central, sunlight-drenched 20-foot square of lush plant life surrounding a comfortable sitting area. Large skylights on both sides of the overhead gable peak welcome sunlight by day and moonlight by night.
"Sitting out here under a full moon, with the fireplace going in the next room, is magical," Smith said. "I love the play of the light in this house, the openness, the expanse of it. The home itself is like an object of art."
Smith's home is a Rummer -- one of the most sought-after "collectible homes" on the Portland market. During the 1960s and '70s, World War II veteran Robert Rummer built more than 1,000 such homes in West Portland, Lake Oswego, Newberg and Gresham.
Most Rummers are classic Midcentury Modern homes: open, spacious, with wide expanses of glass. Common Rummer design elements, inspired (although Rummer himself, to this day, steadfastly denies it) by the classic Joseph Eichler homes of California, include ranch-style one-level designs with central atriums or courtyards; a flat roof with a peaked central gable and interior vaulting; lavish use of glass and sliding doors to bring the outdoors in; in-floor radiant heating systems; and design details such as open ceiling beams, "flying coffin" cabinetry and tiled, step-down Roman showers.
At any given time, there can be a half-dozen Rummers available for sale. Meadows Group Realtor Jim DeMarco, who has sold a number of them over the years, estimates that the typical Rummer commands a premium of $20,000 to $30,000 over a similar size standard westside ranch.
"The people who like these homes typically have a design background, and often work from home or need a studio space," DeMarco said. "Some clients just want to live more of a retro, mid-'60s lifestyle. Interestingly, for some reason many of the clients who buy these homes are designers at Nike. I compare owning a Rummer to owning a classic car. These homes have really stood the test of time."
Rummer himself, now 81 and retired from building, is somewhat bemused at the enduring popularity of his homes. "I don't understand it," he said. "I suppose part of it is the post-and-beam construction, which makes them look a bit like Frank Lloyd Wright houses. I used top-of-the-line materials, beams and siding you can't get today, and top-of-the-line Thermidor appliances. The open floor plans make them great entertaining houses. But if you ask me why they're still popular, I just don't know."
Smith's four-bedroom, two-bath, 2,177-square-foot home at 13200 S.W. Glenn Court, built in 1970 and listed with Mike Shainsky of Arete Realty NW for $442,000, exemplifies the Rummer appeal for many owners.
By day, Smith -- a licensed massage therapist and nutritional consultant -- says she uses the atrium as "the nicest waiting room in town." Sliding glass doors off the atrium lead to the living room, kitchen, studio/office and bedroom. The living room is an open, white-beamed expanse with floors of polished concrete that features a wood-burning fireplace of white brick set in a wall of windows overlooking Taliesin Park -- named, coincidentally, after Frank Lloyd Wright's famous home in Wisconsin.
Outside, spacious decks -- one with a hot tub -- provide access to a manicured backyard. Through yet another slider, the home's kitchen, with its black glass cooktop and original, Italian-influenced ceramic tile floor, hearkens back to the Tomorrowland fervor of Rummer's late-1960s construction heyday.
In the opposite wing of the house, the spacious master suite has a distinctly Asian tranquillity, a walk-in closet (not found in all Rummers) and a slider to the garden. In the master bath, the step-down shower is illuminated by a wall of frosted glass.
Just around the corner, another Rummer home, at 13105 S.W. Heather Court, offers a slightly different take on the Rummer oeuvre. This 1969-vintage, 2,062-square-foot home, listed by DeMarco for $494,900, features a stone-filled atrium reminiscent of a Japanese garden and a vast, open living/dining room with sliding doors to a deep and flourishing fenced backyard.
The all-white kitchen features Rummer's original cabinetry and glass cooktop; the master suite boasts another sliding door to the backyard and a white subway-tiled bath. A floor-to-ceiling sheet of privacy glass spills light into the roomy step-down shower. The house will be held open Sunday, Oct. 26, from 3 to 5:30 p.m.
A bow to the master
Rummer's success inspired other builders to imitate his style -- some on a grander scale. The home at 4900 N.W. Malhuer Ave., listed with Tim Cairns of RE/MAX Equity Group for $665,000, is a testament to the influence of Rummer and Eichler. The home was built by Dick Hanning in 1972.
This sprawling 3,165-square-foot ranch, half again as large as the typical Rummer home, overlooks the 18th green at the Rock Creek Country Club. Walk through the 810-square-foot entry atrium and its classical fountain, and the doors open to a vaulted living/dining room with white stone fireplace, separated from the entry by a unique wrought-iron screen. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out on a backyard with heated in-ground pool and gazebo.
The right side of the house opens up into a vast and elegant kitchen, recently renovated with white glass-front cabinetry, Thermidor appliances and slate-colored Corian countertops. An unusual semicircular fireplace of Montana basalt warms the living room and game room. Beyond lies a sumptuous, marble-tiled bath and two spare bedrooms, one with extensive built-in cabinetry.
On the opposite side of the home, the master suite features a wall of windows overlooking the pool and golf course. The ornate master bath includes a marble-tiled, jetted soaking tub, a tiled steam shower and a separate, skylighted meditation/exercise room. It will be held open Sunday, Oct. 26, from 1-4 p.m.
"The house had had the same owner for 33 years," said current owner Simon Tam. "When we first walked in we were just in awe of it. It's such a great space, with so many unique details. It's like living in the Frank Sinatra era."
Jeff Kuechle is a Portland-based freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.