WHEN GREGG TAKASHIMA and Laura Hollister-Takashima first met with their architects to discuss remodeling their newly purchased house, the couple’s ideas were about as far apart as a sumi ink drawing and a Corot landscape. In place of the aging daylight ranch, Gregg envisioned a contemporary update of a Japanese lodge. Laura, meanwhile, imagined a rambling Tuscan villa.
“We said there was no way we could do both,” recalls Julia Wood, one of their architects, laughing.
Happily, Wood and Simon Tomkinson, husband-and-wife principals of Northeast Portland-based Litmus Design and Architecture, found a third path: a residence that blends modern simplicity and rustic warmth, drawing inspiration from Asian architecture and the local landscape alike. With its pointy-capped great room, rambling wings and periphery of porches and patios, the hybrid domain possesses a style that Laura half-jokingly refers to as “Tuscan-Northwest-Japanese”—which seems about right, although its rugged formality, locally sourced materials and recurring geometric motifs also seem loosely cribbed from Frank Lloyd Wright’s pattern book. And as Wright might have done, the Takashimas and their architects designed the house to fit the very special property on which it sits.
Laura first jogged past the sloping, three-acre lot, located in the Mountain Park development of Southwest Portland, in 1995. (At the time, she and Gregg lived just blocks away, in a newly built house that was walking distance from Gregg’s veterinary office.) Laura, an avid gardener who then ran her own wholesale fabric company, was captivated by the beautiful old rhododendrons and magnolias nestled around the house, and especially by the curving set of stone stairs that led to the front door. “I’d been dreaming about that stairwell since I was a girl,” she says.
Five years later, when a neighbor called Laura to report that the owners of the house “with the specimen garden” had passed away, she and Gregg started puzzling together the property’s history. The garden, they learned, was the creation of Molly Grothaus, an esteemed horticulturalist who’d led an effort in the late 1970s to conserve the nearby Berry Botanic Garden, a superb (and now, public) collection of rare and native plants established by local plant enthusiast Rae Selling Berry. Molly and her husband, Louis, an engineer, had built the modest ranch house from a Sears & Roebuck kit in 1952. Among the hundreds of rare plants in their garden was a Wilsonii magnolia tree that, according to the Grothauses’ heirs, represented one of the only examples of its species in North America.