AMERICAN ARCHITECT Frank Lloyd Wright, a stickler for detail and a renowned egoist, sought control over every visible facet of the homes he designed—in one instance, he even specified the shape of the napkin rings that his client should use and the cut of the dress that she should wear when she hosted guests.
“I don’t think I’d take it to that extent,” says Matt Raphael, leading me through his newly completed house. But the 40-year-old designer, craftsman, home builder, and self-described Wright fan has marked just about every surface of his family’s 2,950-square-foot home, which he designed and built from scratch, with his creative imprint. He made most of the clean-lined, Shaker- and Craftsman-influenced furnishings himself, and salvaged and lovingly restored the old fir beams that now form the fireplace mantel and the roof’s rafter tailings. He also planned the living areas of the Mount Tabor home so that floor-to-ceiling windows capture a 180-degree view of the rugged silhouettes of Powell Butte, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Hood.
Yet there’s an important difference between Wright’s and Raphael’s integrative approaches to design. Whereas Wright was a capital-A architect who sought to impose his sense of order on the world around him, Raphael’s creative impulses arise, he says, simply from his love of wood and woodworking.
Raphael shows me one of the first pieces of furniture he built: a tall, narrow cabinet that now stores the personal belongings of his children, Clay, 5, and Maya, 3. He made it in 1990, a year after graduating from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. At the time, his search for jobs with corporate architecture firms in the nearby Washington, D.C., area—and the arrogance of the architects he spoke with—already had begun to dissuade him from pursuing the profession. “I became disillusioned not with architecture,” he says, “but with architects.”