high-water dining
Image: Jon Jensen

The home’s affordably chic style includes a dining table and kitchen cabinetry from Ikea, as well as open shelving formed of white-painted plywood.

Today, he and his family are the ones doing the gawking. Windows looking onto gorgeous views surround three sides of their living-dining-kitchen area, where the family spends its weekend vacations relaxing, playing and reading. (McKean and Donohue keep all their fiction titles at the Hood River house, and the nonfiction back in Portland.) For privacy and rest, there are two small bedrooms; guests can bunk in the hallway, where sliding pocket doors turn two daybed-like window seats into enclosed sleeping quarters at night. With white-painted walls, hardwood floors (sustainable tigerwood) and spare furnishings, the décor is understated, to say the least. But that makes an ideal stage for viewing the natural setting outside through sliding glass doors and windows.

More than just an out-of-town sanctuary, the cabin has changed the way McKean and Donohue think about their life in the city. “It’s taught us you can ‘live small’ in two places instead of ‘living big’ in one,” Donohue says. She and her husband have even thought about eventually selling their bungalow in Portland’s Beaumont neighborhood and moving into a smaller Pearl District condominium. And they’re not the only ones who’ve been enlightened in this way. After visiting the Hood River house for the weekend, one of McKean’s clients withdrew a request for a 4,000-square-foot beach house in favor of a new, smaller design.

Moreover, as the only modern home in Hood River available for rent by the night (McKean and Donohue spend only about one weekend per month there), the house may eventually pay for itself, courtesy of snowboarders and windsurfers looking for a bit of urban sophistication in the country. Meanwhile, residents and guests alike are learning how easy it is to live a little more lightly on the earth—or at least to escape the rising seawaters.