As with all Cutler designs, the grace lies in the procession into and through the house. The entry path from the parking area to both the B&B units and the front door is pulled back from the cliff edge, so the ocean can only be heard. When the landscape matures, the entry will be tunnel-like, with lush ferns at foot and tree bows overhead. The foyer is so small it feels almost pinched. But turn the corner into the main rooms, and the view explodes. So, too, with the cleverly designed B&B units, where the suites offer their expansive vistas both from the bed, and, if the bathroom’s shutters are flung open, from a two-person soaking tub.
Cutler believes no feature is too large or small for painstaking consideration or to be fully revealed. The roof’s exposed eaves reveal intricately cut truss ends held in place by galvanized pipes. The drywall is pulled back from the ceiling and floor to expose the finished studs behind. The door levers are a smooth laminate of brushed steel and wood specially manufactured by Reveal Designs in partnership with Cutler. The concrete walls—board-formed with eight-inch rough planks in tan and green tints added to the mix—are almost entirely visible, inside and out. Both rugged and warm, Cutler notes, “The concrete shows that human hands made it.”
Surprisingly, despite all his tony landmark commissions, Cutler says he takes 90 percent of the house commissions offered him. “The clients who call,” he says, “generally know our principles. The budgets can range from “the millions to $500,000.” The smaller square footages (the Autreys’ was only 3,100 with the two B&B units), he adds, are “way more fun, because they can be more lyrical.”
The Awtreys chuckle that they “had no understanding of how radically different this house was.” Dennis recalls an early epiphany when he realized the contractor had to sort through hundreds of 16-foot two-by-fours to find ones that were straight and clear enough to look good exposed. Peggy remembers sending the architect worried interrogations about details she didn’t like after visits during construction. Cutler’s friendly reply: “Don’t worry. It’s going to look great.”
Dennis’s high-design appetite had always been for cars: a Porsche Carrera RS and a trio of Ferraris—a 1971 Daytona Spyder, a 1958 250 GT, and a 1967 330 GTC. With unexpected delays due to B&B permitting, unplanned costs for stabilizing the hillside, and their original contractor going bankrupt during the recession (Dennis himself oversaw the B&B’s final phase), he quips that he traded in the cars for the house. “Your life has different phases,” he shrugs, describing a typical day of watching storms passing, eagles soaring at eye level, and deer sipping at the adjacent creek. The B&B, the Awtreys say, is a good way to combat the coast’s isolation, and also an opportunity to share.
“There’s only one other place in the world you can stay in a Jim Cutler design,” he says with a grin, “and that’s in Ketchikan, Alaska.”
For more information on the Awtrey House bed-and-breakfast, visit awtreyhouse.com.
High Craft High Rise
FOR THE EDITH Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, now under reconstruction in downtown Portland, James Cutler applied a similarly bold, meticulous approach to form and craft as he did in the Awtrey B&B. Working with Portland’s Sera Architects and the world-renowned Portland-based curtain wall manufacturer Benson Industries, Cutler developed the building’s curving, cantilevering, west-facing sunshades. Designed to block more than 50 percent of the building’s solar heat gain, the simple, square “reeds” are arrayed into seven repeating patterns for a random, organic feel. A mix of evergreen vines—among them, Silver Vein Creeper, Chocolate Vine, and Madison’s Star Jasmine—will climb as high as 40 feet to, as Cutler describes it, “wed the building to the ground.”
The same board-formed concrete Cutler used to such striking effect in the Awtreys’ home will appear at the base of the building and in the plaza. Cutaways of the old concrete floors will send daylight streaming between the original giant beams into the gym, meeting rooms, and dining hall in the basement.
“It’s a remodel,” Cutler says matter-of-factly. “We’re exposing the work of the people who made it—the sense of history and time and humanity.”