Site Specific, Light Terrific
By Valerie Ryan
Published: 06/05/2010  Updated: 08/14/2019
photo by Gary Hayes

Showing the same good taste that brought a cozy neighborhood wine bar to Manzanita, Terri Desaro and Craig Nern have built a light-filled home on a challenging lot and made it work.

When Terri Desaro and Craig Nern asked Cannon Beach ­architect Jay Raskin what style he ­favored or what kind of house he liked to build, he replied, "The home that my client wants." That was certainly the right answer, so after owning a lot in Manzanita since 1998, construction ­began in 2005 and was completed in July 2006. Terri and Craig had arrived in Manzanita after visiting several times. With partners, in 2003 they opened Vino, a fabulous wine bar, and had been backing and forthing from Boise and Portland ever since. "We ­decided we really wanted to change it up," Terri recalled, "so we sold our Boise condo and moved here full time." Craig added, "Because of Vino, we didn't move here as strangers, we were already integrated into the ­community."

Since then, Vino has been sold to others, Terri spends her time putting finishing touches on the house and volunteering in Manzanita and Craig, a broker, is at the computer or on the telephone from 5am to 1pm, when the market closes. These schedules mean spending a great deal of time in their home, so they have planned it carefully to accommodate their professional and personal preferences.

"This lot is a shoebox," Terri said, "just 50 by 100 feet, with a ­downward slope both front and back. It's a tricky site and one that had to be ­carefully planned in order to site the house most advantageously." With lots of help from Raskin, they figured out exactly where to put which rooms to take full ­advantage of light and a view of Neahkahnie Mountain while still maintaining that feeling of being in the forest.

When you drive up to the front of the house, three things strike you ­immediately: the boulders anchoring the front landscaping, the flat stone stairs and the red wing. Yes, the right side of the house, top and bottom, is shiplap stained red, and the rest of the structure is nicely weathered shingles, in typical Northwest fashion. Mike Riley did the landscaping, Patrick ­Costello put in the stairs, but the red wing was all Terri's idea, with a lot of help from builder Sky McCann. "I knew that I wanted part of the house to be different and that color seems like a good choice," Terri said. "It's warm and bright and keeps the house from ­looking too tall by breaking up a one-color vertical line." The wing also has a flat roof, in contrast to the barrel roof in the rest of the house. Terri's ­office is in the wing on the main floor and Craig's office ­occupies the wing on the second floor. The red or orange-red color is repeated inside the house to good effect, ­enhancing what is a ­minimalist and ­subtle palette.

The most ­striking ­architectural ­as­pect of the living room is the barrel ceiling. Made of hemlock, which is used throughout the house, it arches across a large expanse, graceful and elegant. The curve of the ceiling is repeated in wooden wall-sconce light fixtures. The west wall of the house is all windows with no window ­treatments, so no light is lost and sunlight creates ­streaming prisms and patterns in the room. One of the side tables is a deep amber ­faceted-plastic, creating a light show on a sunny day. The roof and the west wall were both challenging to bring into ­being; the west wall has a steel ­structural frame. It was literally planted in the ground before construction of the wall could go on. Craig recalled, "During the 2007 hurricane, we sat in the ­living room and nothing stirred inside. Then, with one huge gust of wind, it felt as if the whole house moved at once. We quickly moved to the back of the house." No damage done.

Believe it or not, Terri and Craig found that they had too much light at times; for instance, when Craig wants to take a nap to compensate for getting up before dawn. There is no sacrifice of privacy anywhere in the house, despite frosted glass doors and all the windows. A concession to drapery in the master bedroom makes it a cozy cocoon for that nap. Speaking of cozy, the en suite guest bedroom is too good to leave. Cool colors and scrumptious linens could turn that casual visitor into The Man Who Came to Dinner!

The choice of ­finish materials inside is ­completely in keeping with the feeling of the house, repeating the natural surroundings outside with appropriate colors and textures inside. There is bamboo cabinetry throughout, a maintenance-free, non-porous Silestone counter top, natural oil finish on all the wood, a spectacular tile backsplash from Pratt & Larson handmade tile in Portland, cork floors in part of the house and ceramic tile that looks like stone on the living room floor – complete with radiant heat to keep your toes warm. Accent pieces show well against the monochromatic walls and beige/gray flooring. There is a highly textured dramatic painting by Oregon landscape artist Pam Greene above the fireplace; that orange-red color is repeated in a great chandelier that looks like coral, fabricated by Eduardo Garza and there are selected watercolors and textile pieces throughout. Built-in cabinetry was done by Bob and Hans Brook from Wheeler. Terri bought a free-standing cabinet at Ikea, spray-painted it a pumpkiny-orange color and collected beach rocks to use as drawer pulls. Artwork, flat and three-dimensional, is placed throughout the house. Both Terri and Craig can tell you about every single piece; nothing was bought because it matched something.

One particularly inspired choice in this very personal house is putting the laundry on the second floor, near the bedroom and bath – where all the laundry is created. What a concept! Frank Lloyd Wright tried to sell it to his American audience with very little success; Terri has it figured out.

The last stop on the tour is the downstairs area. There is a wine cubby and a dog bath! Terri and Craig insist that they are going to have a dog some day and they want to be ready. That will be one lucky dog to move into the Desaro-Nern home!
Site Specific, Light Terrific