12 November 2009

Robert Rummer Event at Portland’s Rejuvenation

First, thanks to Paul for inviting me to share this event with you on his blog... truly a privilege!

As a new resident of Portland, OR, I am thrilled to now be fully immersed in Pacific Northwest design. One of the truly celebrated local legends is Mr. Robert Rummer, who is (in his words) a “frustrated architect” and home builder (he was not accepted into a college architecture program, so he majored in art!). Although he did build multiple styles of houses through several decades, his reputation is primarily based on his mid-century modern houses from the '60s. His aesthetic is often compared to Eichler homes in California, which he adapted and "surpassed" (his words, not mine) for the rainy climate and forested scenery of the PNW.

A Renovated Rummer (photography by John Valls)

Recently, the well-known Rejuvenation store hosted a sell-out benefit event featuring Robert Rummer as their guest. The format played out as a casual conversation between the esteemed Mr. Rummer and Becca Cavell, Program Director for the annual Street of Eames (tour of mid century modern and contemporary home in Portland). The stage, in Rejuvenation’s museum-like gallery on their second floor, was complete with mcm furniture and décor:

Prior to the event, we were invited to tour Rejuvenation’s current display of period lighting, as well as peruse their historical collection of lighting and hardware catalogs:

A classic “Rummer house” was built to embrace, dare I say celebrate, outdoor living. (Despite the prolific rain, residents of the Pacific Northwest LOVE the outdoors.) “Rummers” are of post and beam construction, and oriented toward the green space of the backyard with floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Given that the houses were built at a time in history when Americans celebrated ownership of their car(s), Rummers also prominently feature the garage entry to the house. They also include atriums at the center of the house. When asked if his designs copied those of Eichler, most notably with the atrium, Mr. Rummer responded that really, nothing is truly original. The Romans had atriums in their houses as well, "so really, what's new?" Other classic features of a Rummer house include heated floors throughout, and sunken tubs in the bathrooms.

The lovely slideshow was loaded with visual candy such as the "red door garage" photo above, as well as plenty of line art sketches and floor plans of Rummers:

Rejuvenation has recently posted a video of highlights from the talk. Some additional items revealed by the entertaining Mr. Rummer, which are not captured in this video:
  • He built approximately 1200-1300 “Rummers” in Oregon
  • The worst request he ever received from a client? “She wanted CARPET in the KITCHEN! Food everywhere!”
  • The flat roofs of Rummers are actually ever-so-slightly angled to assist with drainage
  • Coveted Rummers on the real estate market are few and far between, and sell for a premium in the Portland market – clearly above the prices of houses that are comparable in size and location
  • "Rummer" has entered the local lexicon as a verb: people also talk about houses that were “rummered,” i.e. other builders that copied liberally from the hallmark characteristics of a Rummer house
  • Through one of his neighborhood projects, Rummer donated some park space to the City of Beaverton. They promptly named the area “Eichler Park,” to his rueful dismay!
  • His favorite architect is Frank Lloyd Wright, in part because of his impeccable attention to detail
Thanks to Rejuvenation for hosting a fabulous and unique event! If you would like to see more of the Rummer talk, here is their entertaining highlight video:

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