Step from the wide-open skies of Bend, Oregon, into the interiors of Russell and Gretchen Keithly’s timber home and you might not notice much of a change.
Just beyond the entry and to the right, a wall of windows offers welcoming vistas of the rolling landscape beyond. Above, a vaulted ceiling punctuated with timber trusses seems to stretch forever like the desert skies. Wood, stone and a natural color palette grace every surface in sight, offering another nod to the home’s natural surroundings.
It’s clear that the Keithlys had the outdoors in mind when they began designing their getaway home five years ago. Even the floor plan takes its cues from nature. The heart of the house — a rambling space that measures 50-feet long and includes the kitchen, dining room and great room — echoes the topography beyond the couple’s doorstep.
“Living here is like living outdoors, except a lot more comfortable,” says Russell.
Though impressive now, the timber structure had humble beginnings on a paper napkin. The Keithlys found a homesite in Pronghorn, a private golf resort community in central Oregon, and then celebrated over dinner. There, Russell drew their vision.
Soon, the Keithlys teamed up with Brian Brand of Baylis Architects and general contractor Jerry Kuther of Sun Forest Construction to turn that vision into a 5,000-square-foot reality.
“Russ brought us his sketches on the back of the napkin, and we went from there,” the architect recalls.
The couple easily settled on the materials — “They were a decisive pair,” the general contractor says — and, soon after, construction began.
Large Douglas fir timber trusses connected with pegged mortise-and-tenon joinery now stand alongside alder trim and Telluride stone. (The alder trim and stone were used on both the exterior and interior to impart a sense of cohesion.) To keep the natural materials front and center, the couple limited their use of drywall.
“There is virtually none in the home, except for in the bedrooms,” Russell explains. “We wanted the house to be really authentic and fit in with the natural surroundings.”
In addition to wanting to blend their rustic retreat with nature, the couple also hoped to create a central gathering spot for their children, grandchildren and friends. The home needed to be as sturdy and comfortable as it was beautiful.
“Comfort was key,” says Russell. “We wanted people to feel that they could come in and relax without taking their shoes off.”
The couple chose everything — from the wide-planked pine floors to the mesquite and leather furniture — with durability and practicality in mind.
“We didn’t want to worry about a few scuffs here and there,” says Russell.
To ensure the house would be welcoming yet private for visitors, the couple settled on an H-shaped layout with a loft. Three individually themed guest bedrooms, each with its own bath, are situated in one wing of the house, while the couple’s master suite is in the other. A loft-based game room offers plenty of opportunity for fun, with theater seats and a bar, as well as a bird’s-eye view of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains.
Despite what the rest of the house has to offer, it is the spacious main living area that serves as the true hub of the home. While some cook, others can relax on the sofa or play cards at the dining room table — and all of them can still feel connected, says the architect.
As inviting as the interior spaces are, some of the home’s best gathering spots are beyond the four walls. Outside the home’s front entryway a gated courtyard points due south. Bright and sunny with plenty of chairs and chaises, it’s the perfect place to relax when the weather turns cool.
Behind the home, a well-appointed patio welcomes those in search of relaxation, no matter the season.
“Thanks to the two-sided fireplace and overhead fans, you can use that space when it’s hot or snowing,” says the architect.
The Keithlys and their guests flock to the space to take in casual conversation, good food, and great views of the golf course and a private reserve. A few steps away, a hot tub and a waterfall complete the outdoor oasis.
“That’s all outdoors, but it truly is an extension of the living space,” the builder explains.
Whether dining al fresco, soaking in mountain views or relaxing with a good book, every moment at their desert escape gives the couple good reason to stay.
“We anticipated it being a second residence,” says Russell. “But it’s such a wonderful place that by the end of the year, I expect it will be our permanent home.”