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A European-Inspired Oregon Retreat

Inspired by the manors of western Europe, an Oregon custom-home builder creates a masterpiece of his own.

Written by Stacy Durr Albert

Photography by Skip Olsen


It’s about time Jess Alway decided to build a timber home for himself. After all, the award-winning builder has been creating custom homes for clients for more than 30 years. It’s no surprise that the fine craftsmanship of these projects finally rubbed off, inspiring Jess to build a timber retreat for his own family.

“The architecture of timber construction has always appealed to Jess,” explains Alisha Alway, Jess’s daughter and the marketing director for Jess Alway Inc. in Bend, Oregon. “He’s inspired by the French provincial architecture that he’s seen in western Europe during his travels there. He was drawn to the clean, graceful lines of European homes, and he was taken with the idea of timber framing.”  

Now, with more than 30 timber homes under his belt, Jess knows a thing or two about fine wood craftsmanship. All of his homes boast luxury details and superb artistry, setting a high standard in the luxury-home market. He followed these basic principles when it came time to design his own home in Sisters, Oregon.

“Jess was really looking for a quality home that was comfortable,” says Alisha. “The hallmark of the design is no wasted space—every square inch of space is functional.”

After developing a basic plan, Jess turned his ideas over to Portland designer Rich Walton, who created the home’s workable construction documents. For Jess, collaborating with Rich was a no-brainer, since the duo has worked on many projects together throughout the years. And Jess found that choosing a timber producer was just as simple—he went with North Idaho Timber Framers out of Kingston, Idaho, because he was so impressed with the quality of their product.

“Jess is awesome to work with,” says Jon Heiser, who owns North Idaho Timber Framers with George and Denice Duncan. “For this home, he selected a white-pine highlight package, meaning the beams and trusses are non-structural. He really liked the look and knotty texture of the white pine.”

To enhance the wood, Jess created his own special “aging” finish, a unique blend of vinegar and steel wool, to bring out the beauty of the mortise-and-tenon timber-peg trusses. “Jess spent a week staining all of the woodwork,” recalls Alisha. “He wanted to antique the beams to give them that old European character he loves.”

Other unique touches include Venetian plaster on the walls, authentic blacksmith-forged ironwork, and copper gutters and downspouts. “There is attention to detail throughout the home,” says Alisha.

The 3,500-square-foot design incorporates a great room, den, media room, four bedrooms and three baths, creating ample room for day-to-day living and entertaining. The decor of the home is a classic example of marital give and take.

“The decorating style incorporates a masculine Western theme for him, and a little baroque for her,” says Alisha with a laugh. “He wants everything to have leather and belt buckles, and she wants everything scrolled and floral. The end result is a little in-between.”

Just like the inside, the exterior of the home is all about casual elegance. Set on the 18th tee box of the Aspen Lakes Golf Course, the home offers sweeping vistas of golf greens, woodlands and the Cascade Mountains in the distance. Dubbed “Aspen Manor,” it’s an ideal setting for family gatherings. But despite the time and attention poured into this peerless house, Jess and his wife, Carleen, are preparing to move into yet another timber home he just completed.

“They found another piece of property they loved, and they wanted to downsize a bit,” explains Alisha. “Jess is the type of guy who can’t build the same thing twice. He’s always evolving.”

So now the stone-and-shingle-clad house awaits new residents who will appreciate its craftsmanship, singular beauty and picture-perfect setting. Chances are, it won’t have to wait long.


Home Details

Square Footage: 3,500

Builder: Jess Alway Inc.

Timber Producer: North Idaho Timber Framers


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