Hillside oasis


It’s a lazy weekday afternoon but Tracy Kim is beaming. An accomplished local guitarist, producer and music teacher, he’s been recording a new album with singer Muriel Stanton that Kim thinks could go far. “It’s such a gorgeous-sounding record,” he says. “I feel like there’s some big commercial possibilities.”

Kim’s enthusiasm remains as conversation turns to the new home beside Portland’s Mount Tabor Park for his family, including his partner, Jen Wagner, and their 8-year-old son, Owen (as well as Gigi the Yorkshire terrier and Buster the Pomeranian-Chihuahua). Working with Portland architect Bob Schatz, he even put his music-teaching gig on hiatus for two months just to concentrate on design and construction, the latter of which Kim oversaw as general contractor.

“I had this idea of a modern cabin. I was thinking more rustic initially,” Kim remembers. “Bob came to the site and the next day sent me a quick sketch. It wasn’t a rustic cabin at all. It looked like a spaceship. But I thought, ‘This is so cool!’”

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The great room allows the Kim family one wide-open space, brought to life with a handed-down antique armoire at left. Bamboo cabinetry melds seamlessly with a cedar ceiling.

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Jen Wagner and son Owen enjoy a kitchen and great room teeming with morning light, enhanced by natural cabinetry and marble countertops.

The house's butterfly-shaped roof helps open views in the back to Mount Hood and the Cascades.

// Photos by Jon Jensen



Schatz’s design takes advantage of the unique triangular-shaped lot, orienting the 2,150-square-foot house not toward the street outside, but instead to capture the east-facing view. A sloping, butterfly-shaped roof makes the upstairs bedroom and adjoining balcony feel almost like the prow of a ship with a course set for Mount Hood, which the house’s wood cladding enhances.

“The roof slopes pretty steeply in two directions: half a story from side to side,” says Schatz, who got his start in Los Angeles working under acclaimed architects such as Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne. “It was very challenging, like a three-dimensional geometric puzzle. But I like to really challenge myself in that way.” At its base, though, Schatz says the plan is a simple one: “It was important that when you open the door, you’re in an entry area, but you can also see the view,” he explains. “And the entry and the staircase become the hub for the whole house.”

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"It's an organic architecture," says architect Bob Schatz, who apprenticed under Frank Gehry, "where you're designing with geometry rather than a style like Craftsman or Victorian. And I think it's really important for architects to stop designing boxes."

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Tracy and Jen on their deck, featuring basalt-tile flooring, which opens off the kitchen.

The family on their outdoor deck, overlooking Mount Hood.

// Photos by Jon Jensen



The interiors are enlivened by eclectic pieces and numerous contrasts and patterns. In the great room, chocolate-toned hickory floors are set against blonde bamboo cabinets. Two family heirlooms, an Asian armoire and a kitchen table, each with intricate wood carvings, sit beside a boxy modern living room sofa and bright white dining chairs. The entryway features a porous basalt tile, contrasting with the white-marble kitchen countertops a few feet away. Throughout the house, the light-dark color scheme is softened with floral imagery, be it the great-room sofa pillows or the master-bedroom sheets.

Best of all for Kim, his hectic life of driving between gigs and lessons has been streamlined. With a home studio on the basement level, clad in wood and decorated with guitars hanging on the wall, he can teach the next generation’s Django Reinhardts and Eddie Van Halens without leaving home, and without losing sight of the view of Mount Hood. “I’m a happier person, for sure,” he says. “I just feel more relaxed, I think. I feel like I’m on vacation all the time.”

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The Douglas fir-clad staircase is meant to be the house's hub, leading to master-bedroom tranquility of music-studio fun.

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Kim playing his favorite guitar, a 1953 Gibson. He loves hosting groups of 10-15 fellow guitarists for jam sessions.

A collection of guitars makes a kind of functional art display in Kim's music room.

// Photos by Jon Jensen

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