Bend home with Japanese flair

Slideshow: Soaking tub, concrete floors, modern lines

By Penny Nakamura / For The Bulletin

Editor’s note: The At Home section features a profile of a local home each month. To suggest a home, email athome@bendbulletin.com.

When John and Arlene Watkins decided to build their second home in Bend, they specifically told residential designer David LiaBraaten from DesignHaus that they wanted “a modern, contemporary design with Japanese flair,” said John Watkins.

The Watkinses aren’t new to homebuilding and remodeling, having remodeled and added onto their first home in Sunriver.

The Watkins family also built a 4,900-square-foot home on a 2.5-acre lot in Bend, but as the couple looked toward being empty-nesters, they decided to downsize in Tetherow.

With a half-acre lot, the Watkinses decided they wanted a single-story home that’s easy to care for and would be energy efficient by using passive solar heating in the winter.

“This house has slab grade heating, including in the garage,” said John. “The passive solar heating warms the concrete slab floors in the winter. It’s 45 degrees outside now, and yet it’s 70 degrees inside the house now and we haven’t turned on our heat in weeks.”

“Our electric and heating bill went from about $10,000 a year to about $1,600, or a little more than $100 dollars a month,” said Arlene.

This modern home has three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms in 3,250 square feet. The home is steeped in daylight thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room.

From the front exterior of this house, it takes on a Usonian style.

Usonian was a term famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright used to explain his vision for flat-roofed, practical homes that were usually single story and built in an L-shape to fit around a courtyard.

The front courtyard of the Watkins home incorporates a rock sculpture water feature. Its simplicity and minimalist style evoke a Japanese sensibility and welcome visitors to the front door.



The maple door has opaque green-foam colored rectangular insert windows. Those same opaque windows are uniformly used in the garage doors and above the garage in the clerestory windows.

Clutter in this home is nonexistent, and decor is kept at a minimum, while style is maximized in the subtle details.

The large floor-to-ceiling south-facing windows in the living room bring the outdoors inside. The green golf fairway adds bright color to the muted, earth-color tones of the home.

In the living room, the eye-catching focal point is the angled, acacia wood-paneled ceiling that has two different angles from one corner to the opposite corner.

“It’s 16 feet in that corner, and 12 feet in this corner,' said John, pointing to the ceiling’s most interesting feature. “It plays to all the angles on the outside.'

“We decided to put the wood above us, so the dogs wouldn’t ruin the wood floors,' joked Arlene. “I think the two angles of this ceiling is very innovative, and the architect Dave wanted to minimize any waste, so he came up with this idea for the inside.'

Putting the most expensive wood on the ceiling turns this house upside down, allowing the couple to think out of the box.


The Watkinses loved the idea of using only concrete slab floors throughout the house, which they say is both practical and economical, while still beautiful.

“The concrete allows the most energy efficiency in heating and cooling the home,' said John. “But we think it’s beautiful, too. The man who did our floors sanded the concrete twice and used two colors of paint, and then splattered it with paint; he was a real artist.'


There are no doors in the main living areas of this house, with the exception of the entry door. The living room opens up to the dining area, which is open to the large, bright kitchen. Oversized south-facing kitchen windows continue the panoramic views from the living room.

The kitchen is John’s favorite room, as he is the primary cook in the house. Arlene, a teacher at Cascade Middle School, jokes that she’s forgotten how to cook.

John had very specific ideas about this kitchen.

“I used three different textures in the kitchen. First we have curly maple wood for the custom-made kitchen bar. Then we used Silestone on the counters, but I also wanted stainless steel for this section of prepping,' said John, as he touched the cool steel that sits just below the kitchen bar. “The stainless steel gives it a more commercial feel, plus it’s a lot easier to clean than tile — there’s no grout.'


He also pointed to the backsplash of the Wolf commercial stove and oven in the kitchen. Below the stove hood is an all-stainless-steel backsplash, which the Watkinses say is very simple to clean.



John pointed to a new drawer microwave under his stainless-steel prep counter. He opened the microwave, which does indeed open just like a drawer.

Several natural woods are used throughout the house, and in the kitchen the Watkinses selected beech for the cabinetry.

A lot of thought went into the smaller rooms of the home, like the mudroom and the bathrooms.

Built-in nooks and cabinetry were used for the long mudroom, which is connected to the garage. Inside the mudroom is the stacked washer and dryer, cleverly hidden behind a maple wood door that matches the custom-built mudroom cubbies.


Along the opposite wall is an extra sink, with an extra long counter.

“This is a room we didn’t build in our last house, and it’s the one room I wouldn’t be without now,' said John.

Down the hall is the bedroom for their teenage daughter, Rae Anne. It features a unique space-saving bathroom.

On her side of the bathroom is the toilet and sink area, then a pocket door that leads to a separate shower room. On the other side of the shower room is another toilet and sink for the guest bedroom.

Outside this hallway is a large framed Chinese painting, which holds much sentimental value to the Watkinses.


“We bought this painting in China when we adopted Rae Anne there,' said Arlene. “We tell her when she moves away from us, this painting will go with her.'

Back in the living room, the Watkinses pointed out another area where they had to think outside of the box in order to fit in Rae Anne’s baby grand piano.

“We had to jog out this wall so the piano would fit in this space,' said John.

Arlene said that in order to gain more space in that area, they had to sacrifice space in the entryway.

“That didn’t really bother me because I like to think our entryway is really on the outside in the courtyard area,' she said.

From the piano area, we opened the door to another interesting space, which was originally built to be a huge his-and-her master closet.

Instead, pocket doors were used to carve out a small, cozy office space for Arlene, with a full-sized desk and computer. Open the pocket door in this office and you’re inside the Watkinses’ closet, which is still very large. Stepping out of the closet, we walked into the master bathroom, another space that is light, bright and full of crisp, clean lines.

The Japanese flair in this bathroom is the round Japanese soaking tub, a luxurious 4 feet deep, with a seating area.


A tankless water heater in the closet fills the tub nearly instantly with hot water.

Next to the Japanese soaking tub is an oversized walk-in tiled shower.

We exited the bathroom into the master bedroom, and back out to the living room, having made a half-circle journey.

The Watkinses thought out every detail in this house to cater to their lifestyle and the aesthetic they wanted to create.

A built-in curio cabinet near the entryway displays Arlene’s Japanese family heirlooms, which include Japanese dolls and Japanese tea ceremony bowls.

The house is imbued with a timeless quality that has a sense of balance through its sculptured design and the use of different textures of various woods, metal and stone.

“We really feel our designer got it exactly right; we got our contemporary modern home with Japanese flair,' said John as he looked around the open living room with obvious satisfaction.

— Reporter: pnakamura@bendbulletin.com

Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to reflect David LiaBraaten’s profession. He is a residential designer. The Bulletin regrets the error.