Joanna White-Wolff and husband Rolland live in one of Bend’s — and possibly the country’s — most unusual neighborhoods.
Formerly called The Shire, it features rustic European cottage-style homes, hobbit-like doors, faux thatched roofs and cobblestone paths that lead to bucolic ponds.
The 6-acre subdivision in southeast Bend that broke ground in 2006 was the vision of developer Ron Meyers.
The architecture and charming landscaping were inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth paradise, The Shire, in his fantasy fiction classics “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.”
The property went into foreclosure in 2008 with only two homes built and has changed ownership several times since then, but the development — now named Forest Creek — has residents who are proud to call it home.
In 2012, Joanna and Rolland built the sixth home in the neighborhood.
They recently invited us inside their single-story, three-bedroom, 1,843-square-foot home and toured us around the ponds, waterfall and amphitheater that were designed for all of the residents to enjoy.
Even though the economic downturn and real estate disaster of the past few years have impacted their neighborhood, Joanna told us that The Shire’s spirit is alive and well in Forest Creek.
Two home lots are sold but empty and eight townhome lots are for sale.
“The creed of The Shire has certainly been demonstrated to us again and again. No one could ask for better, more caring and considerate neighbors who will do anything to help when needed. I fell in love with the quietness, beauty of the common areas, and close proximity to stores and medical care,” Joanna said.
The White-Wolff home has an English cottage look on the outside, but step into the foyer and the decor is Asian-inspired.
To the right is Joanna’s study, office, sewing and craft room, with a treasured flower of life painting. To the left of the foyer is Rolland’s office, which doubles as the guest room and a guest bathroom.
“I’ve been into Asian style for years. It’s a classic look, and I like the philosophy, Buddhism, and it fits with The Shire. The values are the same in my mind: family and honesty and home,” Joanna said.
Walk straight ahead and you’re in the heart of the home, which the couple calls the Oregon room.
It’s an open-plan living room, dining room and kitchen. Doors open to two patios that look out onto a small pond with a water feature surrounded by low-maintenance grasses, plants and rocks.
Lots of windows and an 18-foot ceiling give the Oregon room an airy feel.
“The first time a herd of about 20 deer walked by our Oregon room window, I was blown away. For someone who had only limited time in nature, this was as exciting as being in the wilderness. This spring we watched two sets of ducks mate in our little water feature and hatch 12 ducklings. The beauty of the trees, sky, sun, birds singing, doves, quail with their little top knots, ducks and deer make our home so very special,” Joanna said.
The couple moved to Bend from Washington to retire, and this is the first home they ever built. Builder Brad Miller of Brad Miller Construction and the late Cliff Scott of Designs for Living worked closely with them to fulfill all of their wishes.
“We had the luxury of picking every aspect of what is inside and outside our home. It was hard, but it was fun,” she said.
While Joanna, a psychotherapist, chose most of the furnishings, focusing on classic furniture in soothing beiges and earth tones with teal accents, Rolland, a retired anesthesiologist, designed many details, from the kitchen’s large pantry area to the large, deep farm sink made of composite stone in a mushroom color.
He made sure the home was energy efficient with triple-pane windows and the right insulation in the ceilings and walls. The central vacuum system he picked is ideal for Central Oregon’s dust, along with climate-controlled heating and air conditioning with a humidifier.
The master bedroom is light and bright with a 10-foot tray ceiling and six windows.
Ornamental transoms over interior doors made with etched glass add an elegant architectural touch.
A lot of design work went into the master bath.
“When we first moved in, Rolland’s favorite place in the house was the shower. It’s quite astounding. And my favorite was the jet tub. I also love the big window by the tub,” Joanna said.
The huge walk-in shower with one glass block wall is 4 feet wide and 6 feet long. An Asian-style stool is a good place to sit while washing Sebastian, the couple’s friendly dog.
A painting of birds, hung by the tub, gives Joanna a nice view while she’s soaking.
“It’s the first art I bought years ago, and it has an Asian look, too. It’s called ‘Egret’s Rest,’ by Sally Miller,” she said.
There’s a big walk-in closet with custom shelves for shoes.
The mirrors over the two bathroom sinks came from Pier 1. That’s where Joanna found their dining room table, too. The wood and metal screen on the patio came from Costco.
“I save money where I can. I love foreign stuff, and I shop second hand. I have five kids,” she explained.
One of the splurges in the house is the dining room chandelier, purchased at Bend Lighting, along with the pendant lights over the kitchen counter.
When Joanna took us for a stroll through the neighborhood on the cobblestone pathways, we saw three distinctive “hobbit doors” that are actually entrances to small garden sheds. They look like secret passageways that would be used by hobbits.
Stone benches invite residents to sit and enjoy the Ponderosa pines and fragrant sage; dry stack stonewalls and grassy areas surround the small amphitheater and stage area that’s near a communal fire pit. A man-made pond is filled with water lilies, cattails and goldfish, and a waterfall turns into a meandering stream.
It’s so peaceful, you could easily forget that you’re just a few minutes’ drive to stores and city living.
“I have a passion for my home because of the neighborhood. If you put this home somewhere else, it wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t have the magic,” Joanna said.
As we said our goodbyes, we took another look at the lush lavender plants in Joanna and Rolland’s front yard and glanced at the whimsical carvings, dragon brackets, chimney pots and artificial thatched roof on the house next door.
Arches, wood trim and stucco on some of the houses, along with rustic fences and several hanging Chinese gongs and wind chimes, give the neighborhood a definite wow factor.
The residents of Forest Creek told us they hope the neighborhood will grow with new homes and townhomes that are in the style of the original Shire.
“My hope is that someone will be willing to build in a style that will fit in and not be an eyesore. We want to have our own homeowners association eventually. Once we own it, some of us would like to go back to The Shire,” Joanna said.
— Reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: The captions attached to this story have been corrected. In the original Rolland’s name was misspelled.