Inside Van Evera Bailey’s Mid-Century Hilltop Masterpieces

by | May 16, 2015

Last Saturday, Restore Oregon hosted a tour of six homes in Lake Oswego and SW Portland, all designed by noted Portland architect Van Evera Bailey (1903-1980).

Brian Libby of Portland Architecture argues, “if Northwest midcentury-modern houses are arguably the most significant and unique contribution that Portland has contributed to world architecture, then Bailey not only deserves his place alongside Pietro Belluschi and John Yeon, but a larger recognition beyond Oregon’s borders.”

Van Evera Bailey
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All six homes were interesting to see up close, but two homes in particular stood out on the tour—the Bruno Residence (1939) on Ridecrest Drive in Lake Oswego and the Shaw Residence (1957) on SW Hessler Drive in Portland.

Bailey’s clients purchased dramatic hilltop lots and he made the most of the settings. The homes appear to be humble from the street. But open the front door and move through the compressed entries into the expansive living rooms, and any concept of humble is long gone.

hessler drive

The raw wood ceilings are at once soaring and grounding. An architect can’t improve on the natural forest, but he can showcase the raw material in flattering ways, as Bailey has done.

One’s home is one’s sanctuary, and Bailey definitely plays to this ideal. He incorporates Prairie style lines and he places his building on the lot carefully, so it belongs to the landscape.

I couldn’t help thinking about the architect’s state of mind as the nation endured, then emerged from WWII and the Great Depression. Bailey’s homes are for optimists, people able to see the big picture (literally). He worked in California early in his career, and he learned the trade from a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. He wears his influences well.

Bruno Residence

Here’s a look at some of Bailey’s homes that have recently sold.