Houses in tract developments and even some custom homes are built based on existing plans. These drawings are repeated over and over, tweaked by cosmetic alterations and pick-your-look facades.
Portland builders like midcentury master Bob Rummer were known for being flexible with their floor plans. Neighbors in Rummer's seemingly lookalike post-and-beam houses, which were inspired by A. Quincy Jones and other Case Study House architects, discovered that their window placement was shifted to take better advantage of the views. Or a laundry room was given a skosh more room because the lot allowed it.
When an architect creates a unique home, it's a showcase for two reasons:
First, the floor plan should function well. After all, architects brag that they can encourage – or ruin – a happy relationship. Do you have privacy when you need it? Does a smart layout allow for two cooks in the kitchen? Is there enough light and intimate spaces to lighten your mood?
The second element that makes architect-designed homes so special: The people who commissioned the work. Like dapper dressers in a bespoke suit, these homeowners don't settle for cookie cutter.
Who are they?
They have money. Hiring an architect adds about 15 percent to the cost of construction for fees alone.
Does it pay off? Look through these listings in which houses are marketed as designed by a famous Pacific Northwest architect – from A.E. Doyle a century ago to Robert Oshatz today – and see if the price per square foot justifies the pedigree.
One of Oregon's most famous houses, the 1918 Frank J Cobb House, is listed for $7.2 million. The four-level mansion, at 2424 Southwest Montgomery Dr. in Portland, was designed by Doyle, who shaped early Portland with the Meier & Frank Building (now The Nines hotel), Lipman's store (now Hotel Monaco) and the Multnomah County Central Library.
At 14, 616 square feet, the Cobb mansion is the largest residence Doyle designed. It was built of stone-dressed brick, topped with a slate roof and perched on two steep acres in the Southwest Hills.
Beyond the circular drive and the entrance court is a grand foyer that leads to formal rooms, sun porches and luxurious bedroom suites. The Jacobethan-style house with Tudor touches is noteworthy for its modern rooms: Banks of glass seemed to erase the boundary between the inside and out.
Windows and a dramatic terrace overlook expansive lawns, formal gardens and a lily pond that complements a Japanese-style tea house.
Maintenance, utility bills and annual taxes – $68, 131 – could break the bank.
But that's the price for living in one of the top 10 best examples of close-in architecture, as deemed in 1919 by visiting members of the American Institute of Architects.