John Yeon designed the Cottrell House in 1951 for George and Margaret Cottrell and their family. Yeon was an iconic self-taught Portland architect who developed the Northwest modern style of architecture typified in his designs for the Watzek House and Cottrell House. Both homes are situated on Skyline Drive in Northwest Portland, and both are owned and cared for by the University of Oregon. During his lifetime, Yeon advocated for the Oregon landscape; he owned and protected Chapman Point on the Oregon coast (now part of Ecola State Park) and The Shire, a private park Yeon landscaped to frame the view the site offers of Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. The Shire is also owned and maintained by the University of Oregon.
The Cottrell House is an excellent example of a modern home designed for the experience of family living in Oregon’s forested landscape and wet climate. The home is perched at the top of a steep, wooded incline and is built with access to the outdoors from almost every room. Light and air fill the house via large windows and specially designed ventilation screens situated beneath the windows, allowing airflow even in wet weather. It struck me that space is very generously allocated to the tasks of living that might be considered chores but can also be pursued as craft; the home includes a woodworking shop, photography studio, and a sewing/laundry room. The kitchen is designed for function instead of show. Two sinks at opposite ends of the room each overlook banks of windows. Steel cabinetry provides timeless and efficient storage.
Flow between the areas of the home is easy and gracious. The kitchen can be entered indirectly from the front entrance, from the dining room, or from the garage via a mudroom and that also leads to the laundry and sewing room. The dining room and living are connected at an axis and glass doors open onto grassy lawns from each room.
The Cottrell House is a beautiful example of design for living. The Cottrell family inhabited the home for 49 years, finally donating the property to the University of Oregon in 2000. Timeless, functional design choices are apparent from the very few changes the family made in surfaces and storage. The children speak of the home as if it were part of the family; they say it is was filled with life – a testament to Yeon’s talent for creating living experiences through design.
View documentation of my visit to John Yeon’s Cottrell House at
View documentation of my visit to John Yeon’s Watzek House at