2023 RDAA | Architectural Interiors | Gradient House and Studio | Linden, Brown Architecture

In the world of dual-purpose dwellings, Gradient House in Portland does many things exceptionally well, from its respect for the scale of the street, to the dramatic daylighting, to incorporating a smart work wing for several employees. All together it doubled the size the postwar house it replaced, but you can’t tell from the street. Linden, Brown Architecture set the top of the wall at 8 feet, the same height as the existing house. “In doing so, it set the perfect horizontal datum between wall and where the roof springs up,” says Christopher Brown, AIA. “In the house it feels intimate and residential; in the perpendicular design studio, as the floor steps down, the datum remains, so the sense of space increases.” 

The living areas and primary suite face the street, while the studio bar extends into the backyard, enclosing a gravel courtyard and its convivial firepit and raised beds. On both volumes, tall roof monitors are flipped in different directions to unobtrusively capture as much light as possible. A light monitor on the mezzanine above the primary suite “puts you right up against the glass, with a beautiful view to the river and St. John’s Bridge,” Christopher says.

“They did a nice job of pulling in all the high light from the courtyard so it didn’t disrupt the scale of the street,” a judge said.

Not to be outdone, the materials set the pace as well as the stage. In the residential spaces, battened maple wall paneling creates cadence and scale, while white ceilings bounce light from the monitors into the rooms. Those battens and the stairways’ topless guardrail anchor the interior character. A local steel fabricator fashioned the steel pickets from off-the-shelf, 11/4-inch-diameter pipes. “In some cases, the vertical pickets rise up and turn and become the handrail,” Christopher says. “It creates a beautiful sinuous geometry with different elbows ground smooth to make those transitions.” Their warm bronze finish complements the maple walls and floors and walnut kitchen cabinetry.

While using the same kit of parts, that grain of detail is more relaxed in the workspace. But the craftsmanship shines just as brightly, thanks to the contractor’s woodworking and fashion design background. “He fitted out interiors in Toronto for couture fashion brands like Hermès and Louis Vuitton; he approached it in an elevated way,” says Christopher. Containing a lounge, bath, and sliding glass doors to the courtyard, the studio could be converted into two bedrooms by a future buyer. The judges praised the handling of materials and the treatment of light, agreeing that “it all works together.”


Architectural Interiors

Linden, Brown Architecture
Gradient House and Studio
Portland, Oregon

Project Credits

Architect: Christopher Brown, AIA, Linden, Brown Architecture, Portland, Oregon

Builder: Callum Clark, Structure Build, Portland

Interior designer: Christopher Brown, Linden, Brown Architecture

Landscape architect: Wesley Younie, Portland

Engineer: Eric Pfau, Grummel Engineering, Portland

Project size: 3,600 square feet

Site size: 0.21 acres

Construction cost: $360 per square foot

Photography: Jeremy Bittermann

Key Products

Cabinetry: Custom walnut and maple

Cooking ventilation: Best

Cooktop/ovens/Dishwasher: Bosch

Countertops: Custom concrete

Decking: Custom mahogany

Entry door hardware: Ashley Norton

Faucets: California Faucets, Watermark

Fireplace: RAIS Viva L gas stove

Lighting: Astro, Sonneman, Andrew Neyer, Rich Brilliant Willing 

Lighting control: Legrand

Paints: Benjamin Moore

Passage door hardware: Baldwin

Refrigerator: Fisher & Paykel

Roofing: PermaLock Aluminum Shingles

Sinks: Custom integrated concrete

Toilet: TOTO

Tub: Kohler

Windows/window wall systems: Marvin