October 22, 2005- Oregonian Article

Dennis Myers Designer Builder

Their new house on Southwest Florence Lane in Portland is several months from being completed, but Bob and Shaun Majors already know what their builder, Dennis Myers, means when he says he enjoys making "happy houses." "We were walking through it the other day, and my wife said the house was very relaxing," Bob Majors said. "She said it feels really good to be there."

Myers, 57, a Southwest Portland designer and builder, specializes in constructing houses on infill lots. He may design the house himself or, as he did with the Majors' house, add details to a standard house plan to fit his clients' lifestyle. For example, the original plan called for a flat, one-dimensional housefront, but Myers created a second roof line at the entrance to create the Arts-and-Crafts-style feeling the couple wanted.

"I like to see a house that comes together, that has a whole identity to it, that has a life of its own," Myers said. "Most of the houses that I do design, it's not like I design them, it's more like I ask, 'OK, what do you want to be' "

The couple selected Myers from a list of builders on Earth Advantage's Web site (www.earthadvantage.com) because they wanted an environmentally friendly home.

They also wanted spacious rooms where they could enjoy their hobbies. Bob Majors is eager to start building furniture in his 575-square-foot shop, while Shaun said she looks forward to working on sewing projects in her sewing/utility room. They're also happy about the large living and family rooms, two storage rooms, pantry and ample closets in the three-bedroom, 3,100-square-foot home.

"My definition of a 'happy house' is one that has a lot of light, some interesting spaces and makes good use of ceilings," Myers said. "I like the connection between the spaces to make sense, to have a nice flow. I use a lot of natural wood because it brings a lot of warmth to the house. I also like a lot of playful details."

"I haven't designed the same house twice," Myers said. "I thought about selling my plans, but I can't do that because there's always a reason a house was designed a certain way, and it wouldn't fit on another lot."

Myers also is building a 3,000-square-foot house on one of four blocks he bought near Tryon Creek State Park. Although he plans to live there for a while, he foresees it being bought eventually by a single person or by a couple who work at home and have one or two children. They will want a spacious home but they don't need a "multitude of bedrooms," he said.

Such "spec" houses --built on speculation for a future buyer rather than a specific client --allow him to "ride out my enthusiasm for design and do what I want to do," Myers said.

The house has a few of the playful details that Myers often introduces as construction evolves. He built shelving under a window and an entertainment center in a corner. The landing between the first- and second-floor stairs contains a generous window seat surrounded by bookcases for a cozy reading space. The stairs are angled off either side of the landing. Although the angles are "totally unnecessary," Myers said, they add the surprising spaces he was looking for when he designed the house.

As Bob and Shaun Majors are discovering with their house, the spaces Myers builds are flexible. His rooms don't say, "I am a bedroom and can't be used for anything else." When Bob points to the great room, he already envisions how he will use it: "This will be my active area, where I can dance and exercise. But someone else could use it as a dining room."

"I feel like I'm an endangered species, which is a shame," Myers said. "Small builders are able to be innovative because they're small. They're able to fill in the nooks and crannies" of small or difficult lots where large developments couldn't go. But those small infill lots are becoming harder to find, he said.

"The main thing is that I'm having fun," Myers said. "I get up each day, and I really enjoy what I'm doing."

Nancy McCarthy