This Homeowner Spent 20 Years Collecting Wood to Create His Dream House—Tour the Stunning Craftsman Bungalow
Inside a very unique home with so much soul.
Rich Collins can point to any piece of wood in his house and tell you the story behind it. The Northern California Craftsman-style Aeroplane Bungalow—called “Journey’s End”—that he shares with his wife, Shelly, has been decades in the making. The woodworker has been collecting high-quality wood pieces for 20 years, and two years ago, he took all of those pieces and made it into a home, with the help of architect Todd Gordon Mather.
Rich and Shelly had thought about creating their dream home for many years, but life always seemed to get in the way. “Finally we purchased this farm in 2006 so that provided the place to eventually build,” he explains. “First though, we brought in a big mobile home and remodeled it, living there for 12 years! A few years later we built a large barn with a workshop, processing kitchen (for making jams and pies), as well as a farm office. Eventually, by 2016 and 2017, the idea of building our little dream house began to materialize and finally coalesced into a real project.”
That’s where Todd came in to help them bring the vision to life. The architect had been friendly with the pair since Todd’s drafter, Gregg States, was the couple’s brother-in-law. “When time came, we discussed the home and Rich and Shelley had some old sketches. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to do something quite unusual—a period-style home,” Todd says. It brought him back to his early architecture projects, renovating mining cabins and Victorian homes in the 1990s.
Taking Rich and Shelly’s sketches, they got to work developing the design. Because the size of the home was on the smaller side, more consideration needed to be taken for the size of each room and the symmetry of the house. “They always knew it was to be an Aeroplane Bungalow but there are so many moving parts (rooms/walls) that need to stack properly from cellar to main floor to upper floor,” Todd explains. “The upper floor defines the flat living room ceiling and adjacent to that in the same ‘great room’ is the dining room that reflected the shallow pitch roof above, so it was vaulted in a shed-roof configuration as experienced from the inside. TGMA worked to develop the site plan whereby the house aligns perfectly—orthogonally—with the barn, and they share a splendid landscaped courtyard between.”
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Rich and Shelly were both detail-oriented clients and had already specified their furniture, fixtures, and finishes, which Todd ensured would fit into the space. And of course, all the wood Rich had collected over the years had to be included. “The process was easy for me because he knew exactly what he wanted to do,” Todd says. “Nearly all the wood was for finishes and were non-structural with the exception of the cellar ceiling joists. As I recall, despite the [fact that the] joists were of ‘non-rated’ lumber, the engineer was able to assess it and make it meet any building code.”
The whole process began in early 2017 and by the end of that year, they had a solid concept coming together. Plans were submitted the next year and the county did not have many changes, but priorities changed when Rich was diagnosed with bladder cancer in late August 2018. Everything was put on hold while he underwent surgery and chemo treatments and when he was declared cancer-free on March 2019, they got the building permit the next day. The couple even had a groundbreaking ceremony with their children present to really kick things off. Rich took on most of the finish work while also working with Sean Van Gelder of Van Gelder Construction, whose team framed and built the structure.
When you walk through the finished home, there are so many interesting and “vintage” details and features to take in. The couple decorated and designed the space around furniture they already had. The kitchen layout was modeled to actual dimensions in the barn, and it features a 1949 Wedgewood gas range and pie safe that Todd made sure could fit into the design. The couple salvaged the mudroom’s sideboard sink from a 1910 apartment building in Helena, Montana. There’s also a Stickley library table and modern Morris chair in the “away” room.
As for the wood pieces, they all had a place in the home. In fact, Rich says that many of the pieces were purchased with their ultimate use in mind. “The stair treads—salvaged from a high school gymnasium in Oregon—were purchased in August of 2002,” Rich explains. “Most of the Douglas fir for the doors was milled from a 280-foot-tall tree that was a windfall purchase up near Tacoma, Washington—that wood was purchased from a small sawyer in May of 2004. The red fir used in the cellar ceiling and for the end grain block flooring came from a Klamath Falls railroad warehouse torn down in February of 2013. The western red cedar used for the front and back pergolas as well as all the exterior window trim was cut and milled by a sawyer up in Cloverdale, Oregon. Many years prior I had purchased from him much of the CVG Douglas fir eventually used for the cabinets, doors, wainscot, and staircase.”
Todd loves the home’s scale and size. “It’s not often that I get to design a diminutive home,” he says. “When I do, they’re not as ornamented or crafted or well-thought, frankly, as Journey’s End. The home is an expression of the owner in every single way from the idea to the doorknobs. Though not a physical part of the home, the shadows that the various rooflines, rafters, board-and-batten siding, and pergolas make are stunning. They’re as intricate as the work that Rich and his team did to make the shadow-casting components. Again, I’m also a huge fan of the symmetry found in and around the house—mostly from the exterior. Similar to the adjacent barn, the house isn’t perfectly symmetrical and the deviations make the home more interesting to view and study from afar.” Even after its completion, Todd still stops by for a glass of wine when he’s in the area.
And as for their finished home, Rich and Shelly are so thrilled with it. “After pondering the possibilities for nearly 20 years, it has exceeded our expectations. It’s a warm, cozy, comfortable inviting place. We are elated that it finally became a reality,” he adds.