The End-of-Summer Rummer House Tour lived up to its name as clouds and rain rolled in, bringing an end to the warm sunny days here in Portland. Undeterred, over 600 Oregonians made the trip out to the Oak Hills Historic District to tour six homes built by Robert Rummer.
Participants hit the tour route with canvas bags, notepads and pencils provided by Design Within Reach, as well as copies of Atomic Ranch and All Things Real Estate. Posters of an original Rummer floor plan and elevation as well as raffle tickets for a 2-night stay at the McKenzie River Roundhouse, a mid-century modern B&B on the McKenzie River, were offered for sale as well.
Some of the best and earliest examples of Rummer homes are located in Oak Hills, a mid-century planned community surrounding a school, church and community center. The streets are winding, walkable and tree-lined. The homes, all built in the 60’s, represent a variety of styles that create a visually interesting streetscape. In 2013, the neighborhood became the first mid-century modern historic district in Oregon.
Along the tour route attendees and homeowners were laughing and chatting, discussing what had been changed in each home and plans for future renovations, often in an effort to restore their homes. Many tour-goers were Rummer owners themselves or hoped to join that exclusive club. Though Mr. Rummer built 700 houses in Oregon, only a few of them were in the modernist style that is so sought after.
The homes on the tour all feature a center-atrium design, some open to the weather and some covered. Many had been modified over the years thanks to changing fashions, but the owners of the homes on the tour all have a deep appreciation for the architecture and several have been working to undo poorly thought out changes wrought by previous owners.
In the atrium of the Swenson house, Mr. Rummer answered questions, signed posters and passed out business cards. He was accompanied by Phyllis, the woman who started it all. The Rummers are both in their late 80’s and still fairly spry. Mr. Rummer is now consulting on Rummer homes and has several of his original plans redrawn in anticipation of building new Rummers.
Tour-goers had their favorite houses and, although it was not meant to be an interior design tour, favorites were often based on the homeowners’ personal style. Rummer homes are highly modern in design, but lend themselves to a variety of decorating sensibilities and the homes on the tour reflected tastes that include mid-century modern, Danish modern, modern eclectic, Jurassic gardener, and artistic world traveler. From architectural sofas to plush sectionals, tulip tables to ping-pong tables, these homes can accommodate them all with ease and without sacrificing any of the hallmarks that make them special like the natural light, privacy and connection to the outdoors.
The day ended with a cocktail reception for the Rummers at Rejuvenation’s Portland showroom where Jack Bookwalter gave everyone some background on the origins of Rummer homes. As the legend goes, Bob and Phyllis Rummer were traveling in California where they saw the homes that were being built by Joe Eichler. Phyllis convinced Bob that he had to bring that style up to Oregon, so he met with A. Quincy Jones, one of the architects who created plans for Eichler. That meeting spurred the development his own sets of plans that included deep overhangs, center atriums and Roman tub or showers.
Mr. Rummer, still going after a long day and ensconced on a comfortable sofa, chatted with attendees, answered their questions and signed posters. Owners of several of the homes on the tour were also in attendance and the party broke out into conversational groups on the comfortable furniture around Rejuvenation’s showroom. Toward the end of the evening a raffle winner was chosen and homeowners and tour-goers lingered as the Restore Oregon staff went home to rest.