Architect Tinker Hatfield rewrites the book on beach house design.
You might not know his name, but you’ve probably worn his work. For more than 25 years, Tinker Hatfield has been a creative force behind some of the most innovative footwear produced by Nike.
So it’s only natural that the architect-turned-shoe designer took an imaginative approach to his family’s getaway on Oregon’s stunning coast. He devised something colorful and distinctive, vibrant and dynamic―with all the flair of a Nike sneaker and its swoosh.
Tinker didn’t have to start from scratch. He and his wife already owned a tiny (less than 800-square-foot) 1916 bungalow in Gearhart, just an hour and a half outside of Portland. After they bought the house in the mid-1980s, he spent season after season sitting on the bungalow’s rickety shingle roof, studying the wind, the daily and seasonal movements of the sun, and the water view. Because he’s passionate about preservation, he decided early in the planning process to retain as much of the original home as possible. At the same time, he committed to a modern house with generous new spaces, all built in an environmentally responsible way.
While formulating the plan, Tinker came up with a series of guiding principles that he named “4 Rules for a Beachouse [sic] Design: Observe, Preserve, Conserve, Have Some Nerve.” He adhered to these guidelines throughout the project, as he built models, took pictures, put pencil to tracing paper, and sketched out a 3,000-square-foot house―part old cottage, part new―that features large, open living spaces. Then he lured Dick Baty, a friend from architecture school, to help with the home’s design and construction.
The result of their collaboration is an environmental award winner. Materials are healthful, green, energy-efficient, or all three. Recycled items―Douglas fir floors, spruce and fir walls, and beams and columns―come from the original structure, salvage centers, even an old boat. Where Tinker didn’t use reclaimed wood, he chose formaldehyde-free cabinetry and doors; concrete and pre-finished, engineered wood flooring; and wheat board, a product (made from pressed wheat) that’s similar to particleboard minus the formaldehyde. Tinker also opted for low-VOC paints and Energy Star–rated kitchen appliances, plus a plastic building material made from fast-growing pine-wood fiber and non-gas-emitting resin.
The dining room’s garage-style door permits instant access to the deck area and admits cooling breezes. Skylights here eliminate the need for lighting during the day.
Fitting such a striking form into the landscape wasn’t an afterthought: Tinker and Dick carefully sited the new construction so that it sheds winter storm winds that can top 80 mph, but still captures cool breezes in the summer. “It’s almost fish-shaped,” Tinker says. “There’s a little bit of nautical, ocean flavor to this thing.” Porthole windows pierce walls, the kitchen island is shaped like a surfboard, and the custom-designed kitchen table features an inlaid map of the 50-mile stretch of Oregon’s northern coastline.
Nautical elements include the kitchen island and a metal ladder, fashioned in traditional yacht style, that leads to the roof. A wind generator and a solar-powered lighting system for the top floor are still in the works.
The front of the house retains its original character, but a new master suite looks like a sparkling glass box, with towering windows canting out from the house at a dramatic angle. Nike shoe design is all about speed and motion, Tinker says. “And this slanted-out glass has a certain amount of motion. It’s what helps make the house look different.” “Good architecture doesn’t try to copy the past,” Tinker says, “but contributes to the future. It marries modern shapes, colors, and materials with those that have been with us for 100 years.”