northwest regional portland home william fletcher
This Portland home was built by famed Mid Mod architect William Fletcher. Notice the natural color palette and use of exposed wood. Courtesy of Restore Oregon.

Mid Century Modern design can look quite different across the country— the Southwest might be filled with Desert Modern paradises, but the Northwest takes an entirely different approach. Cascadia’s version of Mid Mod style is called Northwest Regional design, and it brings a more down-t0-earth, sustainable flair to the retro look.

History

Northwest Regional design is a style heavily influenced by Mid Century Modern design, International style  and Japanese architecture that was common in the Pacific Northwest from the late 1930s to the 1960s.  It was made popular thanks to architects like Paul Hayden Kirk, John Yeon, William Fletcher and Robert Rummer.

northwest regional william fletcher a frame
Another William Fletcher home, this A-Frame uses tall, narrow windows to bring in as much light as possible, while still providing privacy. Courtesy of Restore Oregon.

Northwest Regional design pulls heavily from similar architectural movements of the time, like Mid Century Modern and International. This is seen in the sleek lines of Northwest Regional homes (a Mid Mod influence) and the floor-to-ceiling glass (a nod to International style).

The style also found inspiration on the other side of the ocean too. Across the Pacific, Japanese architecture influenced the designs of architects in the Pacific Northwest, as the area already had ties to the island nation, and the two shared similar climates. Design elements like an emphasis on the natural setting or exposed wood reflected this.

Characteristics

Northwest Regional style takes a Mid Century Modern approach to design: simple is better. Boaz Ashkenazy, lecturer for the University of Washington Department of Architecture called the style “a more subtle Modernism.” Its homes valued function and easy-construction. In fact, some of the first pre-fab homes were Northwest Regional ones, as homes were built in pieces off-site because of the difficulty of the on-site terrain.

northwest regional portland blue home
The roof overhang on this Portland home protects it (and its owners!) from the elements. Courtesy of Atomic Ranch.

These homes are sleek and linear, and have roofs that only slope enough to let off the rain. And speaking of the rain, Northwest Regional homes often have extended overhangs to shield the residents from the rain. There are also large windows all around the homes to show off the surrounding nature and make the most of precious sunlight.

northwest regional portland robert rummer home
This home was built by Portland architect Robert Rummer. It features locally sourced stone, an indoor atrium and a Japanese garden that surrounds the home. Courtesy of Atomic Ranch.

Nature wasn’t taken lightly in the PNW— in terms of sustainability, Northwest Regional architecture was years ahead of similar styles. Homes were built to showcase the surrounding natural landscape, and they were often built with locally sourced materials, like nearby timber and stone. Northwest Regional homes typically had unpainted wood-paneled exteriors to show off the beauty of the cedar, fir or pine.

northwest regional style john yeon home in portland
Designed in 1937 by architect John Yeon, this Portland home embodies classic Northwest Regional principles— lots of windows, a gently sloping roof and a focus on the exterior world. Courtesy of Modern Homes Portland.
northwest regional style washington kirk home
This Washington home was designed by Paul Hayden Kirk, and gives off a cabin vibe without sacrificing style. Courtesy of Curbed.

These homes are certainly different than their Californian cousins, but we love them just as much. Check out another PNW architect, Wendell Lovett, and don’t forget to follow us on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest for more Atomic Ranch articles and ideas!