Howard and Rose Grafton moved to Astoria from Portland in 2000. They sought a house on a lot level with the street with a river view. A unique design was also desired. But, Rose admits their “eyebrow house” has twins in Portland. In fact, the home is a mail-order house produced by Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Historic significance

In 1920, Harvey and Alta Rones constructed their house on top of a basalt outcropping on Irving Avenue. Oral history says the rock was blasted to create a flat shelf large enough for the house’s footprint. In 1950, while several neighbor houses slipped and tumbled down the embankment, the Rones house survived with little damage.

An optometrist for more than 40 years in Astoria, Harvey was also a lifelong inventor. Rones patented a machine, called the “cinemascope.” His premise was that poor eyesight was the result of weak eyes. The machine “exercised” the eyes by forcing them to focus independently on an object.

Prior work

The Graftons benefited from some updating of the home before they purchased it. For instance, a small bedroom in the back was converted to a sunroom. “This is where I live,” said Rose as she looked out to a stand of spruce and hemlock. “I feel like I’m sitting in a tree house.” Comfortable chairs and a writing table complete the arrangement. A built-in armoire provides extra storage.

Kitchen renovation

The kitchen was confined, not comfortable or efficient. Grafton knew she could do better. She wanted to create a kitchen like that in her parent’s house. The black and white tile floor with coved edges begins to evoke that home-like feel. It also fits her current residence.

“A kitchen is like a workshop,” explained Ed Overbay, who designed and renovated the space. Overbay owns Overbay Houseworks and is the president of the Columbia-Pacific Preservation Guild. He’s also Grafton’s son-in-law.

Overbay claims the key to designing a kitchen is creating a balance between ergonomics and visual esthetics. He alternated the countertop heights according to the proposed tasks at hand. Their surfaces change as well. The countertops feature a traditional looking Corian surface and an exotic Jatoba hardwood.

Lighting is also varied to enhance the different workstations. Overbay incorporated ceiling mounted fixtures, a Solatube for enhanced natural light, and hidden light sources within and beneath the cabinetry. The result is an airy well-lit feel that is easy on the eyes.

Color selection

Grafton’s color sense is evident throughout the house. A Columbine flower, found growing tin the front yard, inspired the home’s exterior paint scheme. She took the flower down to the lumber store and asked them to match it exactly. The house is a yellow, with cream trim and a pure red, window sash. Randy Kinney applied the unique paint combination.

Local craftspeople and products

The home’s hemlock floors were patched and refinished by J & J Hardwood Floors. Joe Herman Masonry repaired the chimney. Mother and daughter team, “Cricket” Epperson and Christine Mathers, flawlessly repaired cracked ceiling and wall plaster. The women also repainted the entire interior. Kyle Overbay, the Graftons’ grandson, custom made the front screen door. Vintage Hardware was a source of period light fixtures for the dining room and a bedroom.

Importance of preservation

“To live here is a continual process,” said Grafton. “In Astoria — where there is so much moisture — you have to be at it all the time.” She laughs about how a “city of critters,” or ants, were found living within a wet wall of the garage. “People came over and took pictures.”

Grafton takes it in stride. Even with the upkeep, it’s hard to beat living in a “unique” old house in Astoria.

   

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