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Sweet Home . . . Oregon
John and Marge Mooney's retirement retreat is cozy and spacious in all the right places.
April 3, 2003: 12:54 PM EST
By Sarah Max, CNN/Money Staff Writer

Bend, Oregon (CNN/Money) - When John and Marge Mooney built their Sunriver, Oregon home, it was an exercise in both design and practicality.

With sweeping views of the Cascade Mountains and a close-up view of the second hole of the celebrated Crosswater golf course, the location is storybook Oregon. The house, meanwhile, has both the craftsmanship of old-world Europe and all the amenities of modern luxury.

Yet the Mooneys say that impressing visitors and passersby was the last thing on their mind when they set out to build the 4,700-square-foot house almost six years ago. For the grandparents of seven (soon to be eight) the primary goal was simply bringing their entire family under one roof, comfortably.

In fact, every room and nearly every detail in the house has a purpose, whether it's a window seat that beckons grandchildren to curl up with a book or a gourmet kitchen that defies the notion that there can be too many cooks in the kitchen.

"We did not want a showplace," said Marge, as she bustles about, briefly interrupting the tour of her $2 million house to change a load of laundry. "We built our home with the purpose of welcoming our friends and family."

A reprieve after a life on the move

Both native Oregonians, John, now 66, and Marge, 65, met while in high school and married John's senior year of college. After graduation, John started working as a clerk for the energy company Pacific Power & Light. He moved up the ranks and, after dedicating his entire career to PacifiCorp, retired as a senior executive of the parent company, PacificCorp.

"Each of our five children was born in a different city," said Marge, explaining that John's job took them to different cities throughout the West.

During their years on the move, the Mooneys regularly vacationed in Sunriver, a tiny resort town 20 miles south of Bend known for its golfing, biking, hiking and skiing at nearby Mount Bachelor. And when John retired in 1997, he and Marge decided to make Sunriver their permanent address.

From concept to construction

All those years of moving around with John's job made the Mooneys expert home builders. Their retirement house would be their tenth large-scale construction project. Going in, they had a good idea of what they wanted, from the overall feel to the smallest of details.

"They wanted a house that would reflect an old-world European lodge but still fit in with the architecture of the area," said Scott Gilbride, a local architect who spent almost a year working with the Mooney's on the design of their house.

At the same time the house needed to be large enough to fit all of the family, the Mooneys wanted it to feel cozy when it was just the two of them and their English hound, Bogey.

The solution was to design the house with everything the couple needed on the first floor and make the upstairs an area used almost exclusively by their kids and grand kids.

"I did not want excessive square footage," said Marge, adding that the house is a bit larger than she first envisioned. But it's not the largest house in the neighborhood. "Down the street there is an 11,000 square foot house with 11 fireplaces."

When it was finally time to break ground, John got his general contractors license and, with the help of a project manager, personally oversaw the construction, which took 16 months.

"John was there every day," Scott recalled. "I remember showing up one morning and there he was pre-dipping the shingles in a wheel barrel." (In fact, John spent two months individually staining every cedar shingle on their house.)

A tour of the first floor

"I say this facetiously, but we are running a bed and breakfast here," said Marge, standing in her gourmet kitchen. The kitchen is set up for some serious cooking, with a 4 feet by 9 feet island, three sinks and two dishwashers. At the same time, its knotty alder cabinetry and uncluttered granite counters blend with the rest of the house and its French country dcor.

On one side, the kitchen opens into the great room, whose most striking features are its cathedral ceiling, hand hewn timber beams made to look a hundred years old, massive windows and a two-sided basalt fireplace that separates the living and dining areas.

On the opposite side of the kitchen, a doorway leads to a large mud room with a laundry station and a nook for Marge's office. "I like having all of this in one area," she said, looking out onto a porch and small side garden. Marge asked Scott to design the mud room specifically so her grandchildren could come in after playing outside and go directly into the downstairs guest bathroom without dragging dirt throughout the house.

A guest room and the master suite are also on the first floor. "We learned from our other houses that you don't need a large bedroom," said Marge, walking through the roomy but modest master bedroom. The master bath, like much of the house, carefully mixes the old and the new, with an oversized open shower, a large claw foot soaking tub, and a double vanity built to look as if it was picked up in a Parisian antique market.

On to the second floor

It's appropriate that Marge's most cherished possessions, five small oval paintings of each of her children at age three, hang on the stairway going to the second floor. The entire upstairs is, after all, a tribute to family.

Looking down on the great room below, the upstairs sitting room, said Marge, is where her grown children like to congregate and escape the activities of the first floor. Mementos from John and Marge's grandparents give character to one of two upstairs bedrooms, while the grandchildren's art puts their personal stamp on one of the bathroom.

The grandchildren's bunk room, finally, is almost as large as the Mooneys three-car garage, which is by no coincidence directly below. Even with two bunk beds, a pint-sized bed and two rows of old school-house desks there is still plenty of space for children, who are all under the age of 14, to romp around and put on plays for the entire family.

"This room is everyone's favorite," said Marge.  Top of page

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