Relationships To The Land
by Walt Burns
Often, manmade structures are seen to be in conflict with nature and the land where they are situated. One positive attribute of building a custom home is that the many decisions involved in the process – from design to materials – can be geared to working more in concert with the natural surroundings.
The three businesses we review in this feature will help you craft a home that reflects your love of Central Oregon:
Imagine Stoneworks – high-quality natural and composite stone
RN Cross Construction – custom home builder
SeaPort Hardwoods & Flooring – 75 varieties of pre-finished and site-finished traditional and exotic hardwoods
From construction to floors and stone surfaces, our aim is to inspire you to build your home from the ground up, the Bend way.
Every Stone Tells a Story
“Every stone is a snapshot of evolution and history of 4.2 billion years. It can become emotional. A certain shade, pattern, or how big the crystals are can appeal to someone and they can grow quite attached to having it in their home. Every stone is individual.”
–Rob Angelo, Imagine Stoneworks
History is littered with stories of people in search of gold. Fabled accounts of ambitious individuals venturing to far-off locales, enduring hardship, driving farther and farther back into the mountains and digging deeper and deeper into the earth.
Rob Angelo’s job was to look for gold. He explored incomparable mountainsides throughout Central and South America as a geologist, spending years uncovering the treasures hidden in the earth. Of course, it’s not always as glamourous as you might think, and so after many years abroad, Angelo looked for something closer to home. Turns out it was in Bend, Oregon, where he found what he was looking for.
“My parents were going through the process of building a home in Sedona. As they were looking at stone for countertops, I thought, ‘Hey I know a lot about stone. Maybe I could get into this work,’” Angelo explains.
After surveying the building environments around the West, he became convinced that Bend was the place to be and Imagine Stoneworks began its journey. For close to 20 years now, Imagine Stoneworks has been providing the custom home market in Central Oregon with the highest level of natural and composite stone imaginable. From design to fabrication to installation of stone in countertops, floors, fireplace hearths, barbeques, outdoor living spaces, and more, they have secured a position as the first people to talk to when it comes to stone. They offer a unique understanding of a diverse range of stone, from granite, quartz, and marble to more exotic stone such as onyx, travertine, and limestone.
There are many reasons for Imagine’s success but one of the most unique is Angelo’s background as a scientist. Every piece of stone has a story and being able to tell it is something that attracts homeowners to Imagine Stoneworks.
Angelo is able to tell that story and make what would otherwise seem a cold building material into a living part of a home. “Every stone is a snapshot of evolution and history of 4.2 billion years,” he says. “It can become emotional. A certain shade, pattern, or how big the crystals are can appeal to someone and they can grow quite attached to having it in their home. Every stone is individual.”
For many of these reasons, quartzite has been extremely popular lately. Comprised of quartz grains subjected to heat and compression over eons, slabs can have particularly intricate and often intriguing patterns. “Quartzite is cut from basically primitive sand dunes in inland sea areas and often you can actually see the dune in the slab,” says Angelo.
To find the right stone is, more often than not, a process of actually going and looking at the physical pieces. “We’re fortunate in that a couple of fairly large stone warehouses have come into Bend so there is a lot of stock for homeowners to choose from. We will go down and help them select pieces if they would like,” Angelo explains. “It’s not something everyone wants, but we are here if they would like our help.”
Just as important is Imagine’s thorough knowledge of the properties of each of type of stone and understanding how certain stone will fair in certain situations. They also can advise when a composite stone might be a better choice than a natural slab.
Recently, Imagine Stoneworks has found that there has been a lot of work beyond natural stone. “Quartz is extremely popular right now. In fact, it’s probably the most popular product we’re working with at the moment. But what is really taking off is porcelain. We are doing a lot of porcelain,” says Angelo. Porcelain is hard. It won’t stain. It’s also resistant to UV light damage and for that reason, it has become a go-to for outdoor living spaces. “But it’s pretty difficult to deal with and a lot of people won’t even try,” he explains. Although perhaps at the root of its regenerated popularity is the fact that it is simply different. Isn’t having something truly unique a key reason for building a custom home in the first place?
This combination of knowledge coupled with state-of-the-art machinery allows Angelo and his crew to tackle just about anything a homeowner dares to imagine. “We are more than happy to take on the projects that look very difficult on paper. Jobs that can seem pretty intimidating,” he explains. Of course, doing that requires a solid team. That’s exactly what Imagine has assembled. From scheduling to template, fabricating and installing, the Imagine Stoneworks team is 14 people strong and ready for whatever comes its way.
And those intimidating jobs keep coming. “We’re doing a lot of what I would call dimensional work,” says Angelo. More and more, homeowners are considering other options for stone slabs than just countertops. Focal points of walls, showers, and impressive fireplaces are utilizing the individual beauty of stone. Again, it’s not easy work. “We’re talking about a 1,000-pound piece of material that has to be maneuvered into place. It takes a lot of manpower. Often, we have to bring a lift into the house to get it in place,” Angelo explains.
The effects are dramatic. The same unique qualities that make these slabs so enticing as countertops now stand vertically – essentially as art pieces themselves.
Any of us can look at a stone and appreciate the beauty. Thanks to Imagine Stoneworks, we can make that beauty part of our homes. As Angelo tells us, “From the first contact to the time we’re wiping off the countertop, we truly enjoy what we’re doing and it always pays off when you see the homeowner smile at the end.”
“We’re talking about a 1,000-pound piece of material that has to be maneuvered into place. It takes a lot of manpower. Often, we have to bring a lift into the house to get it in place.”
–Rob Angelo, Imagine Stoneworks
Every Vision is a Mission
RN Cross Construction
“My wife and I were ready to start a family and couldn’t think of raising kids anywhere other than Central Oregon. We moved back home and my dad and I partnered up when we got here. We’ve been running with it since then.”
–Colton Cross, RN Cross Construction
If there is a common thread to every custom home, it is the simple fact that each is one-of-a-kind. Every single home is the individual product of the people involved and the vision of the homeowner brought to life. All the hands involved make that vision a reality. They all bear their marks and are felt long after the building process is complete.
Many of those who set out to build a custom home give a lot of thought to the actual people whom they want to be part of the process. They consider not just the bid and reputation in the industry, but they also do a careful analysis of who those people actually are. Anyone who places value on the character of the people who build their house also wants confidence that things are being done with the utmost attention to detail. And they will probably be interested in an outfit owned by two former Marines – a father and son, no less.
RN Cross Construction has been building custom homes in Central Oregon for decades, beginning with Neal Cross more than 20 years ago. In the early days, Neal’s son, Colton, was a regular fixture on jobsites as a kid. Eventually, Colton moved on to Corvallis to earn a degree in Construction Engineering Management from Oregon State University before commissioning into the Marine Corps immediately thereafter.
After the Marines, Colton landed in Southern California and put his degree to use with a design-build firm focusing on luxury residential homes. Meanwhile, Neal continued to build custom homes in the Bend area. Colton explains how it all came together, saying, “My wife and I were ready to start a family and couldn’t think of raising kids anywhere other than Central Oregon. We moved back home and my dad and I partnered up when we got here. We’ve been running with it since then.”
It should be noted that Neal had a full career in the Marine Corps as well before he went into the building industry. The lessons learned from that experience influence both Neal and Colton to this day. “In the Marine Corps, we do whatever it takes to get the mission done. If somebody asks you to help get something done, then you do it. You never ask how it’s going to affect the bottom line. It’s always just, ‘How do we get it to completion?’ So, for us now, it’s how do you drive the project home first?” says Colton.
The Marine Corps influence is also evident in the small but very capable team that RN Cross has assembled. The efficient, skilled group handles everything from rough framing to interior finishing. Each member is allowed the responsibility and freedom to develop skills and play a role in creating things of lasting value. Each member understands that the person next to them is dependent on them performing work at the highest level – and vice versa.
“I think the fact that we’re a family team comes through in the relationships we build with our clients. It’s important to us. And it’s important to how we do things.”
–Colton Cross, RN Cross Construction
For Colton, Neal, and their crew, this produces a spirit of not only being prepared for challenges, but also embracing them – especially when it comes to remodels. “We do a fair amount of out-of-the-box and larger-scale remodels. We thrive on the difficulty of it and the challenging aspect. You’re presented with a person’s vision and then you get to the site and it’s something completely different than you imagined. But we love the challenge of taking someone’s vision and figuring out how to make the end product match that vision. Sometimes it twists our brains in knots, but it’s what gets us up in the morning,” adds Colton.
One of those projects recently involved turning what had been an actual horse barn into a guest house/mother-in-law suite. “By the time the project was over, there was a main open living space on the bottom, new floor system, post and beam over top, and then a wrapping staircase leading up to a second level, with a master suite and bathroom,” Colton recounts.
All this being said, there is something other than just military experience that has a profound influence on the RN Cross Con-struction team members and the way they approach their work. It is something even deeper, more than just facing challenges and reaching resolutions. There is a deep devotion to meticulous craftsmanship. It’s the integrity in the work that comes when that work is the product of multiple generations of the same family – father and son building things they hope will be enjoyed by multiple generations of another family. It’s the way Neal has always done it. It’s the way Colton learned from Neal. And now, with Colton back in Oregon to raise his young family, it appears that the tradition will continue.
“My son Hank is three now, and he’s a regular fixture on the site. All of the subs know him. So often there are three generations of Cross boys on site,” Colton says. Giving it more thought, he explains, “I think the fact that we’re a family team comes through in the relationships we build with our clients. It’s important to us. And it’s important to how we do things.”
Ultimately, what the Cross family seems to be building is much more than custom homes; it is a really amazing life that is reflected in everything they build.
It All Starts with the Floor
Seaport Hardwoods & Flooring
“Both solid and engineered pre-finished flooring arrives sanded, stained, and finished with a factory-applied protective coating. They’re easy to install, and there’s not a lot of mess or the odor associated with site-finished floors, so the inconvenience to the homeowner is minimal. They can be used immediately, so your life can get back to normal right away.”
–Zach Bull, SeaPort Hardwoods & Flooring
It would not be difficult to make the argument that wood is a fundamental element of Oregon. Admiring, harvesting, buying, and selling wood plays as large a role in the history of Oregon as Lewis and Clark.
Equally so, wood is deeply entrenched in the history of the Bull family. The present as well. Dan Bull has spent his life dealing with wood and he opened SeaPort Hardwoods & Flooring in Clackamas in 2004. Since then, it has been a source of some of the finest hardwood flooring available to home builders and owners.
The tradition has now been passed down to Dan’s son, Zach Bull, and Zach is charged with a new challenge – bringing the SeaPort selection of products and service to Central Oregon. By opening SeaPort Hardwoods & Flooring in Bend a few years ago, Zach and SeaPort have firmly found their footing in Bend’s custom home-building community.
“We offer 75 varieties of pre-finished flooring. The possibilities are endless as far as creating interesting contrast effects, patterns, and designs,” Zach says. “You can use the contrasts to draw attention to any area or liven up the whole room.”
Today, SeaPort has grown to include everything a homeowner needs for their dream floor: the finest pre-finished and site-finished traditional and exotic hardwoods from around the world, along with a wide variety of quality tools, finishes, and stains.
As with anything these days, there is a dizzying array of options to bring that dream floor to life. Not just for colors, but a variety of attributes –- solid pre-finished flooring, engineered pre-finished flooring, or a floor that is finished on site.
Zach explains, “Both solid and engineered pre-finished flooring arrives sanded, stained, and finished with a factory-applied protective coating. They’re easy to install, and there’s not a lot of mess or the odor associated with site-finished floors, so the inconvenience to the homeowner is minimal. They can be used immediately, so your life can get back to normal right away.”
Solid flooring is exactly what it sounds like. These are planks that are each a solid piece of wood milled from a single piece of timber. Each plank is stained to provide a uniform color, followed by a protective coating to withstand the abuse of daily life – traffic, pets, someone occasionally not being diligent about removing their hiking boots.
Engineered flooring provides even more options. As Zach is quick to point out, “Engineered flooring is often confused with laminate flooring, but they are very different. Laminate is, more often than not, a photograph of wood sealed into a plastic backing. Engineered floors are real wood.” Engineered flooring is comprised of wood veneers layered onto six to twelve layers of plywood or white wood. They’re incredibly adaptive and can be installed over almost any existing floors. They are a great choice for home renovation projects, especially in high-humidity areas such as basements, bathrooms, and kitchens or for any area that has big climate swings.
“Engineered flooring is often confused with laminate flooring, but they are very different. Laminate is, more often than not, a photograph of wood sealed into a plastic backing. Engineered floors are real wood.”
–Zach Bull, SeaPort Hardwoods & Flooring
Some of the most popular choices in engineered flooring are selections from Urban Floor. “The Composer and L’Artiste collections are the real go-tos at the moment,” Zach explains. Both of these collections do an exceptional job of capturing the look and feel of reclaimed hardwood floors with the convenience and durability of engineered. The details are exceptional. Look closely and you’ll see things like filled and unfilled knots, natural splits in the wood, and other small details that capture the feel and aesthetic of hardwood planks. SeaPort is also the exclusive source for Johnson Flooring in Oregon.
Still, with all these options there are those who see their floors as a key expression of their home’s aesthetic and want something that is truly one-of-a-kind. For these homeowners, a site-finished floor is the answer. “Site-finished flooring can really become a piece of art,” Zach continues. “There is complete control. The homeowner can choose the width of the planks, species of the wood, stain color, and finish to bring their vision to life.”
Zach advises that on-site sanding is also the only way to achieve a perfectly flat, smooth floor with no irregularities and no crevices that can collect dust and dirt. This also makes it the best choice for situations where there’s a transition between a new floor and existing floor.
Of course, as with most things that represent this level of customization and craftsmanship, it comes at a cost in convenience. “Site finishing does take time to install, sand, fill, stain, seal, and cure. You will not be able to walk on the floors or place anything on them until it’s all done and so most of the time, we see it in renovations of historical significance and new construction in custom homes,” Zach adds.
Whether it’s pre-finished hardwood, engineered, or site-finished, there is no part of the home we come in contact with more than the floor. And there is no one better than SeaPort to make sure you end up with exactly what you have in mind.