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June 2, 2024

Fans of midcentury modern architecture react to plans for new Robert Rummer homes

Midcentury modern developer Robert “Bob” Rummer retired decades ago, but he never gave up on his desire to build more glass-walled dwellings that owners rarely sell and buyers now pay close to $1.5 million to acquire.

On Saturday, Rummer celebrated his 97th birthday surrounded by fans inside the Southwest Portland house he built in 1966 for his family to share the news: He’s building again. The Rummer Development team debuted drawings of his timeless features improved with sustainable materials and energy efficient systems.

Pricing, which will be determined by location, is not yet available.

“What 97 year old starts building houses?” Rummer asked a small group of people who paid for a VIP ticket to meet Rummer at his former residence during the 2024 Portland Modern Home Tour.

No one in the living room seemed surprised it would be him. From the start, Rummer had an uphill battle with banks, building inspectors and home buyers who couldn’t see the allure of housing designed to encourage the then-revolutionary idea of indoor-outdoor living.

But Portlanders who appreciated Frank Lloyd Wright’s later work and California developer Joseph Eichler’s “Mad Men”-era tract homes based on Los Angeles architect A. Quincy Jones’ plans instantly understood the appeal of ceiling-soaring living rooms with see-through sliding doors that opened to patios.

Rummer built modern houses in the 1960s and 1970s in Garden Home’s Bohmann Park tract adjacent to Fanno Creek, Oak Hills Historic District north of Beaverton as well as in Lake Oswego and Gresham.

Early buyers were doctors and engineers; now many owners are designers. All prefer the spare midcentury modern aesthetic, even if the term didn’t exist when the original owners first opened an unassuming front door and entered a sky-revealing atrium.

Many of Rummer’s customers stayed put in their homes for decades. Rummer said he met a woman with mobility limitations who said she never feels confined sitting near her home’s large windows framing the landscape.

New versions of Rummer-built homes of the past are being designed and built by Rummer Development.

Most of the people at the private party were in their 30s and 40s. Oregon State University interior design students Kennedy Pereira and Sidney Pierson, both 19, saw the 58-year-old house as the way to live today.

“After COVID, we all came to realize the need for space, indoors and out, and places to entertain friends,” said Pereira. Pierson appreciated the vibrant midcentury colors and the warmth of the wood paneling.

The event was more than a birthday party for the affable “rock star” builder. Aubrey McCormick, CEO of Rummer Development, explained the new company will build “future-forward midcentury modern homes” inspired by the legacy of Bob Rummer.

“The goal is to scale these carefully curated homes in and beyond the Pacific Northwest,” McCormick told The Oregonian/OregonLive.

“Bob Rummer built homes to center around nature and community, and our team is dedicated to preserving his vision, while elevating these new homes with modernized technology, efficiency and important sustainable features for generational livability,” said McCormick.

Chad Pierson, Sidney’s father, is a residential general contractor based in Boring who first met Rummer 10 years ago when Chad Pierson was remodeling a Rummer-built house. Pierson said Rummer created homes with a wonderful flow and beautiful form that remain accessible to people of all ages.

“At 97, he’s upbeat. He’s driven,” said Pierson.

Oregon real estate

— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072

jeastman@oregonian.com | @janeteastman

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