Jason Eaton recently built his new Ashland house using old materials reclaimed from houses all over the Rogue Valley. - Julia Moore

Home with a history

When it was time for Jason Eaton and his wife, Kelly, to build their Ashland home and raise a family, they didn't want all spanking-new and expensive building materials, but old straight-grain fir, wood with a past and the old bolt holes to prove it.

It took a few years, but they succeeded, and now their handsome "new" Craftsman house on Henry Street in Ashland looks like a new house — if it were built in 1910. It is crammed with modern, green-sustainable energy features and braided with old wood trim (planed smooth and new-looking), closet doors, ceiling beams and porch columns, all gathered from barns and tear-downs in the valley.

You just want to cozy up to it and hunker down in it and call it home. No new house has that vibration of age. It just can't be done with new, expensive materials, says Eaton, who also wanted "experienced" wood and fixtures because it's good for the planet and means trees don't have to be cut and finished materials don't have to be flown from all over the world. Plus, old tear-downs don't have to be hauled to the landfill.

"I love sustainable and green building because it's durable and reduces the footprint of the house," says Eaton. "I build a tight envelope, well-insulated, so it's a comfortable home and doesn't cost a lot in heating and cooling — and I like the looks of it."

The two-story, 1,350-square-foot house is flooded with light, lowering power bills and making it feel twice as large. It exploits every little nook, making a comfy office out of a 10-by-10-foot corner at the top of the stairs and presenting an airy, open plan for kitchen-dining-living space on the ground floor.

The Eatons tore down an existing cottage from the 1930s, which long ago was dragged to the site after serving as a gas station in downtown Ashland in the early 20th century, says Eaton. Floors from the old cottage were straight-grain hemlock, no longer obtainable new at any price, and were made into floors in the new house.

"We wanted a house that would fit into this older neighborhood of 100-year-old homes but with all the advantages of a 2011 home," says Eaton, a contractor and owner of Conscious Construction in Ashland. The company designs, consults and builds.

They succeeded at their goal, as seen when neighbors stroll by and compliment them for their "nice remodel."

The couple installed solar panels atop the front clerestory, barely visible from the street. The home was entirely wrapped in one-inch foam against the most advanced, leakproof framing technology that uses the least wood and the most insulation, he adds.

"The PV panels mean we don't have any energy bills all summer," he says, adding that a ductless heat pump supplies the whole house through one opening in the living room. Ducts, he explains, run all over a house and are a big waste of energy.

The siding is vertical grain wood from a tear-down in Medford, which had already been taken apart, meaning they had to pay for it. By contrast, the couple had to get out the crowbar and reclaim wood from an old barn in Rogue River — "very time consuming" taking out all those nails and bolts and schlepping wood around, he notes.

The classy cedar shakes on the upper story came "from a contractor who was clearing out his shed — and those would be hard to find now, affordably," he says.

The four, hefty, square cedar posts on the front porch are from a Gold Hill man who has a portable mill and likes to mill and plane trees if you bring them to him, says Eaton.

By code, doors have to be modern and energy efficient, but interior trim is made of 1-by-4s ripped from old, clear-grain 2-by-4 studs, so it looks brand new even though it still bears those endearing old nail- and bolt holes on 16-inch centers — and closet doors that look a century old have been stripped of many coats of paint and refitted with antique knobs and fixtures from Morrow's in Medford.

The main closet doors in the living room were sitting on A Street in Ashland with a "free" sign on them, says Eaton, the perfect find for a recycler-builder.

The living room's crowning gem is the 8-by-8-foot beam from a barn in Rogue River, which Eaton cut with joints, echoing the mortise-and-tenon look — posts cut into beams and supporting the beam that separates kitchen from living room.

The Eatons laid large concrete squares in the side yard as a patio, where the old cottage once stood. The spare and elegant, drought-resistant, water-stingy landscaping was created by Kelly, a landscape designer, and a tiny workshop in back supports a rooftop garden.

The yard was designed to be lived in during the warm-weather months, Eaton notes.

You might think you'd save money recycling old materials, says Eaton, "but if you value your labor and write it all down, it's not less expensive. I figure I saved $15,000 off the cost of the house using our labor and old materials. We collected the materials over five years and designed the house for a year and a half."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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