Parkdale couple make a mark with creative projects

By Drew Myron

When not working, artists Chris and Sharolyn Schofield are building their 1,700 square-foot straw bale home in Parkdale.

Not many people have a 28-foot-long potato in their driveway.

Or build a house of straw bales.

Or reclaim an abandoned sawmill.

Meet Chris and Sharolyn Schofield, a creative couple making a mark in Parkdale.

Their largest creation is a 13-foot tall, 12,000-pound potato created for the
Idaho Potato Commission. In 11 years, the oversized tuber has traveled more than 200,000 miles to 9,000 cities. It is now parked outside their home.

“It’s here for repairs,” Chris says.

The Schofields moved to Parkdale in April 2020. Within one year, they have forged friendships and created collaborations as they build, reclaim and boost the community they have embraced as their own.

In the fever of the pandemic, the duo moved from Idaho to Oregon with their two youngest children and immediately got busy building a house off Dee Highway.

This pair of artist/fabricators bring ingenuity and skill to the job as they build a 1,700-square-foot straw bale home. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom house is made with 500 bales of straw encased in three coats of plaster. It features vaulted ceilings, massive wood beams, deep window wells, and soaring eaves.

The result is an energy-efficient contemporary dwelling with radiant heat floors and reclaimed wood accents.

The house drew the attention of Andrew Morrison of Straw Bale Innovations. Andrew leads classes across the United States and chose the Schofield home for a weeklong workshop with more than a dozen participants.

Although assisted in design by local architect Eric Becker, with engineering by Scott Bauman, every aspect of construction has been a hands-on project for Chris and Sharolyn. They hope to complete the home this summer.

“We like a challenge,” Chris says.

“We work side by side on everything we do,” Sharolyn adds.

When not building their home—or restoring potatoes—the couple operate Schofield Design. The firm specializes in custom-made artful and functional pieces for home, office, and public spaces.

Sharolyn is a certified welder and jewelry-maker with an eye for design and a head for details.

“I didn’t grow up in the art world,” she says, “but I grew up making things.”

From left, Chris, Sharolyn and Chris Riedl sort through massive slabs of timber ready for purchase at the Dee Mill. Photo by Drew Myron

Chris is a graphic artist and arborist who studied forestry.

“I love trees,” he says. “Wood is just a part of my blood. It’s a passion. We just like to build things.”

Their latest—and potentially most ambitious—project is reclaiming the long-abandoned Dee Mill. The revival is a collaborative effort of Chris Riedl of Yodelboy Woodworks; Andreas Von Flotow, a local engineer, and developer; and Chris and Sharolyn.

Dee Mill was the creation of the Oregon Lumber Co., established in the early 1900s by a Salt Lake City businessman who also built the Mount Hood Railroad to serve the county’s growing timber and orchard industries.

Dee was a company town for mill workers and their families. It featured a hotel, general store, small houses, and boxcars for workers. The town was most substantial in the 1910s and 1920s, with a peak population of 250.

The town saw a steady decline with the rise of automobiles and road improvement that allowed workers a greater choice of where to live.

In 1958, Hines Lumber Co. bought the mill and town property. The remaining housing was dismantled by 1960.

Wood production continued under several operators until Champion Paper closed the facility in 1984. New Zealand investors reopened it as Dee Forest Products in 1986. In 1996, a fire destroyed most of the buildings and ended operations.

The Schofields created a 12,000-pound larger than-life potato for the Idaho Potato Commission that has traveled the nation for 11 years. Photo courtesy of Schofield Design

“What you see here is a fresh start,” says Chris Riedl, as he surveys stacks of enormous 100-year-old slabs of walnut, oak, sycamore, elm, beech, and more. “We’re the first lumber mill to start back up.”

The new Dee Mill offers rare wood reclaimed from Pacific Northwest job sites in which trees have been cut due to disease, crowding, and construction. The logs are milled, kiln-dried, and sold as slabs to woodshops, makers, and builders.

The aim is to establish a network for reclaimed timber that takes logs from residential yards and turns them into usable and beautiful lumber.

“The goal is to have a raw product that people can use,” Chris Schofield says.

The partners are working to enclose the massive historic timber-frame pole barn and create a showroom.

Chris and Sharolyn are excited to talk about their new projects and community.

“They’re something special here,”

Chris says. “We see so many other artists around here and feel a good energy. It’s a town where people support each other. Everything you want, you can get here. It’s good to stay local and to stay strong.”

For more information on Schofield Design, go to the Schofield Design website, call (208) 284-8463, or go to Instagram @schofielddesign.