Modern Day "Odd Couple" Lives in Side-by-Side Matching Houses

Wardlaw, left, and Zehetbauer, skiing on Mt. Hood recently. Photo courtesy of Ted Wardlaw.It’s like the ultimate buddy movie—two creative types set off on the adventure of a lifetime, indulge in frequent bouts of barbecuing and skiing, and never really have to let the party end. Because, hey, they live next door to each other in cool, hand-built, matching houses, where there’s plenty of room for girlfriends.

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That’s every-day life for Roland Zehetbauer and Ted Wardlaw, who decided to commit to their bromance when they built side-by-side contemporary houses on the same Portland, Oregon, lot, moving in last year. It was the lucky continuation of a friendship sparked when the two men were neighbors, married with children.

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Now, after each going through a divorce and simultaneously wondering what their next move would be, they are once again neighbors, this time in side-by-side, 1,500-square-foot glass-and-wood houses that they built and helped design, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Many weekends are spent together on outdoor-sports excursions—skiing, climbing, biking—as well as on double dates with each other’s girlfriends, all of whom get along well with each other.
 
"I thought, well why not choose my neighbor if I can?" Zehetbauer, a furniture designer who owns the Portland store Altura and took the design-planning lead with PATH Architecture, told Yahoo! Shine. He purchased the lot and had first planned to build three houses and sell or rent out two, but then a light bulb went off, and he approached his pal with a plan. Now, he added, “It’s nice to go on my terrace and see Ted there barbecuing, and I say, ‘What are you doing for dinner? What do you have? What do I have?’ And then we wind up eating together. That happens a lot, actually,” 
 
The side-by-side houses. Photo courtesy of PATH Architecture.Wardlaw, a sports-marketing consultant, agreed. “It’s super-nice to have someone you can rely on and can share things with,” he told Shine, adding that, when they were working together on the houses, he would sometimes refer to Roland as his partner.

“Then there would always be this uncomfortable need to say ‘building partner,’” he said. “People who don’t know us might think we’re gay, but part of the reason we’re able to get along so well, I think, is that we’re not. There’s none of that relationship tension.”
 
The Wall Street Journal story referred to the two friends as a modern-day “Odd Couple,” with the detail-oriented Zehetbauer as Felix. That made Wardlaw chuckle. “I was like, wait, I’m supposed to be Oscar? I shave!” he said with a laugh. “But there’s some truth to that for sure. Roland is super detail-oriented, and I’m much more easygoing. But our differences complement each other pretty well.”
 
For the building project, Zehetbauer, who grew up in a woodworking family in Austria, acted as general contractor, and also enlisted the help of his brother to prefabricate the windows and siding. Then Zehetbauer and Wardlaw built the houses and interior cabinetry themselves, putting in thousands of hours of labor over about two years and spending only about $400,000 on the project (in addition to many more “soft costs,” Zehetbauer added).

“People always say not to go into a big project like this with a friend,” Wardlaw said. But the two had spent a lot of time discussing urban living, their ideals, and they were on the same page. And, Wardlaw said, not having to go it alone allowed him to build his “dream house” when he might not have otherwise been able to. Plus, he said, “When you climb with someone, you have to trust each other and have each other’s backs.” 

So they worked together well, he said, always keeping in mind that “the most important thing is that we remain good friends,” and not to let the project come between them.

The project, called Graham Towers by architect Ben Kaiser, was a wonderful one to be involved with, he told Shine. "It was an interesting process working with these two longtime friends…and a rather seamless process through their life transitions. The houses are such a perfect representation of that."

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