The house that Stanley built

Like many men, Stanley Mazor believes that a man's home is his castle. "But what if he wants a castle for a home?" Mazor asks in the foreword of his book that chronicles the building of his own castle. An 8,000-square-foot French chateau, to be exact.

Mazor, who shares the patent on the first microprocessor with two others from his time at Intel, began constructing his replica of a 17th-century chateau just outside of Ashland in 1999. Although he had no experience or background in architecture, Mazor, 66, didn't let that stop him, approaching the project with an attitude of "what if?" and "why not?" choosing simply to enjoy the process.

"For my part, it's been the journey. How am I going to solve this problem, how am I going to build it?" Mazor said.

The house now complete, Mazor and his wife, Maurine, live in the house for just one week each month, supervising the final landscaping touches. Since the chateau was originally designed for use as a bed and breakfast, the couple can easily rent out the rooms they don't use to local tenants. Mazor was reluctant to reveal details out of concern for the tenants' privacy.

During visits from his year-round home in Los Altos, Calif., Mazor drives around town in a 1972 orange convertible Volkswagen Beetle. He chose the car for its nickname, Herbie, to echo the house's moniker, Herbe II. Pronounced "herbie two," Mazor explains it sounds just like the name of the original chateau in Normandy &


This is the first time Mazor has named either a car or a house, but the names are only one of many unique touches he has added to his home. Mazor viewed the entire project of building his dream home in pieces &

from an 1,800 square-foot cottage to a full-blown French mansion &

as a learning experience, and he describes quirky additions and creative solutions to numerous problems in his book, "Design an Expandable House."

Building the Expandable House

From the very beginning, Mazor's decision to build his chateau has met obstacles and critics. He was considering building a summer cottage when he saw a picture of the Normandy chateau in Architectural Digest and decided to reproduce it. Finding its exact location required some sleuthing, and even when Mazor and his wife made the trip to France, the owner refused to let them inside.

Undeterred, Mazor took 60 photos of the exterior and returned to Ashland to find a suitable location. The lot he chose at 1280 Oak Street abuts Interstate 5 and has flooded several times, so that even now it draws questions from neighbors and contractors.

"I wouldn't want to build a house in a flood plain," said a private contractor putting in a drain last week. "I see no point putting a multi-million dollar home in a place with water problems."

Mazor admits the ground is "lousy," but he saw the high water level as a conquerable challenge.

"The house is literally sitting on stilts," Mazor said, describing his solution to build the foundation on more than 100 concrete posts sunk into the soil, rather than the ground itself. And he has flood insurance.

To block the noise of traffic, Mazor planted more than 1,000 trees, including a row of poplars along the highway with special permission from the Oregon Department of Transportation. Until the trees mature, the most effective sound barrier is the walls of the home itself, made of concrete-filled polystyrene, the same material as packing peanuts.

Using the Styrofoam-like substance was another "why not?" decision, after he saw a stack of discarded home electronics packaging that reminded him of giant building blocks. When he went to patent the idea, Mazor discovered companies had been making similar products for 20 years and began building with a material one-fourth the weight of brick.

Other "green" additions include a geothermal heat pump, solar panels and electric fireplaces that give off no heat.

Although Mazor takes pride in his home's modern features, he has tried to keep the actual appearance as authentic as possible, even mourning the height of his ceilings that are a foot too low. He jokingly suggested that taking a hammer to the outside wall would make it more realistic.

"It's more authentic when it looks more decrepit," he said.

Finishing Touches

His eight-year lesson in French architecture now complete, Mazor has delved further into French culture to finish the interior and the grounds of his chateau.

One room has three not-quite-authentic French paintings, one with Herbe II painted into the background, and another with his face painted into an 18th century portrait that Mazor likes to claim as a distant relative. The third has an elaborate backstory, a portrait of his wife at 36 that Mazor commissioned as a surprise for her 60th birthday. Named "The Mysterious Princess in Blue," the painting was changed just enough that Mazor convinced a crowd of people, with the help of a fake brochure, that he had discovered it in a museum. Even his wife was curious at first.

Aside from the portrait, the house has a few additonal imprints from Mazor's wife. She suggested a back porch and helped with the decorating, but "it's not the same as her passion," he said.

She accompanies him on his visits, but said only, "It's hard having two houses."

This summer, Mazor has added a wine cellar, just to prove he could grow grapes, and a gazebo in the garden where he would eventually like to host weddings and community events. But with the chateau nearly finished, Mazor has already moved on to his next adventure &

writing a play.

"I have no experience or background, but that didn't stop me before," Mazor said, noting that he's already on Act 3, Scene — of his saga.

He has no plans to build another house, however.

"I think this is probably the project to finish them off," Mazor said.

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