With its slim profile and sleek gray exterior, Lola Oyibo and Eric Boardman’s home in Portland, Oregon bears little resemblance to the house it used to be. Unable to afford the 40% down required to build a new house, the couple instead opted for a FHA 203K renovation loan that let them put just 3% down—and hired architect Ben Waechter of local firm Atelier Waechter to give the place a massive facelift. Formerly a nondescript 1947 Cape Cod-style structure, the house “had a horrible kitchen and had no built-ins or historic elements worth keeping,” says Waechter. Plus, it was only 625 square feet, which was overly crowded for the homeowners and their two year-old daughter, Mena. Keeping the footprint, foundation, and framing intact, the architect stripped the structure down to its bones, opening up the interior and adding a second story to give the family 1250 square feet —and a sweet modern space—in which to live. "It's the idea of reuse," Waechter says. "We recreated a building that had reached the end of its lifespan, infusing it with another hundred years of living."
Natural light and fresh air pours in through the six windows (each three feet wide by six and a half feet tall) that pattern both sides of the home. “We picked out this size because it’s the biggest you could buy and still be standard,” says Boardman, mindful that custom windows cost a whole lot more. Photo on left by Sally Schoolmaster; photo on right, courtesy Atelier Waechter.
The first floor of the house used to be a warren of five tiny rooms, and the first thing you saw when you walked in the front door was the attic staircase. Waechter opened the space up into one large, light-filled room. A birch plywood-sheathed box was designed to look like an oversized piece of furniture, mimicking the light wood of the Eames chair and Case Study Daybed, while cleverly hiding the stairs, storage, and powder room inside. Photo: Atelier Waechter.
Both engineers and practical by profession, the couple has a hearty dislike of “crown molding, arches—anything that doesn’t really have a function,” explains Boardman. “It’s more about taking everything out, not putting things in. We just wanted it to look clean and minimal.” To this end, all appliances in the kitchen, from the ASKO dishwasher to the Liebherr fridge, are hidden behind the IKEA cabinetry. Recessed lights keep the ceiling uncluttered, and a Kartell Four table is a long unbroken strip of simple white. Photo: Atelier Waechter.
A commercial-grade gray carpet runs up the steps and throughout the second floor. Its short pile keeps the edge sharp on the stair treads, as well as being easy to maintain—a priority for the family, and one that guided many of their design decisions. Photo: Atelier Waechter.
To maximize the small floor plan, there are no hallways in the house. Instead, two bedrooms, a landing with laundry, and a full bath each take up a quarter of the second story. Instead of seeming confined by the small square footage, a combination of the family’s minimal style, white walls, and a smart layout make the rooms feel expansive. Photo: Atelier Waechter
An IKEA vanity is suspended off the floor, making it easy to clean. The Spartan style and sense of space is enhanced here, as elsewhere in the home, by the oversized windows, white hues, and lack of architectural frippery or frills. Kohler shower fixtures complete the look. Photo: Atelier Waechter.
Although white and gray predominate, the family likes pops of color, as reflected in daughter Mena’s room where orange and chartreuse are the preferred hues. As befits the family’s budding engineer, Mena enjoys lining up her wooden blocks against the wall and assembling complex puzzles around her room. Photo: Atelier Waechter.
Natural light and fresh air pours in through the six windows (each three feet wide by six-and-a-half feet tall) that pattern both sides of the home. “We picked out this size because it’s the biggest you could buy and still be standard,” says Boardman, mindful that custom windows cost a whole lot more. Photo: Sally Schoolmaster.
The roof deck sprawls across the whole footprint of the house, overlooking the neighborhood, and is Oyibo’s favored spot. “It’s awesome,” she says. “It’s quiet and private, yet still outside.” The family plans to put in a fire pit and planter boxes as soon as Portland’s winter rains abate. Photo: Sally Schoolmaster
Even though the rooms became larger as walls came down, and a second story was added, the renovated house is still a modest 1,250 square feet. But the family loves the manageable size and is thankful for its cost-cutting ways. "It’s allowed us to have nicer things because we don’t have as many things," says Boardman. "Even during construction, what kind of windows we bought, what siding we got—it made those decisions a lot easier because we weren't choosing a hundred windows or providing siding for 3000 square feet."