Before & After: A 1954 Midcentury in Portland Is Stunningly Revived

Add to
Like
Share
By Melissa Dalton
Penny Black Interiors deftly updates the midcentury Humphrey House in the West Hills of Portland with standout cabinetry, gorgeous tile, and wallpaper galore.

Remodels, especially of vintage homes, are a balancing act between preserving the home's innate character and updating its function for modern life. Gut too much and a house's charm is lost—yet no one wants to live in a dark time capsule. For this 1954 residence in Portland, Oregon's West Hills neighborhood, Penny Black Interiors skillfully delivered an update that retains the house's midcentury character, yet still feels fresh and modern. 

"Our approach was to create some standout moments throughout the home that made the space feel 'more mod than mid,'" says designer Stewart Horner. Let's take a before-and-after tour of the results!

The Entry

Newsletter
Join the Daily Dose Mailing List

Get carefully curated content filled with inspiring homes from around the world, innovative new products, and the best in modern design

The entry was ready for an overhaul. Says Horner, "When we first walked up to the house we knew we had to change the front door. It had such a perfect layout for a pivot door—it became our main focus." A solid panel door and sidelight were replaced with a large, glass pivoting door, bringing in much-needed light to the entry.

The entry was ready for an overhaul. Says Horner, "When we first walked up to the house we knew we had to change the front door. It had such a perfect layout for a pivot door—it became our main focus." A solid panel door and sidelight were replaced with a large, glass pivoting door, bringing in much-needed light to the entry.

The entry floor now boasts the striking Hex Clip pattern from Clé Tile. Horner also installed custom shelving and a floating bench, both fabricated from birch plywood.

The entry floor now boasts the striking Hex Clip pattern from Clé Tile. Horner also installed custom shelving and a floating bench, both fabricated from birch plywood.

The Living and Dining Room

In the living room, the designers preserved the existing Douglas fir paneling on the ceiling and walls, the fireplace, and the firewood niche. The cooler tones in the sofa from Design Within Reach, rug from Kush Rugs, and knitted poufs from SMG Collective balance out the wood and dial up the cozy factor.

In the living room, the designers preserved the existing Douglas fir paneling on the ceiling and walls, the fireplace, and the firewood niche. The cooler tones in the sofa from Design Within Reach, rug from Kush Rugs, and knitted poufs from SMG Collective balance out the wood and dial up the cozy factor.

Horner remembers his first visit to the home: "The architecture in the main living area was fantastic, and we just wanted to preserve that and concentrate on the areas of the home that were ill-considered."

Horner remembers his first visit to the home: "The architecture in the main living area was fantastic, and we just wanted to preserve that and concentrate on the areas of the home that were ill-considered."

Shop the Look
Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman
Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman
It’s no surprise that Charles and Ray Eames spent much of their careers investigating molded plywood—but when they introduced their lounge chair and ottoman in 1956, they immediately made history.
Noguchi Rudder Table
Noguchi Rudder Table
Originally designed in 1947, the Noguchi Rudder Table is a reintroduction of an iconic coffee table originally designed in 1947. The balance of sculptural form and durable function has made the Noguchi Table an understated and beautiful element in homes and offices since its introduction.
Crate & Barrel Petrie Midcentury Sofa
Crate & Barrel Petrie Midcentury Sofa
Petrie is a distinct living room sofa that sits at the intersection of mid-century and today, with clean lines and tailored cushions expertly button-tufted by hand.
In the dining room, a marble-topped Saarinen table is surrounded with pink Eames chairs. A beautiful credenza by Little Monster Design stylishly sits against the back wooden wall.

In the dining room, a marble-topped Saarinen table is surrounded with pink Eames chairs. A beautiful credenza by Little Monster Design stylishly sits against the back wooden wall.

The Kitchen: Before

Many of the original kitchen cabinets were kept in place, including this curved corner cabinet, as all were beautifully made, and the owners loved them, says Horner.

Many of the original kitchen cabinets were kept in place, including this curved corner cabinet, as all were beautifully made, and the owners loved them, says Horner.

However, some of the existing storage was not as functional for the homeowners.

However, some of the existing storage was not as functional for the homeowners.

The Kitchen: After

Horner replaced the dysfunctional, closed storage with custom, open shelving that now connects the kitchen to the entry, increasing natural light and sightlines around the house.

Horner replaced the dysfunctional, closed storage with custom, open shelving that now connects the kitchen to the entry, increasing natural light and sightlines around the house.

The wall of windows is original, while the floor received new concrete. Horner also specified a new stove and hood, as well as a new backsplash in large, textured field tile from The Surface Store in Portland.

The wall of windows is original, while the floor received new concrete. Horner also specified a new stove and hood, as well as a new backsplash in large, textured field tile from The Surface Store in Portland.

The sink was relocated for functionality, and new windows above it were installed so the owner can look out over the garden while doing dishes. The perimeter counters are composed of custom-made 15-ply birch with oak butcher block-style veneer, while the island is topped with Caesarstone. A new bar area with two under-counter fridges and a pop-up TV replaced a pony wall from the '70s.

The sink was relocated for functionality, and new windows above it were installed so the owner can look out over the garden while doing dishes. The perimeter counters are composed of custom-made 15-ply birch with oak butcher block-style veneer, while the island is topped with Caesarstone. A new bar area with two under-counter fridges and a pop-up TV replaced a pony wall from the '70s.

The Principal Bedroom

In the principal bedroom, wallpaper from Hygge & West hovers over the George Nelson Thin Edge Bed from Design Within Reach. Horner also added multiple skylights throughout the house to bring in more light.

In the principal bedroom, wallpaper from Hygge & West hovers over the George Nelson Thin Edge Bed from Design Within Reach. Horner also added multiple skylights throughout the house to bring in more light.

The Bathroom: Before

A Jack-and-Jill bathroom with worn fixtures and finishes was tweaked so that it solely connects to the principal bedroom and forms a private suite.

A Jack-and-Jill bathroom with worn fixtures and finishes was tweaked so that it solely connects to the principal bedroom and forms a private suite.

The Bathroom: After

In the shower, handmade Bubble Hex tile from the Futura collection at the Portland–based company Clayhaus Tile makes a stunning statement. <br>

In the shower, handmade Bubble Hex tile from the Futura collection at the Portland–based company Clayhaus Tile makes a stunning statement.

A thoughtful cut-out in the glass enclosure allows people to reach for the faucet without getting hit with the shower spray. "It's a bit of a signature thing for us," says Horner.

A thoughtful cut-out in the glass enclosure allows people to reach for the faucet without getting hit with the shower spray. "It's a bit of a signature thing for us," says Horner.

Shop the Look
Sonos One in White
Sonos One in White
From Sonos comes an update to the smart speaker for music lovers. Start and control your music with your voice. Amazon Alexa built right in. Play songs, check news and traffic, manage smart devices and enjoy all those other helpful Amazon Alexa skills using a single Sonos speaker.
Ladies & Gentlemen Studio Spun Sconce
Ladies & Gentlemen Studio Spun Sconce
Spun is a versatile lighting series designed by Ladies & Gentlemen. The Spun sconce is a elegant wall or ceiling mounted light featuring a polished brass shade, which encases an exposed globe light bulb. An adjustable interior reflector causes the bulb to sit in the housing like a glowing pearl.
Mirabelle Sitka Soaking Tub
Mirabelle Sitka Soaking Tub
Constructed of acrylic and covered under Mirabelle's 5 year limited warranty this tub features: Textured slip-resistant bottom Integrated tile flange and tub skirt  Designed for three wall alcove installations  Left drain with round overflow...
The vanity, shelving, and tub surround are all custom. They're fabricated from marine-grade, hardwood ply that has been treated with multiple layers of sealer. For the tub surround and shelves, there's an additional layer of Formica veneer.

The vanity, shelving, and tub surround are all custom. They're fabricated from marine-grade, hardwood ply that has been treated with multiple layers of sealer. For the tub surround and shelves, there's an additional layer of Formica veneer.

Daughter's Bedroom

Horner worked with the client's daughter to maximize a small bedroom and make it her own. "We worked with her on all the choices—a true collaboration," he says. "[The bunk] allowed her to have more room under the bed to play in what is a tiny room." The existing closets were kept, just repainted, and the wallpaper is Cole &amp; Son Savuti Ardmore.

Horner worked with the client's daughter to maximize a small bedroom and make it her own. "We worked with her on all the choices—a true collaboration," he says. "[The bunk] allowed her to have more room under the bed to play in what is a tiny room." The existing closets were kept, just repainted, and the wallpaper is Cole & Son Savuti Ardmore.

Second Bathroom

A second bathroom, for guests and the daughter, received a custom vanity and high shelf, as well as distinctive wallpaper.

A second bathroom, for guests and the daughter, received a custom vanity and high shelf, as well as distinctive wallpaper.

The shower enclosure sports the Disk tile from the Futura collection at Clayhaus.

The shower enclosure sports the Disk tile from the Futura collection at Clayhaus.

Project Credits:

Design (including lighting, interiors, cabinetry): Penny Black Interiors

Builder/General Contractor: Look Construction

Tile in the entry: Clé

Tile in the bathrooms: Clayhaus Tile

Rugs: Kush Rugs

Photography: Christopher Dibble

Where to Stay in Portland