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

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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

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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.
Eames Molded Plastic Side Chair with Dowel Base
Eames Molded Plastic Side Chair with Dowel Base
The unmistakable Eames Molded Plastic chair takes on a different life with each of its base offerings. The wooden dowel legs of the Eames® Molded Plastic Side Chair with Dowel-Leg Base bring a softer aesthetic, while its crossed metal rod base is distinctly Eames.
The Citizenry Bakoy Indigo Pillow
The Citizenry Bakoy Indigo Pillow
Like a good pair of jeans, this indigo pillow goes with pretty much everything - trust us, you’ll end up throwing this piece in every room of your house. Dip-dyed over six times, it features a richly saturated hue.
In the dining room, a marble-topped Saarinen table is surrounded with pink Eames chairs.

In the dining room, a marble-topped Saarinen table is surrounded with pink Eames chairs.

The Kitchen: Before

Many of the original kitchen cabinets were kept in place, "as they were beautifully made, and the owners loved them" said Homer.

Many of the original kitchen cabinets were kept in place, "as they were beautifully made, and the owners loved them" said Homer.

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

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

The Kitchen: After

Horner replaced the closed storage with custom, open shelving that now connects to the entry, increasing natural light and sight lines throughout the house.

Horner replaced the closed storage with custom, open shelving that now connects to the entry, increasing natural light and sight lines throughout 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. The perimeter counters are composed of custom made 15-Ply birch with oak butcher-block style veneer and 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 70's. 

The sink was relocated for functionality, and new windows above it were installed so the owner can look out over the garden. The perimeter counters are composed of custom made 15-Ply birch with oak butcher-block style veneer and 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 70's. 

The Principal Bedroom and Bathroom

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

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

The Principal 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 Principal Bathroom: After

The vanity, shelving, and finish surrounding the rub are custom; using marine-grade hardwood Ply that has been treated with multiple layers of sealer. An additional layer of Formica veneer has been used to treat the finish around the tub and shelves.

The vanity, shelving, and finish surrounding the rub are custom; using marine-grade hardwood Ply that has been treated with multiple layers of sealer. An additional layer of Formica veneer has been used to treat the finish around the tub and shelves.

In the shower, handmade "bubble hex" tile from the Futura collection of the Portland-based company Clayhaus is a stunning statement.

In the shower, handmade "bubble hex" tile from the Futura collection of the Portland-based company Clayhaus is a stunning statement.

A closer look at the raised texture in the "bubble-hex" Clayhaus tile.

A closer look at the raised texture in the "bubble-hex" Clayhaus tile.

A thoughtful cut-out in the glass enclosure allows people to reach the faucet without being sprayed by the shower. "It's a bit of a signature for us," Horner remarks.

A thoughtful cut-out in the glass enclosure allows people to reach the faucet without being sprayed by the shower. "It's a bit of a signature for us," Horner remarks.

The view from the bathroom entryway peeks into the colorful principal bedroom.

The view from the bathroom entryway peeks into the colorful principal bedroom.

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 & 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

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