From murky Craftsman homes crying out for daylight to midcentury dens oblivious to surrounding views, these projects prove that in the right hands, no residence is beyond saving.
By combining an array of influences—including boat casework, Greek caves, and the American studio craft movement—interior designer Andee Hess of Osmose Design crafted an organic, bohemian, and entirely unexpected look for a Portland Tudor. Now, a sweeping plaster form encases the fireplace, a breakfast niche boasts a green onyx table and tiered millwork at the ceiling, and the kitchen was outfitted with curving, white oak cabinetry and a sculptural kitchen island by a local sculptor.
The KEX Portland is a new breed of accommodation—a so-called "social hotel" that acts as a hybrid between a hostel and a boutique hotel. That means it combines the social spaces and local pride of a hostel, with a range of room types from family suites to shared bunk rooms, all with an eye for design.
The KEX, an Icelandic mini-chain, installed its second offering in Portland in a completely restored apartment building originally built in 1912 and previously in severe disrepair. Thanks to a design by by Hálfdan Pedersen, who also worked on KEX Reykjavik, social spaces now boast a moody European sensibility via imported vintage finds and showcase Pacific Northwest materials like the reclaimed Douglas fir from a Fort Vancouver train station that covers the floors of the lobby.
This 1958 house in the Mount Tabor neighborhood screamed unrealized potential. Take the front facade: It had a cool angled feature beneath a sharp, eye-catching roofline, looking like the prow of a ship, yet all of that was covered in bland siding. A band of windows didn’t do enough to capture the views. Interior ceiling heights came to a lackluster eight feet.
Fortunately, architect Risa Boyer stepped in for improvements. Boyer inserted new floor-to-ceiling windows, vaulted the ceilings, and added era-appropriate wood finishes and beams. Custom built-ins embrace the home's awkward angles, while new tile and wallpaper punch up the modern mood.
Cynthia Tuan and Shane Beers managed to pack a lot into this tiny Airstream in order to make it a comfortable home base for guests visiting Portland. There’s a reading nook and breakfast bar, a kitchenette with two burners and sink, as well as a full-sized bed and bathroom, the latter finished with a stock tank repurposed as a tub. Thanks to textural accents and the reclaimed wood floors, the scheme feels cozy and lives larger than its petite footprint would suggest.
For this remodel of a 1954 home in Portland’s West Hills, "Our approach was to create some standout moments throughout that made the space feel 'more mod than mid,'" says designer Stewart Horner of Penny Black Interiors.
Horner preserved key architectural moments—such as the living room’s Douglas fir paneling, the fireplace, and the kitchen cabinets—and updated "ill-considered" spots like the entry and the bathrooms. Now, the home is a fluid mix of old and new, midcentury character balanced with modern cool.
Interior designer Stephanie Dyer outfitted a Portland Craftsman for the present and future by fitting a bespoke kitchen into the same footprint as the old one, and crafting an upstairs principal suite that can later be turned into a caretaker’s quarters.
After 20 years in his Cape Cod–style home, architect Matt Loosemore gave it a top-to-bottom overhaul, keeping only one wall, the subfloor, and the foundation. Not only did the architect add 500 square feet, two bedrooms, and one bathroom, he was able to create a home that exactly fits his family’s lifestyle, including a comfortable backyard space for hanging with the neighbors.
"We designed it to accommodate friends," says Matt. After all, after 20 years in the same spot, "Our neighborhood became our best friends."
Despite having an abundance of views of downtown Portland, Mount Hood, and the Columbia River in the distance, this 1952 ranch house wasn’t doing much to embrace them. A remodel with local firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson changed that: "We wanted open plans, more transparency, less tiny rooms," says homeowner Greg Hoffman. And the firm was such a good fit for this because, Greg notes, "they specialize in glazing." The ensuing remodel raised the ceiling heights, extended the roof line, added a top floor—and of course, wove in a lot more windows to capture those views.
For the remodel of this Southeast Portland "super bungalow," the architects only altered "10 percent of the facade," says Heidi Beebe of the firm Beebe Skidmore. Traditonal features, like its shake siding and decorative brickwork at the chimney, were left intact to mingle with the insertion of a "glassy chunk of architecture."
That chunk does a lot of work for the owners, who are California transplants, including bringing in more daylight, establishing an indoor/outdoor connection at every level of the three-story home, and making it possible to transform the interior.
Fieldwork Design + Architecture and Annie Wise Design teamed up to tackle the remodel of this 1960 home in Portland’s Southwest Hills. The owners had lived there for several years prior and knew the house’s problems intimately. Lackluster storage and finishes prevented the interior from feeling like one cohesive whole.
The team overhauled the finishes, swapping out white carpeting for cork flooring, and zeroed in on the kitchen and main bathroom. Artful storage solutions finished things off. The goal, says Wise, was "to give a busy, modern family a minimalist design without sacrificing their maximalist lifestyle."
It’s not many clients that will give a design team carte blanche to reinvent their home of over a decade. But that’s just what Pam Williams, a retired public library director, did when she tapped Jessica Helgerson Interior Design for an overhaul of her 1,075-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath loft in the Pearl District.
The design team got to work creating "a welcoming cocoon for [Williams] to live in," says Helgerson. Combining a neutral palette of off-white, light gray, and pale pink with cozy built-ins in every room, the designers created "an environment that aims to be both serene and energizing," says designer Mira Eng-Goetz. "A place where our client can host lively book club get-togethers or sink into the cozy indulgence of watching a movie on her own."
Perhaps it’s not surprising that the remodel of a Southeast Portland Craftsman might get the nickname "Operation Sunlight." "It was kind of a generic house, and it was dark," says architect Heidi Beebe of Beebe Skidmore. "One of their main goals was to make it lighter."
Beebe did so by breaking up the facade with more glazing, opening interior walls, and specifying internal cut-outs to allow light to cascade down from the upper level. Now the homeowners can pick and choose where they might like to enjoy the sun, whether that’s the cozy family nook, standing at the kitchen counter, or lingering in the upstairs library.
Jessica Helgerson Interior Design led the transformation and addition of this 1907 Craftsman in Northwest Portland. Since the home had undergone several changes in its lifetime, the team started by improving the circulation in the floor plan, then meticulously added era-appropriate details and singular decorative flourishes, like hand-painted tile in the kitchen.
"We layered on architectural elements like coffered ceilings, columns, and ceiling rosettes to dress up the house because it lacked a lot of the charm and character that we typically associate with older homes," says interior designer Mira Eng-Goetz.
Before David Horning of MOA Architecture and interior designer Holly Freres of JHL Design got involved, this 1955 home in Lake Oswego had lost its luster. The kitchen had been given a bland update in the ’80s, while white carpeting, a white fireplace column, and a lot of white paint made the home’s features indistinguishable from each other.
The design team worked to coax the home’s character back out, removing the drywall covering the fireplace to expose the original brick, covering the ceiling in warm cedar boards, and expanding the kitchen with custom Oregon white oak cabinetry.
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