Reinvigorating a Classic Midcentury Home in Portland

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By Melissa Dalton / Published by Dwell
Architect Risa Boyer deftly redesigns the interior of this 1950 home to ensure it still feels original.

The post-and-beam construction, exposed wood ceilings, and extensive glass windows were all hallmarks of the home's midcentury vintage. Unfortunately, so too was the confined galley kitchen and dark tunnel of a hallway at the front door. The latter elements hampered the house's circulation, so Boyer of Risa Boyer Architecture led a renovation that would respect the home's original aesthetic and make it easier for the homeowners to entertain.

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She started by removing a kitchen wall and converting the galley into an open plan that shares space with the living and dining areas. Now, the centerpiece of the kitchen is a generous island. For it, plywood cabinets veneered with vertical-grain Douglas fir were topped with a Caesarstone counter that has a waterfall treatment at one end. A seating counter at the other end lets guests perch on four Bertoia stools. 

Next, Boyer eliminated the dark hallway at the front door. Taking inspiration from Richard Neutra, Saul Zaik, and John Yeon, she designed a custom screen to artfully separate the entry from the dining room.

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Further tweaks ensured the results would be cohesive, both inside and out. Boyer swapped dark wood floors for terrazzo, redesigned the fireplace to accommodate a new insert surrounded by horizontal brickwork, and tucked an outdoor living room under the exterior eaves.

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Every decision illustrates Boyer's attention to detail and her ability to tweak the new so it fits right in with the home's original elements. For instance, when the homeowners requested she replace a closet with a wet bar, she made sure the built-in cabinetry upheld the house's vernacular. "I wanted it to look like a piece of mid-century furniture," Boyer told Curbed. "Just like the Case Study furniture, it sits on legs. It also has a laminate counter and cabinet drawers, which was common in the 1950s and '60s."

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Project Credits:

Construction: Lackey Construction

Cabinetry: Big Branch Woodworking

Wood Screen Fabrication: Aura Cabinetry

Fireplace: Rael Inc

Photography: Lincoln Barbour

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