Salvaged Wood Renovation in Portland

By Amara Holstein / Published by Dwell
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Custom woodwork and an open interior define a 520-square-foot backyard retreat for a busy family.

Piles of homework, lacrosse sticks, bills, and other domestic detritus litter every surface of a Tudor-style house in Southeast Portland, Oregon. Three teenagers clamor for attention, and a cat and dog roam underfoot. It’s not surprising, then, that when these homeowners decided to redo their garage and backyard, they envisioned the new space as an oasis of calm where each member of the family could quietly pursue their own interests. "They wanted something that could be a guesthouse, art studio, and retreat," says Jeff Vincent, a designer who worked with principal Ben Kaiser of PATH Architecture on the project. "They asked for a flexible space where the family could get away from each other."

“Our desire was to have the spaces appear as though they were carved from a single block of wood, with the movable pieces an integral part of the overall composition,” says Vincent. “This created a feeling of seamlessness.”

To create this ideal, PATH knocked down the existing garage, a decrepit building lacking electricity. In its place, they built a sleek structure whose pitched roof and stucco siding reflect the home’s 1923 vintage but which otherwise stands as a simple rectangle. Upstairs, a wall of windows welcomes sun into a large open-plan room with a lofty ceiling. There isn’t an interior door in sight, the furniture is cleverly built into the walls, and wood wraps its way around every surface—all of which keeps the 520-square-foot space flowing and flexible. Downstairs, Douglas fir salvaged from the previous garage clads the wood-framed structure, and the eldest daughter’s art enlivens the otherwise unadorned space. "The entire family uses the spa, the mother practices yoga while the father writes upstairs, and one of the daughters has claimed the downstairs as an art studio of her own," says Kaiser. "The intent was to leave the spaces undefined to allow the family to use them as they see fit."

Strips of white-oak flooring line the interior of the studio, created by designer Jeff Vincent and PATH Architecture. The George Nelson Bubble Lamp Saucer pendant is available at the Dwell Store; the kitchen cabinets and appliances are by Jenn-Air. All accessories are from Canoe and Relish.

PATH partnered with local woodworkers Benjamin Klebba, of Phloem Studio, and Bren Reis, of Earthbound Industries, to build furniture and cabinetry into the walls.

The main built-ins—a sofa bed, table and chairs, and plenty of storage—run the length of the space and are tucked snugly beneath the ceiling. The green Tube Top 14 lamp by Pablo Pardo is from Relish Design.

All of the furniture was meticulously handmade by Klebba and Reis to serve the family’s needs.

A couch—upholstered by local firm Revive Upholstery & Design—slides out on hidden casters and transforms into a full-size bed (with the headboard doubling as a linen cupboard) where guests can sleep.

The dining table tucks under a shelf when it’s not pulled out for meals. There’s even vertical storage for canvases for their teenage daughter.

“This was a very, very, very, very custom job,” says Klebba.

In the bathroom, a thin pane of glass separates the shower; an Aquaplane sink by Lacava hovers above

a built-in vanity illuminated by a lean Adelphi light by Oxygen Lighting; and blue-green glass penny tiles by Terra Verre decorate the floor. The absence of a door, combined with windows on two sides, makes the bathroom feel like a continuation of the overall space.

Fusion Landscape Design worked with PATH to remake the backyard into a grown-up playground. Under the stairwell sits a tiny custom cedar sauna and an outdoor shower—just a literal hop, skip, and jump away from the sprawling in-ground eight-by-ten-foot hot tub. Down three short stairs, Gloster’s Elan dining table from Design Within Reach is surrounded by Spark chairs by Don Chadwick for Knoll and a built-in fire pit and DCS grill by Fisher & Paykel—all resting on a smooth surface of bluestone pavers.

Project: Family Studio

Amara Holstein


A former editor at Dwell, Amara recently left the glamorous life of a magazine staffer to pursue her freelance writing dream. She has written for Sunset, Wallpaper*, the Architect’s Newspaper, VIA, and Apartment Therapy.

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