Before & After: This Portland Loft’s Pink-Hued Makeover Deserves a Standing Ovation
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Before & After: This Portland Loft’s Pink-Hued Makeover Deserves a Standing Ovation

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
An artsy retiree’s new downtown digs combine industrial details with plush textures, serene colors, and statement-making fixtures.

After almost 10 years in a 1,075-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath loft in Portland’s downtown Pearl District, Pam Williams was ready for a change. Williams, a retired public library director and widow who volunteers at the Portland Art Museum and Portland Center Stage at The Armory, contemplated purchasing a new home—however, after a visit to a remodeled unit in her own building,  she realized that a renovation might be the better solution, allowing her to stay in the neighborhood she loved. 

Williams contacted Jessica Helgerson Interior Design (JHID), the Portland–based design firm responsible for her neighbor’s stylish revamp, and it turned out to be a match made in heaven. Other than some "guiding directives" from Williams, she let the firm have free reign. "She described the kind of home she’d like to live in along with a thoughtful note about her experience working with professionals and learning that the creative process really shines with trust," explains senior designer Mira Eng-Goetz. "We were really moved by this simple gesture." Williams even gave away almost all of her furniture, letting the firm start from scratch. 

Before: The Entry

Before, the entry was cluttered and dark. There was little flow of light and air throughout the unit.  

Before, the entry was cluttered and dark. There was little flow of light and air throughout the unit.  

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After: The Entry

"We designed an environment that aims to be both serene and energizing—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," says senior designer Mira Eng-Goetz. 

"We designed an environment that aims to be both serene and energizing—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," says senior designer Mira Eng-Goetz. 

The Cozy Room is a more intimate space for reading, drafting letters ("an activity our client has turned into a true art form," notes Eng-Goetz), and watching movies. JHID lowered the ceiling height and raised the floor by a single step in order to give the room a different scale compared to the rest of the apartment. "When you're in the Cozy Room, you feel hugged by the interior architecture, while still being connected to the public spaces that it so clearly looks out on," says Eng-Goetz.

The Cozy Room is a more intimate space for reading, drafting letters ("an activity our client has turned into a true art form," notes Eng-Goetz), and watching movies. JHID lowered the ceiling height and raised the floor by a single step in order to give the room a different scale compared to the rest of the apartment. "When you're in the Cozy Room, you feel hugged by the interior architecture, while still being connected to the public spaces that it so clearly looks out on," says Eng-Goetz.

Helgerson’s team also focused on giving the home a clean, modern look. "It really came down to a few strategic shifts: moving the kitchen sink from an interior wall to a window—who doesn’t love having a view while they're doing the dishes?—and lowering a lofted area so that it could become the study. Now, the space feels much more connected to the rest of the apartment," says Eng-Goetz. 

Working with a highly curated and restrained material palette of warm, muted colors like off-white, light gray, and pale pinks, the team used only one color throughout the residence: Benjamin Moore’s Balboa Mist. "From the custom concrete sinks to the quilted linen on the cozy room sofa, everything is soft, warm, and neutral," says Eng-Goetz. 

Key pieces in the Cozy Room include the pink Bollo armchair by Andreas Engesvik, a sculptural side table by Souda, and a muted geometric rug by Ferm Living. 

Key pieces in the Cozy Room include the pink Bollo armchair by Andreas Engesvik, a sculptural side table by Souda, and a muted geometric rug by Ferm Living. 

To help Williams keep things looking clean and minimalist, plenty of hidden storage was incorporated. The designers also added custom, built-in furniture, such as a sectional sofa with large storage drawers underneath. JHID chose to celebrate the unit’s existing structural elements—its rough-sawn wood ceiling, its brick walls—and uncovered concrete flooring that had been previously hidden by floating bamboo flooring.

Before: The Living Room

The living room had potential, but the decor was tired and dated, and the hidden storage space wasn't optimized. 

The living room had potential, but the decor was tired and dated, and the hidden storage space wasn't optimized. 

After: The Living Room

As a former librarian and true book lover, Williams liked the idea of storing her books in the living room. "At first, the built-in shelving we designed was more open, but the exposed books created too much visual clutter, so we added cabinet doors and kept a few open shelves to house a rotating display of our client's collection of quirky and artful artifacts," says Eng-Goetz. 

As a former librarian and true book lover, Williams liked the idea of storing her books in the living room. "At first, the built-in shelving we designed was more open, but the exposed books created too much visual clutter, so we added cabinet doors and kept a few open shelves to house a rotating display of our client's collection of quirky and artful artifacts," says Eng-Goetz. 

The living room features a built-in sofa with drawers for additional storage, custom-made by Trio Upholstery. The bleached red oak storage cabinets were made by L&Z Specialties, Inc. to match the kitchen cabinets. The wall sconce is from Serge Mouille.

The living room features a built-in sofa with drawers for additional storage, custom-made by Trio Upholstery. The bleached red oak storage cabinets were made by L&Z Specialties, Inc. to match the kitchen cabinets. The wall sconce is from Serge Mouille.

The neon squiggle light is a piece that Williams had owned for many years; everyone on the JHID team was "very adamant about keeping it in its original location." It joins an atmospheric painting by artist Jocelyn Rahm. A Douglas and Bec floor lamp stands behind bentwood rattan armchairs by Nigel Coates, and a circular coffee table by Master Furniture Makers rounds out the space.

The neon squiggle light is a piece that Williams had owned for many years; everyone on the JHID team was "very adamant about keeping it in its original location." It joins an atmospheric painting by artist Jocelyn Rahm. A Douglas and Bec floor lamp stands behind bentwood rattan armchairs by Nigel Coates, and a circular coffee table by Master Furniture Makers rounds out the space.

The result is a calm environment with a youthful, contemporary vibe—"a welcoming cocoon for her to live in," according to Jessica Helgerson. "We designed an environment that aims to be both serene and energizing—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," adds Eng-Goetz.

Before: The Kitchen

The kitchen was open but not super efficient. The renovation also provided a great opportunity to visually tie the open-plan living space together. 

The kitchen was open but not super efficient. The renovation also provided a great opportunity to visually tie the open-plan living space together. 

After: The Kitchen

The kitchen features bleached red oak storage cabinets custom-made by L&Z Specialties, Inc. The dining table is from Areti, paired with Eero Saarinen Tulip chairs from the client's collection, and a distinctive mobile from Gam Fratesi adds a commanding accent. 

The kitchen features bleached red oak storage cabinets custom-made by L&Z Specialties, Inc. The dining table is from Areti, paired with Eero Saarinen Tulip chairs from the client's collection, and a distinctive mobile from Gam Fratesi adds a commanding accent. 

The arched sconce, inspired by Allied Maker’s contour light, was custom-crafted to perfectly fit the kitchen window. The brass faucet is by Waterworks. The sink and countertop are both custom concrete designs by JHID which were fabricated in Oregon by Cement Elegance. 

The arched sconce, inspired by Allied Maker’s contour light, was custom-crafted to perfectly fit the kitchen window. The brass faucet is by Waterworks. The sink and countertop are both custom concrete designs by JHID which were fabricated in Oregon by Cement Elegance. 

Built-in, tiled alcoves showcase work from ceramic artists Kati Von Lehman and Ank Ceramics.  

Built-in, tiled alcoves showcase work from ceramic artists Kati Von Lehman and Ank Ceramics.  

After: The Bedroom

"We raised the bedroom walls to meet the ceiling and designed built-in storage that's truly tailored to our client's needs," says Eng-Goetz. "In addition, we designed an upholstered paneling which adds a sense of privacy and visual intrigue, as it's essentially a large, felt collage. We also designed the custom vanity and bed.

"We raised the bedroom walls to meet the ceiling and designed built-in storage that's truly tailored to our client's needs," says Eng-Goetz. "In addition, we designed an upholstered paneling which adds a sense of privacy and visual intrigue, as it's essentially a large, felt collage. We also designed the custom vanity and bed.

The bedroom is all about smart storage and privacy. 

The bedroom is all about smart storage and privacy. 

The modern vanity, which resembles a work of art, was custom-designed by JHID.

The modern vanity, which resembles a work of art, was custom-designed by JHID.

Before: The Bathroom

The dated bathroom was in need of updates, and the renovation was a chance to make it part of the renovation's singular cohesive vision for the unit. 

The dated bathroom was in need of updates, and the renovation was a chance to make it part of the renovation's singular cohesive vision for the unit. 

After: The Bathroom

The contractors working on the project started referring to the bathroom as a "jewel box" because of the meticulous attention required to piece it together. "The 1" x 1" Japanese porcelain tiles were laid out in a grid that aligns with every element in the bathroom," says Eng-Goetz. "For example, the bathroom sink aligns with the adjacent grout lines, as do the inset cabinet doors below." The cabinetry is white-washed red oak and the vanity lights are by Anastassiades. 

The contractors working on the project started referring to the bathroom as a "jewel box" because of the meticulous attention required to piece it together. "The 1" x 1" Japanese porcelain tiles were laid out in a grid that aligns with every element in the bathroom," says Eng-Goetz. "For example, the bathroom sink aligns with the adjacent grout lines, as do the inset cabinet doors below." The cabinetry is white-washed red oak and the vanity lights are by Anastassiades. 

"[The tiling] was all very intentional and painstakingly difficult to execute and the tiler, Jennifer Ferrante, is truly a tile goddess," says Eng-Goetz.  "She individually mitered all of the tiles that make up every single outside corner that you see in the bathroom and the kitchen." 

"[The tiling] was all very intentional and painstakingly difficult to execute and the tiler, Jennifer Ferrante, is truly a tile goddess," says Eng-Goetz. "She individually mitered all of the tiles that make up every single outside corner that you see in the bathroom and the kitchen."