When the homeowner approached me, she was embarking on a remodel after nine years overseas with her husband and kids,” says designer Jennifer Leonard of the home she decorated for a family of five in Portland. The couple and their three sons had been living in Tokyo and hadn’t yet had the chance to do anything permanent. “This became our first opportunity to create a real home,” the owner says.
The 1941 Colonial Revival house had been well maintained and was in an established neighborhood, but it didn’t meet the needs of a modern family with teenage boys. “Connectivity is what homes of this age need,” says architect Celeste Lewis, who worked on the renovation with Cathy Hasenberg. “I wanted to make it functional for the way people really live.” The once-dark kitchen and separate breakfast room were combined through a cased opening to create a larger kitchen, with French doors and multiple windows that flood the space with sunlight.
In the rear, Lewis had a second staircase removed and incorporated a back porch to create a new family entry that connects the home to the garage and garden and branches into the kitchen and laundry room. Upstairs, what used to be a tiny maid’s room became an airy guest room, and the master suite was reconfigured and expanded.
But even with the modifications and additions, only a modest 360 square feet were added, staying true to the home’s original integrity while making it functional for the new family. “While remodeling, we took extra precaution with plaster walls, repurposed old doors and custom-cut new trim to match the original,” says Stephanie Lynch, project manager for builder Sam Hagerman. Indeed, preserving the integrity of the period house mattered to the homeowners as much as improving its overall circulation. “There are many places to find inspiring photos of renovations and décor, but it’s an undertaking to bring all your wishes into a cohesive story that flows from room to room,” says the owner.
Leonard tells that story through elegant yet family-friendly interiors. The owners had Japanese scrolls, vintage chests and other art and antiques that they wanted blended into their new environs; Leonard began the design process by selecting complementary carpets. “I really like Tibetan rugs because they aren’t chemically processed and retain lanolin,” says Leonard. “Rugs are like art themselves—an investment with longevity.”
Working within a palette of blues, greens and taupes, Leonard had rooms washed in low VOC paints and entrusted designer-friend Liz Murray with helping choose materials, finishes and tile layouts for the kitchen and master bathroom, Murray’s specialty. For furnishings, Leonard accumulated pieces that lend the appearance of acquisition over time. The result is a mix of new and antique wood furniture, with tailored custom-upholstered pieces.
Leonard and the couple searched for textiles that had a kid-friendly, sturdy appeal as well as visual beauty. Whether silk, linen or wool, the fabrics are mostly blends, which tend to be more durable, and they have been treated with stain-resistant Nano-Tex. “I also spent a lot of time on the window treatments,” says Leonard. “In a climate like Portland’s, they need to be both visually and physically warming. I like to layer them.”
The homeowners do take full advantage of good weather, spending time in their garden designed by landscape architects Steve Shapiro and Blair Didway. “We developed a formal landscape to complement the traditional form and linear lines of the house,” says Shapiro. The front of the residence presents a regal welcome with low boxwoods framing the walkway and enlarged porch, which received an added touch of topiaries from Leonard. The rear of the home gives the owners and their guests an idyllic outdoor living space that Leonard filled with pockets for dining and conversation.
Settled for the most part back in the States, the homeowners are delighted with the classic and comfortable family home that they can enjoy for years to come. Says Leonard: “The wife finally got the house she’s always wanted.”