Serenity Abounds In This Chic Portland Home


From the Outside In, Portland

To harness the Portland views that captivated her clients, a designer creates a space informed by the surrounding landscape.

Twin Teal Chair Living Room with Colorful Art and Fireplace

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks,” wrote the 19th-century naturalist John Muir. By that measure, the owners of this house—perched on a ridge commanding panoramic views of the Cascades and the Willamette River (as well as downtown Portland)—got an unquestionably sweet deal.

Green Blue and Neutral Living Room with Natural Organic Mirrors, Art and Sofa

Designer Jennifer Leonard chose a wool-and-silk carpet from Kush Rugs to ground the living room of a Portland house. Houlès gimped braid trims the Kravet fabric on a Hickory Chair sofa. Christopher Guy armchairs face the coffee table and stools, both by Gearhart Ironwerks. The Roman shades in GP&J Baker embroidered silk filter light that hits the shimmering Kravet grass cloth on the walls.

Deep Brown Cabinet with Mirror and Green Flower Staircase Peek

Next to the stairway in the entry, a Christopher Guy cabinet and mirror and a crystal Visual Comfort & Co. lamp create a striking vignette to greet visitors.

Black and Blue Portrait Art Dining Room with Patterned Wallpaper and Chairs

A bold work by G. M. Grenon adds graphic punch to the formal dining room, where Hickory Chair seats backed in GP&J Baker damask and a Christopher Guy table gather under a Currey & Company chandelier. Another Kush Rugs carpet anchors the space, which is enveloped in Cole & Son wallpaper. Osborne & Little silk draperies frame views of the trees. The stools are by Schumacher.

Bay Window Family Room Dining Area with Wooden Chairs and Natural Blinds

From Kravet, a settee in Mulberry Home linen and dining chairs surround a Stanley Furniture table in the family room’s dining area, which looks to windows adorned with Hartmann & Forbes shades. Above is a Visual Comfort & Co. chandelier.

Living Room with Lots of Neutral Elements, Desk, and Windows

The family room’s multifunctional seating area combines a Kravet sectional in mohair-velvet with a desk, desk chair and coffee table, all by Hickory Chair. The Visual Comfort & Co. floor lamp brings a subtly glamorous note to the earthy palette.

Black Cabinet Desk Office With Zebra and Arrow Wallpaper

Leonard amped up the elegance in the den, treating the existing built-in cherry cabinetry to a glossy black-lacquer finish. She complemented the new paint with mirrored insets and gold-hued hardware. For the work station, Katayama Framing fabricated a custom bulletin board.

Black Zebra Piano Adjacent to Plants

Though the home’s views and outdoor areas sold Leonard’s clients on the residence, the family had to contend with less square footage than in their old house, so creative space planning was key. Against a backdrop of Scalamandré’s iconic zebra wallcovering, the den functions as a spot for piano lessons and homework and can also be used as a guest room.

Nighttime Outdoor Patio with Outdoor Sofas Ottoman and Landscape

The generous patio was furnished for lounging and entertaining. A seating area showcases customized outdoor pieces by Terra as well as square Terra tables surrounded by Kingsley Bate wicker dining chairs.

Blue Upholstered Headboard Master Bedroom with Neutral Elements

A Made Goods table and mirror pair with an Arteriors lamp in the dreamy master bedroom. The bold, circular pattern of the Beacon Hill embroidered silk on the Euro pillows is offset by the subtle texture of the Schumacher wool-blend custom shams. Kravet’s lidded storage bench sits at the foot of the bed.

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks,” wrote the 19th-century naturalist John Muir. By that measure, the owners of this house— perched on a ridge commanding panoramic views of the Cascades and the Willamette River (as well as downtown Portland)—got an unquestionably sweet deal. 

The vista was priceless enough to seduce an advertising executive and his wife, a practitioner of Chinese medicine, into purchasing the 1997 home for themselves and their three children, even though it was smaller than their residence at the time and of a more traditional style than what they were originally looking for. “I wanted us to be aware we were overlooking nature,” confirms the wife, whose desire informed the directive she gave designer Jennifer Leonard in their first few meetings. “I asked for something colorful and beautiful, but for something that also worked with the natural landscape outside the windows.” 

After the family closed on the house in late spring, timing dictated the first order of business: outfitting the terraces so the family could enjoy summer outdoors. Next, Leonard turned her attention inward. To accomplish the mission laid out by her clients, she decided to pull textures and motifs from the natural surroundings into almost every room. “We wanted to stay somewhat neutral, but with some sass,” she says of the palette she and the homeowners selected. “We had to work with all the lush greenery seen through the numerous windows and play o the kitchen’s existing green counter and warm-toned cabinetry.” 

Beginning with the rugs, which Leonard calls “the foundation of a space,” she built her outdoorsy theme. For the living room, a Nepalese hand-knotted wool-and- silk carpet features a pattern of leaves. The foliate design references the sylvan setting, as do the window shade fabric of colorful of birds perched on flowering branches and the cloud-shaped mirrors. “There is a playful quality with the birds,” Leonard says, “as well as with the introduction of the feminine palette of pinks and purples.” 

These hues imbue the space with the desired “sass,” but they are aided by other elements that impart a mellow shimmer to various surfaces. The silk content of the rug is one example; another is the grass-cloth wallcovering. Though it is essentially organic in texture and thus reminiscent of the natural surroundings, the wallcovering has a subtle shine to it, giving the room a sense of low-key glamour. “The sky in Portland can be pretty gray a lot of the time, so it’s nice to bring in a little shimmer that reflects light,” says Leonard. Also, notes the wife, the palette might have tilted too heavily toward a “dollhouse look,” something mitigated by the grass cloth and tactile fabrics. “Adding a lot of texture made it more interesting,” she says. 

This strategy moves consistently from room to room. It is manifested by grass shades and the verdant greens and earthy browns of the family room, which are counterpoised with the discreet gleam of the sectional’s mohair-velvet and gilded-iron floor lamp. It also shows up in the den, where Leonard paired a banded sea-grass carpet with a gold version of Scalamandré’s zebra wallpaper and shiny black-lacquer built-ins. Even a bathroom’s shower curtain summons a sense of the outdoors with a flowery pattern of dianthus, thistle, hydrangea and other blossoms on whose stems still more birds perch. 

Some spaces, such as the subterranean media room, convey “sass” while eschewing hints of the outside. There, a charcoal-upholstered sectional, a hide ottoman and wall-mounted Boris Bally bowls made from old traffic signs convey whimsy amid a darker brand of coziness. Where appropriate, Leonard weighted the balance with more lustrous formality. The avian theme reappears in the dining room wallcovering for instance, but in silver forms against a taupe background. She upped the glam ante with the shine and sparkle of a silky rug, a high-gloss dining table and a crystal chandelier. In two of the bedrooms, textures move from coarser to softer. Take the master bedroom’s grass cloth, which uses more delicate material and a much more tailored weave. 

Punctuating this carefully calibrated blend of organic tactility and polished refinement is artwork that lends a note of the unexpected to the spaces. “We end up with unusual art because we have to find common ground,” jokes the wife, who has an affinity for the soothing, while her husband’s immersion in a creative career impels him toward pieces that are bold and graphic. But, she says, “I like it when everything is perfect and then there’s just one piece that seems unusual.” With fun artwork and a stunning outdoor environment, Leonard had an ideal foundation to build upon. “Now, the interiors match their personalities as comfortable, easy, fun and playful people to be around,” Leonard says. 

Jorge S. Arango