A Once Run-Down House in Portland, Oregon, Was Transformed Into a Dreamy Weekend Retreat
In real estate parlance, the enormous four-bedroom house, hidden deep in a Douglas-fir forest an hour outside Portland, Oregon, might have been called a "fixer-upper," great for "indoor-outdoor living." In reality, it was the former digs of dozens of Labradoodles. Its previous owners, who bred them, had in installed 20 doggie doors so the pups could roam freely. The four-car garage served as a canine spa for bathing and grooming, but the place was far from clean, according to the couple who dared to buy it. (He's an author and academic, she's a corporate lawyer, and both are very private.) "It was in as bad condition as a house could be," recalls the husband.
And yet it was enchanting. The 8,000-square-foot home had spacious rooms, dramatic vaulted ceilings, and an idyllic setting high above a river teeming with salmon—as well as, on clear days, a panoramic view of majestic Mount Hood. "We imagined it as an English country house, but with a Pacific Northwest feel—this is lumberjack territory, after all," says his wife. They hired Portland interior designer Jessica Helgerson, and "told her we wanted the home to be epic to match the setting, but understated, too." In other words, both serene and striking—a goal Helgerson immediately understood. "Nothing in the house could be delicate," she says. "It had to be robust and comfy—it's very Oregonian in that way."
Helgerson and her associate, Em Shephard, stained the rustic knotty beams throughout the home dark brown and painted the window frames black to contrast with the refreshed white walls, establishing a graphic backdrop for the couple's eclectic furnishings. The owners didn't want anything on the windows or walls in the common places to detract from the views of their 250-acre property, so Shephard introduced arresting patterns below with plush Moroccan rugs (In the living room, the designers paired a sink-into-soft linen Donato sofa by Cisco Brothers with a tailored black-leather sofa. A large handmade Moroccan rug unites the entire look.) "We wanted our feet to hit the ground and feel cushy," says the wife. "Comfort was a high priority."
And so was durability: The owners entertain often, and invite guests to make themselves at home and wander in and out, just like the place's previous tenants. Details like leather upholstery and concrete kitchen counters are low-maintenance yet luxe. "As good as it looks," says the wife, who can't wait to drive out there on the weekends, "it feels even better."
The dining-table top is a single slab of Douglas fir, milled from a dead tree on the property. The chairs, inspired by a design by Sylve Stenquist, are from Tribute Furniture; the light fixture is by Apparatus.
The owners often entertain intimate groups of 10 to 20; a classic French Lacanche range and a handcrafted island of Oregon white oak make it a pleasure. Custom cabinets painted in Benjamin Moore Ashwood Moss, a deep olive green, camouflage twin refrigerators, while concrete countertops and a Moroccan-tile backsplash are both practical and handsome. The couple replaced several small windows over the kitchen sink with one wide one to frame the view.
Two black-walnut Rabbit benches by Sawkille line a long, well-lit hallway that the owners use as a gallery for eclectic works amassed on their travels. The vintage Moroccan runners are collected pieces, too.
The couple's mahogany Ferret four-poster bed from Noir brings a dose of whimsy to the master bedroom; another Moroccan rug and a pillow made from a vintage suzani textile add texture and color. The 1960s Arne Norell Ari lounge chair and ottoman are upholstered in Moore & Giles's earthy Mont Blanc leather, in Sycamore, and paired with an Onde stool table by Pfeifer Studio. The Pyramid 1 chandelier from O'Lampia echoes the sharp lines of the beamed ceiling.