This Modern Portland Home Pays Tribute to Its Historic Roots

·4 min read
Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE
Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE

“I don’t particularly love things that are too trendy,” says Oregon-based designer Donna Dufresne. “I think a home should be timeless, but we can still add a few modern accents to keep it fresh.” So, when Dufresne was tasked with designing a historic home in downtown Portland for a young couple and their 10-year-old son, she wanted to ensure that she used the architecture to her advantage. Built in 1973 by Ellis Lawrence, the 4,000-square-foot dwelling is on the National Register of Historic Places, and Dufresne wanted to pay homage to that.

“The home is really rustic overall, but we used certain elements to make it more timely,” she adds, pointing specifically to the metal accents throughout the living area, the modern statement lighting from West Elm above the staircase, and the Carrara marble in the bathrooms. Dufresne also wanted to use the original architecture as much as she possibly could in the space, which proved to be a real challenge, especially in the kitchen.

“Originally, the staircase was very close to the kitchen, which meant that the kitchen was very small,” she says. “We had to move the staircase a bit to the side to create room for the large island that the family wanted.” She also added more storage for her clients’ cookbooks below the island, which features built-in shelves and plenty of drawers for pots, pans, and other utensils.

Another challenged centered on the awkward-looking soffit in the kitchen: To make the room's ceiling more cohesive, Dufresne added a large faux beam. And since statement lighting wouldn’t really work on a ceiling of that shape, she opted for recessed lights with dimmers. “This was honestly the hardest room to design, since we wanted a space where everybody could congregate,” she says. “But I think we made it work.”

Similarly, Dufresne installed a statement tub in the master bath in order to take up space behind the oddly-placed sink, making sure it faced the window. She also kept the range of cabinets in the hallway, but painted them white and added metallic accents. “And of course—texture, texture, texture,” she says, pointing at the vintage rugs she strategically positioned across the home. “You don’t need too much crazy color when you have some responsibly-sourced textured items.”

Overall, Dufresne appreciated the challenges the home brought, since it forced her to flex her creative chops. “All the design choices were tailor-made to the clients and felt like a forever home for them,” she says. “What more could we have asked for?”

Powder Room

Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE
Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE

Since it's such a small space, Dufresne was able to play with color and pattern without overwhelming it—but she made sure to do it in a transient way, in case the clients' taste evolves down the line. “After all, it’s just wallpaper,” she explains of the dark-toned gold-and-black walls. “We can always swap those out.”

Wallpaper: Schumacher. Faucet: Waterworks.

Fireplace

Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE
Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE

The fireplace initially stood on its own and looked out of place until Dufresne added a floating seating on each side. “The couple’s young boy loves to read by the cozy nook,” she says.

Sconces: Visual Comforts. Pillows: Room & Board.

Kitchen

Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE
Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE

Even though it was the most difficult to design, the kitchen is hands down Dufresne’s favorite room in the house. White tile and recessed lighting really pull together the stylish gathering space.

Brass Screens: Armac Martin. Faucet: Waterworks. Countertop: Black Absolute Granite. Paint: Donald Kaufman. Hardware: Classic Brass. Range: Viking. Backsplash: Arto Brick.

White Bathroom

The modern white bathroom contrasts with the more rustic exterior—but because the colors aren’t jarring, they work with the rest of the home.

Plumbing Fixtures: Waterworks. Sconces: Rejuvenation. Vanity Console: Palmer Industries.

Hallway

Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE
Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE

Antique carpeting lends a pop of color to the cabinet-filled hallway. “It came with the space, so we had to use it to our advantage,” says Dufresne, who added metallic accents for interest.

Lighting: Visual Comfort. Hardware: Top Knobs.

Stairway

Moving the stairway proved to be a real challenge—but Dufresne found a way to make sure it fit near the entryway, creating space for a more expansive kitchen. “My client wanted a big island, and we just couldn’t fit that in where the staircase was originally located,” she explains.

Lighting: West Elm.

Master Bathroom

Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE
Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE

The giant Waterworks tub anchors the marble master bathroom, where it’s positioned near the window, translating into a true statement piece.

Plumbing Fixtures and Tub: Waterworks. Medicine Cabinets: Glass Crafters. Hardware: Classic Brass.

Living Room

Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE
Photo credit: CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE

Woods and creams allow for the rustic feel of the home to shine through, while the marble, white, and pattern lend to the timeless vibe Dufresne was going for.

Fireplace: Nero Marquina.

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