Character and Color: A Creative Remodel Transforms This Portland Home

Two remodelers remove layers of grime to unearth a gem of a house in Portland, Oregon.

| March/April 2006

Driving along Mississippi Avenue in northeast Portland is like seeing a neighborhood renaissance in fast-forward. Once burned-out and boarded-up buildings sprout new restaurants. The Rebuilding Center sells reclaimed building materials from a new warehouse constructed mostly of salvaged materials. Coffee shops and hip boutiques abound.

There weren’t any early signs of neighborhood transformation when artists Virginia Young and Janie Lowe, driven from New York by the high cost of living and the daily grind of commuting, bought their house here in 1998. “We both have a strong connection to the outdoors,” Virginia says. “Living in New York City without a car, it was difficult to get to anyplace ‘wild’—and when we did, it felt like thousands of others were escaping the city with us. Though we were aware of Portland’s progressive bent, we moved here mostly because of its proximity to both the ocean and the mountains.”

Virginia and Janie’s search for an affordable old house in a neighborhood close to downtown led them to their current abode. “Though it was sitting in the middle of a double lot, this house had been on the market for a long time,” Janie says. “It had no curb appeal. Painted dirty white and bright blue with a chain-link fence and barren yard, it was downright ugly.”

But beneath the layers of grime, they saw a gem. “When people ask, I say we bought the house because of the hardware,” Virginia says. “It was built in 1888 and, though it had been remodeled over the years, it had most of the original baseboard, trim, doors and hardware.”

Kitchen first

Like many first-time homeowners and remodelers, Virginia and Janie tackled the most obvious problem area first. “We didn’t have a plan, but I love to cook and the tiny, dark kitchen did not inspire good food,” Virginia says. In the process of opening up a space adjacent to the kitchen, they tore out a dropped ceiling and discovered the house’s original eleven-foot ceilings. Though at first reluctant to take on the extra work and mess, they removed the false ceiling and soffits over the kitchen cabinets as well.

7/31/2014 10:42:34 AM

Do they have friends who would move to my area just outside of Birmingham,AL???? We NEED to be realized and revitalized for the village we once were. There are still beautiful gems that need to be restored and loved again. Mostly 1930s' mill houses,but several craftsmen as well.

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