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Life Update + Looking For Portland Architect/Contractor For A Major Restoration Of Our Future Family Home


We are pretty close to closing on a property in Portland which crossing fingers will be our family’s forever home (and you know that’s a BIG statement), and while I don’t want to jinx it I want to get my team in place because once we close we’ll want to move on the restoration so someday we can, say, live in it. I don’t want to give any details yet, but I will say it’s a magical property that shouldn’t still exist, but does and it’s going to be the focus of my life (and this blog) for the next few years. I’ve done renovations before where we’ve hired an architect for the initial drawings, but for the first time, I want to work with an architect on not just the floor plan but help with the finishes, someone who can not only help execute my vision but can bring genius creative ideas and expertise to make this property both restored to its turn of the century roots AND super modern/functional/interesting for our family. I don’t want to miss an opportunity or do something wrong. But more importantly, I know that the right architect can bring a different creative perspective, ideas I haven’t even thought of, and trust me that some of the things that I want to do could use another creative brain with serious vision (especially when it comes to restoring and yet modernizing a large turn of the century property).

I also want someone who is tapped into local vendors and makers to help me find the best, say, reclaimed wood flooring in Oregon. My family will be living here in California during the renovation (I think, all depends on schools) so having someone I trust up there both aesthetically and professionally is CRUCIAL as we won’t be able to visit so much what with this pandemic situation. I know first hand how important it is to have someone that can make in-person decisions when things come up (because they will).

I also want someone who is experienced in green design and sustainability building because if we are going to do this, we are going to do it RIGHT for the planet and longterm. I wish I could tell you more (I’m seriously DYING to close on this property and tell you), but this post is really just to put it out into the world to find the right architect or firm. It will be a huge press project and portfolio piece and I’m willing to take a lot of interesting risks to make this property SING.

Sneak Peek Inspo #1

The timing is to do the initial walkthrough/drawings in December with the hope of starting, well, asap after that. It’s a big project, likely at least a year (or 18 months) with a full scope of work (aka, we need someone with availability for a big job). My brother and his wife will be project managing it (which is so fun, I’m helping them with their new house which I can’t wait to tell you about, too). And trust me that if it turns out 1/2 as beautiful as it is in my head, it’s going to be STUNNING.

Sneak Peek Inspo #2

So if you know anyone, please leave in comments, and if you are a Portland-based architect that is interested in working with me on this large (and public) project, email [email protected]

Technically I haven’t locked down a contractor yet as I was going to get an architect in place and get their input before hiring anyone. But ideally, we’d also find a GC that is interested in growing their business and documenting this with me, publicly and wants a pretty big portfolio project.

More to come, soon, I PROMISE. We are supposed to close at the end of November, and the family moves out in January. And no, its never been on the market so you can’t try to find it but I’ll show you every single detail when I can:)

Fin Mark


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Claire M

Emily, delighted for you and looking forward to coming along for the ride. x


2021 is looking good so far, right…Jess’ new apartment, Orlando’s stunner of a house and a full-blown EHD renovation. It’s all sounding very exciting!


So exciting! Looking forward to all the posts will come out of this


So did your LA house sell? I thought it had a buyer and then that fell through. So I’m guessing another buyer stepped up? None of my business, I know. 🙂 Just curious.

Turn of the century, never been on the market??? Can’t wait!


Grew up on Mt Tabor but have moved away from Portland. Sometimes I miss it, but lately not so much! It was a great city to grow up in. Best of luck to you and your family, excited to see all about the new house.


Waechter Architecture. … love their work.

I know she isn’t an architect, but I would love to see Jessica Helgerson involved in the project. She’s in Portland and you and her together would be magical!




Her work is perfect in every way!


Jeff Miller is a very significant architect, who’s work on many turn of the century houses, and very well regarded. Jessica Helgerson does unbelievably work, I would think her team would have an architect in place that they use.


Jessica’s husband IS an architect! I do believe that he helps with redesigning spaces that she works on.


Here is his website…


Agreed. Jessica Helgerson is an amazing designer and an even more amazing human being.


I cannot wait. And if I feel this excited, I can’t even imagine how you feel. Congrats Em… it kind of feels like you’ve been working towards this point for years. Thanks for bringing us along for the ride. I’m going to end this comment before I get full on teary.


I am so excited to tag along on this adventure.

I’m so excited to see all of this unfold!! Can’t wait!!


Gives me such thrill when someone buys a historic property with the goal of respecting its historic details and intent and preserving as much as possible. I pray whoever you choose has experience with historic homes and building techniques!!! I see so many architects coming into historic homes with modern sensibilities and it’s the stinkin worst. Good luck!!!!’


This is the cherry in top of last week’s great stuff!

Emily, your blog felt like it was my oxygen during an arduous, life changing (in a bad way) week last week… and now… this?!

Such fantabulous news for your family of six!

A forever home is so, so special. I can feel it in my waters, that you and Brian just KNOW this place is IT!

What a grrreat way to begin your Trump-free (well, almost) lives.
I’m stoked that you’re focussing on a more sustainable way of living… this makes my heart sing.

So deeply happy for you and excited to my bone marrow to be able to share your adventures.

I have gratitude that you exist, for you are a truly special human being.
Hugz, Rusty xx


Brian… Wot’s with the tennis racket??


Ooooh, I’m excited for you! It’s going to be glorious! Our family left LA a decade ago, and now we live in a 100+ year-old log cabin on the river in Nashville. It’s a PROJECT (vines fighting their way inside every summer, drowning under fall leaves, plenty of critters to make peace with), but sometimes I just can’t believe I get to live here.
Can’t wait to see the place. 🙂


By the description and the beginning it sounded like the house is falling apart and really old, so the fact that there’s a family living in there threw me off… definitely interested!! Looking forward to the process!


Portlander here: another vote for Jessica Helgerson. her mid century work is lovely.


I like Osmose, very 60`s. It would be very interesting to see their approach to an older house.
A real challenge.
Good luck.

Tanya Erickson Cram

Design/build company SAGA.
Chase is an Architect and has major construction experience. They are in Portland/Hood River and are amazing.

Tanya Erickson Cram

There is an awesome Design/Build team in the Portland-Hood River area. Chase is the owner and Architect.


Guggenheim Architecture & Beebee Skidmore both do thoughtful residential design here in Portland

Lindsey Beacham

For a contractor Bob Murphy, His craft is awesome. I assume you have a real estate agent but seems to know all the best in town.


Hey! Did I miss an announcement on selling your LA house? Haven’t heard about it in a while. Just curious.


I am so excited for you! I seriously cannot wait to see both projects but mostly this one because it speaks to me so much!!!


I am VERY excited about this! I know Portland isn’t the most stunning city in the US, but wouldn’t it be incredible if you could find a group that meets all of these criteria and is run by BIPOCs? Can’t wait to see what this turns into!


Wait – why don’t you think Portland is stunning? I find it beautiful and admit that I’m biased as a Portlander and native Oregonian.

I live in Portland too, and I LOVE it!!


Wait. Have you actually seen Portland? Its downtown is right along the river and is pretty damn stunning.


I have to disagree with you, Lindsey. Portland is quite stunning. Lots of parks, bike boulevards, artisan shops, delicious restaurants, friendly people, with the Columbia River Gorge and Mt Hood as our backyard playgrounds.
But I agree that a BIPOC led architect firm and GC would be wonderful!!


This must be a typo. Portland is GORGEOUS!


I live in Portland and while I’ve been fortunate to live in some of the most beautiful places in the world, Portland is definitely one of the most stunning nature-wise. Everything is so green and lush, there’s gorgeous rivers, and you just look up and you can see majestic mountains. There’s hiking nearby with spectacular waterfalls. It’s like living in a fairy world. Yes, it rains a lot, but it keeps the air clean and fresh. I do agree that the city and some of the neighborhoods aren’t great, but it’s coming around. Portland used to be a lower income blue collar city until loads of Californians discovered the natural beauty and moved up here. So now it’s being updated; gentrified if we’re being honest… Most of the homes towards the city center are either Victorian or mid-century; both great time periods for gorgeous homes. I live in a small mid-century home here and I love it. As a designer that works remotely in other cities, I would rate Portland’s architectural style as significantly better than most cities. My company wants me to move to Denver and I keep refusing for many reasons, but mostly because it’s just so dang… Read more »


I’m a native Portlander (and Architect, just not residential), and honestly, the Architecture has typically been pretty blah. The city skyline is definitely not as stunning as some other cities, like Seattle. That being said, it is still a lovely city to live in, and the nature makes it very beautiful! We are finally starting to see some good architecture, too, in the last 10 years. So… hopefully it keeps getting better! DEFINITELY agree with hiring a BIPOC studio… but they are hard to find in uber-white Portland.


This is so freakin’ exciting! So happy for you guys and I cannot wait to get more details.


Welcome to a future life in Portland! I’m back too after years and years. It feels right. Check out Weil Bixby.


Benjamin Silver’s work is amazing! He’s an architect with design skills who specializes in restoring old, historic homes in Portland. I believe he only takes on one project at a time and puts his all into it.


I second this recommendation. I have watched two homes be remodeled by him in my neighborhood. They are beautiful.

Roberta Davis

I’ll bet Max Humphrey knows some good architects.


When these guys still blogged I followed them religiously. Excellent architects in the Northwest


Have you already looked at Skylab?
SO glad to hear you’re going to be working with an architect! Makes all the difference.


So excited for you! Would love to hear your thoughts surrounding moving to Portland during so much unrest up there ?


There isn’t so much unrest. There are some demonstrations that take up 2 blocks downtown.

This is so exciting to me! I just moved into a home (built 1935) in NW Portland and am looking to do reno work – although clearly nothing on the scale of yours. I’ll be checking out the comments to see who people recommend for construction folk. Can’t wait to see future posts!

Turn of the century?!? Ahhhhhhh!!!!!


Congrats on finding a place! We moved from Brooklyn 3 years ago to PDX and bought a remodel project on 20 acres next to Forest Park. We’ve interviewed a good dozen architects/design builds and still haven’t fully landed on one that is the right mix of vision and cost. PDX is many ways is more expensive to do remodel than NYC or upstate NY which has come as a shock. Here are a couple of options teams that we met with that we would continue to recommend even though we didn’t ultimately go that direction: Their famous red house is stunning. Nice team. and their build partner This is such a cool team of folks. We still hope to work with them. We didn’t meet them but they do specialize in historic remodels. They did many of the homes in our old neighborhood in NW.
There are many more that I would steer clear of… feel free to message me for those tips 😉

Sid Scott of Scott Edwards Architecture
His firm redid a mid century house around the corner from mine in Dunthorpe. Years later, everyone in the neighborhood still remarks on what an SENSATIONAL job he did.

A sensational, not “an sensational”
Face palm

Allie K

My friend is an amazing architect and works for a small firm in Portland! Look up Woofter Bolch Architecture. Here’s a house they did that is incredible:

Robin in NoCo

This is probably premature but I want to recommend Zena Forest Products and the work of Reuben Deumling (who happens to be married to my childhood best friend) for sensitive restoration and green-to-the-extreme (as in, PhD in it) living. I’m so excited to see how this unfolds.


Portlander here, seconding Zena!


Wow, what a teaser post! 🙂 Can’t wait to see the new house! So excited!


Wow! PDX is a great town; we moved here from Cali almost 3 years ago. Looking forward to enjoying your adventure vicariously!



Hi Emily, A friend in Vermont pointed me to your post here. It sounds like a super interesting project and I really appreciate your commitment to not only making what sounds like a beautiful property/home more beautiful, but also sustainable. We are a Design-Build firm here in Portland called Birdsmouth Design-Build. We have architects on staff along with offering construction services in an integrated and iterative process. Our focus foremost is energy efficiency in the built environment and we make sure we center this in all decisions from programming to schematics to the build. With 39% of all green house gas emissions in the U.S. coming from our buildings we feel that this is the most impactful way to address the climate crisis while providing homes that also have very high indoor air quality, are super comfortable and last a lot longer than ‘typical’. On top of all that, if a home isn’t beautiful it won’t last long, so one needs to focus on beauty as a part of sustainability, too. Please check out our work at and at Instagram at @birdsmouthpdx. I would be happy to have a discussion with you to see if we could be a… Read more »

Astrid Geno and his wife Erin are Portland based and the nicest people. Their work is incredible!


Small world! They live in my neighborhood. Yes, they’re a wonderfully kind and talented couple.


I’d recommend Susan Collard from In House Architecture. She’s also a unique artist. She specializes in historic Portland homes.
She’s very easy to work with, tons on individualized, personal service.
She also works with Circa Remodeling, who also specialize in vintage Portland homes and have access to reclaimed materials.
Portland was THE city in the last few decades. I feel lucky to have grown up there.


So exciting! As someone who has gone through several renovations, I would strongly advise living nearby while yours is happening, especially if it is your ‘forever home.’ It is worth the expense and hassle. Believe me.

Lucas Gray

I recommend Sam Sudy of New Avenue. She is an incredibly talented designer who has worked on tons of residential projects around Portland.

Sean Wittmeyer

Congrats on scoring a place here, homes fly off the market!
I agree with Lucas, I met Sam the first day I moved to Portland and her talent and experience at Propel Studio and Now New Avenue is actually why I came to work with her as an architect. I’d choose her for my own home.

Reach out to Robin Cornuelle from Of Prairies – she specializes in design architecture and is PDX based! Also an extremely lovely person generally.


Sparano & Mooney in SLC might be a good fit. (But they’re in SLC not Portland)

You say “property” and not “house” so I’m secretly hoping it’s acreage! PONY for Birdie!

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