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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

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:)


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

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

      1. Hope so! Dying to know what’s happening with your LA house… that dreamy beauty couldn’t possibly still be on the market !!

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

        1. her husband is an architect and a GC, her studio can handle the whole thing soup to nuts if you want to go that direction

    1. 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.

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!!!!’

    1. It’s a challenge we’ll face for sure. I think I have a vision of how we could make it more livable for our family while still respecting its past but that’s why i’d love another expert, an architect to really push that through.

      1. If it were me I’d hire Daniel Kanter as a consultant just to give opinions 🤣. I trust him implicitly around old houses and building techniques. You may not need an architect who specializes in historic homes as much as a historic home specialist to consult with an amazing architect. And BOY DO I LOVE ME SOME DANIEL.

        1. You’re so right about Daniel! He’s the best with an old home and would be the perfect consultant. Plus, he’s so freaking funny and entertaining.

        2. I LOVE him. Maybe we could do a collaboration of sorts or even just an interview that is transcribed for the blog. Good idea …

  7. Oooooh!!!!!!!
    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

    1. Ah, thank you so so so so so so much for this. I appreciate you so much, right back. xx (oh and you’ll learn more about the tennis racket soon .. :))

  8. 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. 🙂

  9. 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!

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

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

  11. 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!!!

  12. 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!

    1. 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.

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

    3. 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!!

      1. It is something we are pursuing, for sure. And if I could find a female architect i’d be psyched.

    4. 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 ugly compared to Portland! Lol! Hopefully Em can capture the beauty of the Pacific Northwest in her future posts so you can see why we love it here so much.

      Congratulations Emily and welcome to the PNW!

    5. 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.

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

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

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

  15. 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!

  16. 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 😉

  17. 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.

      1. Just looked them up and going to reach out. I LOVE everything about them so far. Grown in Oregon, Sustainable, family run. YES. THANK YOU

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

  19. 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 good fit for one another.



    FWIW, Jessica Helgerson design is a great local interior designer and we are always happy to partner with others that do great work.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

    1. 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.

  22. I live in a colonial bungalow in SE Portland (Westmoreland), and one day when we are finally ready to remodel, I’ve always thought I would reach out to Michael Howell: His use of Heath tile in a lot of his work is what got me;) Good luck!

  23. Hey there. I work for an architecture firm in PDX, but we do not do residential projects. But a few local PDX firms that *do* lovely residential work: Scott Edwards Architecture, BORA, HACKER, Emerick Architects.

  24. Hi Emily,

    How exciting that you are relocating to Portland, OR. I love it here. If you’re in need of an architect or contractor, New Avenue is a wonderful option. I am one of the designers (soon to be licensed as an architect come January 2021) and have years of experience in working with renovations with character in order to blend tradition with modern aesthetics. I’ll follow up with an email soon and go into more detail if you’re interested. Hopefully talk to you soon and good luck with the closing!


  25. Emily!

    You must check out Jessica Helgerson. You probably already know of her. Genius, thoughtful, creative, and such an amazing soul. The whole team is just a dream. I would simply melt if I had a chance to work with her.

    A very close second would be LSW. There are right across the river in Vancouver but have worked on several stunning projects in Portland. We are currently using them to help with our own dream property.

    Good luck! Excited to follow along as you are in my neck of the woods!!

  26. Outstanding PDX architect and builder duo, kind people, full of integrity, historical and modern: Portland True Blue Construction & Remodeling -Mike Banker (503) 880-0705,, and Webster Wilson Architecture, 503-421-3810,

  27. Woot! Just moved to Portland myself. Glad you’ll be joining the gang. Look forward to watching your creative dreams for your new home be realized.

  28. Knowing Portland is a very walkable and generally sustainable place, I’m sure you will find just the right person/firm! Hopefully you are going full sustainable and moving somewhere you can truly reduce driving and walk everywhere.

    Have you considered finding an architect that specializes in the “not so big house” method? That way it’s extra cozy and functional no matter the size.

  29. Portland native here. We hired Hammer and Hand to build a stunning ADU in Irvington that is both eco and a match to our 1903 craftsman. Amazing to work with, cannot recommend them enough.

  30. So excited to have you and your family coming to Oregon! I am born and raised love our state so much it is a wonderful place to raise a family
    Can’t wait to read all about the progress

    1. Gosh, looks like she is a designer and her husband is the architect (and a bunch of peeps already commented on her!) LOL thought I was so clever!

  31. Samantha (Sam) Sudy worked on both the house design and interior details of my new house. She used to work for Propel Studios, but is now working for New Avenue. The company is based in the San Francisco bay area, but Sam is helping them expand into the Portland area. She’s a pleasure to work with and definitely worth a call!

  32. OMG, this is so exciting! My husband and I are also moving from Los Angeles to Portland soon and I’ve been redfining like crazy. I haven’t found anything I love yet. Can’t wait to see your house and learn more about why you chose it!

  33. Julia Wood, Architect
    And for a shameless plug… my husband, Peter Antonov, GC of Antonov Construction, LLC, 20+ years in GC experience, easy going, very hardworking, reasonably priced, some small commercial experience (Bula Kava, Box Social, Imperial Bottle Shop, BellaU Salon, Shift Drinks, etc), extensive residential experience, interested in growing his business 🙂

  34. Hi Emily,

    It looks like a few folks already beat me to it but I’d like to recommend Sam Sudy for the job. I’ve seen several of her projects around Portland that she designed while working for Propel and her design sense is impeccable! I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone better for all of the things that you mentioned you’re looking for in an architect.

    Best wishes to you and your family as you move forward with this very exciting project! I can’t wait to see the results 🙂

    – Dee

  35. I’m happy to share my experience. We recently moved out of our Portland “forever home”. Life happened, we needed to relocate to dry and sunny California (at least there is sometimes morning mist and marine air, but it’s not the same as the nurturing fog of Oregon!).
    Neil Kelly was the designer of our Portland home (1996), so when it was time to make some changes, they were a natural fit for help bringing the master bedroom/bathroom into tune with the rest of the house. In addition to the Master Bedroom/Bath, the big job was addressing weathering on the exterior that had taken it’s toll on the rafter tails. Together we came up with a long term solution so the next owner would not have that worry. A fireplace and stove hood upgrade rounded out our changes.
    Although the designer we worked with has since moved to Florida, I have found everyone associated with Neil Kelly top notch, professional and committed to quality. My wife and I are both overworked professionals; the team was very patient with us but also great about motivating us to make decisions as they needed to be made, and adjudicating between us when choices were difficult.
    I hope your new home is all you dream!

  36. Hey Emily,

    A friend told me about this post and suggested I comment. I’m a structural engineer in in Portland and I’ve worked with most of the architects and builders in town. I’d recommend Emerick Architects. They are highly skilled at historic renovation as well as modern design. They usually work with Right Angle Construction, and those guys, in my opinion, are the best in town. They also know how to efficiently pull a permit – which, if you’re in Oregon, especially Portland, can be a major hurdle. On a personal note, I know most of the architects at Emerick and they are all stellar individuals.

    Jessica and Yianni and JHID are amazing, but Jessica has her own very distinct interior style. Same with a lot of the architecture firms that were recommended by others. Waechter Architecture, Skylab, Bora, Allied, and Beebe Skidmore are all outstanding architects, but they tend towards the super modern and will want to implement their vision. Emerick will be more inclined to help implement your vision and bring out the best in the existing building. Check out their website and you’ll see what I mean.

    Cool crowd-sourcing question. Get in touch if you want any additional info. Good luck and welcome back to Portland. -b

  37. Very exciting! Welcome baaaack to Portland! I’m going to encourage my husband to throw his hat in the ring for your GC. They are young, smart hustlers who do great work and wanna grow. Check out their work at

    I really like Jason Stamp and his partners at Workaday. Smart, easy to work with architects who do beautiful work!

  38. Never been on the market?!? What is this unicorn home…I am on the edge of my seat. I can’t wait to see you lean into this heritage look. And maybe you’ll get to visit more than you think – the vaccine is coming! *prayer hands*

  39. From one small town Oregon girl to another, welcome back! 😊 I find no matter where I go Oregon always feels like home. I live in Portland now and have heard good things about Emerick Architects. If nothing else, their website is full of seriously dreamy inspiration.

  40. McCulloch Construction does a lot of projects around where I live and it sounds like they’d fit the bill, they do a lot of historic Portland home restorations and from what I’ve seen their work is beautiful. They’re currently working on a 1920s Tudor by me and man it is stunning!

  41. I enjoyed reading the post but loved reading the comments of the warm, generous, supportive readers.

    We will be building (from scratch, on acreage) an off-the-grid, passive, large, Accessible (one of our children, who will live with us the rest of their life, is multiply, profoundly disabled) house on HI. I found an architecture firm whose work I love in Brisbane, Australia, but it just makes better sense to find someone local (on one of the islands, at least) because of our green ethos (both because of the carbon footprint of them flying back-and-forth to HI but also because an architect in HI will know the best products and supports locally + readily available, plus the local building regs).

    I kinda wish EH were building in HI so I could piggyback off *those* recs. Greedy!

    But very happy about Portland, a friendly city we really liked. I have the cutest pic of this kiddo in their red wheelchair parked next to the wheelchair-bound zombie I named Irving who lives in front of the Peculiariam. Ah, natsukashii!

    I’ve been saying that I first need to get my trucking license so I can back up a road train (multiple 18-wheeler cargos) to Round Top and say “load ’em up, boys!” for all kinds of yummy building supplies. And then ship them across the ocean. I’m coming!

  42. Please check out our architect, Geno Salimena, at Gusto Design Studio. Gusto was incredible and did our whole house here in Portland. We love our house! They work with the best people too. (One of the cabinet makers they like to work with is Jim Cardinale and he’s also the best.)

    Geno and Erin Salimena are a husband and wife team and the founders of Gusto Design Studio. He’s the architect and she’s an interior designer. They are true geniuses and so kind! I highly recommend them.

    Check out the blog on their website too for more info., pics, and hand drawings.

    Good luck!

  43. emily you should get in touch with jim LaRue, he’s a brilliant architect but he’s in austin . He does work all over the country! stunning work!!

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