Jim and Michelle Brown, the new homeowners of a 1952 Portland ranch, had a nice chat with the previous owners, the Ray and Mary Niehaus, about the history of the home (part 1) as well as the updates made throughout the decades (part 2). But when you enter the home today, it is a marvel of Danish modern style.
A couple of changes they made in the kitchen allowed them to fit their quirky existing appliances into the layout. Where Mary’s old stove stood, their jadeite green Muller refrigerator squeezed in with 1/4 to spare around the new cabinets, and their reconditioned cobalt blue O Keefe & Merritt stove likewise just barely slid into the designated refrigerator slot. Of course this required moving the gas line, which took two days, a city permit, an inspection and a bunch of money. Because the linoleum pattern chosen by the sellers was a weird color, that didn’t really complement the original green tile counters or their appliances, she indulged her inner diva by opting for a tomato red Marmoleum floor.
Divesting themselves of inexpensive quasi-bungalow furnishings meant starting a new interior design chapter. Oh goody – they got to go shopping!
Vintage, contemporary, midcentury reissues or modern riffs on MCM design? They were under the gun to find things to sit on/sleep on/eat off of right away. While they admire the high-end collections they often shoot, that approach didn’t fit their timeline or checkbook. And at their house, the “ick” factor creeps in when it comes to vintage upholstery.
A long teak coffee table and a vanity stand purchased at the 2006 Palm Springs Modernism show got us started with what turned out to be a good style fit: Danish modern. They both liked the sculptural lines, and the exposed frames had practical applications as well. Being primarily oiled teak, the finishes could be renewed, the yuck factor was low and their indoor cat was disinclined to sharpen her claws on the wood surfaces. Call it interior design by Betsy.
They hit all of the Portland vintage stores they could and found the most pieces at Hawthorne Vintage. Ebay and online stores were other good sources for both furniture—a loveseat, night- stands, a wrought iron chair—and lighting. There were some long-distance surprises, though: items either damaged in transit or misrepresented on offer, or not quite right for the application, like a great purple Poul Henningsen PH5 lamp that is woefully inadequate to actually illuminate a room.
They chose a few new items as well: in the bedroom, a Case Study Metal V-Leg bed by Modernica through Design Within; Reach and Nelson bubble lamps from YLighting; Otis wall light fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen, a Jantzen ceiling lamp in brushed nickel, and cabinet pulls and knobs, all from Rejuvenation.
Although some of the vintage pieces they found seemed pretty affordable, of course a few needed a further investment to make them aesthetically pleasing. Except for the original fabric on the Danish Modern couch and the black vinyl seats on the dining room chairs, all of the pieces needed reupholstering if only to harmonize. Sit On It in Portland was recommended as knowing their way around midcentury lines. So they took two chairs in, as well as a pricey leather upholstery kit from Denmark for the sexy Lamino chair they’d purchased at Hawthorne Vintage. A random comment on a blog tipped them that this chair was still being manufactured and upholstery could be ordered through Arkitektura In Situ in San Francisco.
Still on the pending list is a new frame for the giant wall mirror in the bath and full-bore Western stuff for Jim’s home office to complement the cowboy curtains, knotty pine walls and vintage Steelcase desk. They also need a doorbell, and are strongly leaning toward something from Knock Doorbells, and they’ll try to practice what they preach and take their time with any accent wall colors and additional artwork.
This Danish modern home has opened their eyes to a new palette and living a bit differently than in their tiny, dark bungalow. It’s like learning a new language—maybe pig Latin, but a new skill nonetheless.