portland retro midcentury modern kitsch comic book collection
The front bedroom is used as an office and guestroom. There, Marti and Bobby merged their record collections; she bought them mostly for the cover graphics but found they’ve also influenced her musical career. The vintage luggage serves triple duty—a place to stash belts and sweaters, as the base of a table, and grounding vignettes throughout the house. The sofa bed is from overstock.com and the paneling is original.

The Broms had settled into a 1948 ranch in excellent condition (Part 1), meditating on how they decorated previous homes (Part 2) and were ready to tackle the interior with their combined kitsch knick-knacks.

Pity the movers who had to pack up the couple’s copious LP records, comic books, pulp paperbacks, barware, vintage eyeglasses, Hawaiiana, Bakelite bracelets, housewares, old suitcases, midcentury figurines, knick- knacks and racks and racks of vintage clothing—18,000 pounds, Bobby mutters. (Today, Marti jokingly tells friends to slap her if they see her pick up a ceramic breakable and she looks like she’s going to buy it.)

Leopard chairs in a retro Portland home
Marti Brom fell for the shape of the leopard print chairs and bought them and the rug before escrow closed; she discovered the room was larger than she recalled once they were installed.

And Bobby’s not much help, either: “I have a collector’s gene; when I was a kid I collected Mad magazine,” he says. “And it’s contagious: I catch on pretty quickly about what appeals to Marti’s aesthetic; suddenly I become more fanatical about [something] than she was to begin with. I like looking for stuff—it’s not so much the having it,” Marti confesses. “It’s a sickness; I’ve seen it on ‘Hoarders.’ Every one of them has said it’s the hunt and once they get it home, it goes on a pile. I’m a few trips away from being on that show, except I’m a decorator and could never let it go that far—I’m too picky.”

The as-found house needed almost no changes—only a couple of unoriginal light fixtures were traded out. But while almost all of their decorative pieces and accessories are vintage, much of their furniture is not. The couch, area rug and love-’em-or-hate-’em leopard-print chairs in the living room were bought on overstock.com, and a blond bedroom suite came from a department store n 1994. Since the Broms don’t plan to move again, ever, Marti is more inclined to part with extraneous items that don’t fit into this ranch aesthetic—hence a coming vintage shop in the basement, jokingly called “Marti’s Velvet Cavern. To me, the story of the house is that it was preserved in amber, so our focus is preservation as opposed to restoration,” says Bobby. “We were probably the best [ownership] fit for the house.”

portland retro midcentury kitsch collection
An extensive collection of kitsch fills up a perfectly designed vintage curio case.

“There were no pets and no children in the house previously,” Marti chimes in. (Their two children are high school and college age.) “I feel like we have to be more careful, so we’re not the ones who wear out the house.”

“Appreciation of vintage homes is growing and, luckily, with the lull in sales over the last few years, seemingly fewer houses are getting the ‘Home Depot’ flip—whitewashed for general consumption,” observes Realtor Starelli. “However, there are enthusiasts, even, who speak of replacing vintage appliances for modern, widening tiled showers, covering VCT with carpet for warmth or removing period-correct finishes because, though they’re cool, they don’t meet their personal aesthetic. Although I understand that a house has to be made a home, if that had happened to this one, it would have been a travesty.”

Fear not, Marti functions as point guard: “When I go to Home Depot for paint, and the guy says, ‘I’d like to talk to you about your kitchen; have you considered remodeling?’ I tell them I have a kitchen from 1948, and it’s pristine and I want to keep it exactly the way it is.”