When George and Marcia Beard’s two children grew up and left the nest, the couple couldn’t help but look at their 1937 Eastmoreland Cape Cod in Portland with a dreamy “what if” filter. What if they could expand the floor plan of the master bedroom to include a sitting area? What if they could gently refresh every single room without buying new furniture?
All those “what ifs” added up to a “let’s stay.” Instead of moving to a compact condo downtown, the couple chose to refresh almost every room in the 2,850-square-foot house. Portland interior designer Jason Ball headed the project from the start.
“It wasn’t that the Beards disliked the house,” he says, “they just wanted to update it and make it their own in order to set themselves up for the next 20 to 30 years.”
That meant preserving the home’s roofline and basic layout while keeping as much of the existing furniture as possible, including a bevy of heirloom pieces. “We wanted to honor the legacy of the house, but be comfortable and have a mix of artifacts and artwork,” remembers George, who works on special projects for Portland State University’s Office of Research and Strategic Partnerships.
“We’re pretty adventuresome,” says Marcia, an investment consultant. “Jason got to know that about us starting with the master bedroom.” By knocking out a hallway, they were able to expand the bedroom to include a seating area Marcia had dreamed about for years.
In a few cases, Ball gently nudged the couple outside their comfort zones with colors, textures and artwork groupings they’d never have considered on their own. For example, the tiny powder room on the main floor sports a bold black chevron polyester wallpaper, while the soft and feminine upstairs bedroom blushes with an off-white gate-work wallpaper that magically assumes different hues depending on the shadows.
In the dining room, turquoise and chocolate gate-work wallpaper enhances the arresting painting titled Should I Stay or Should I Go by Polish artist Joanna Zjawinska. “It’s the first piece Marcia and I bought together,” George says. “It’s emblematic of this room now, which is about odd combinations that work.” The shapes and colors on the walls frame an Elizabethan-inspired 1930s dining set, a wedding present given to Marcia’s great aunt and uncle.
The dining room set represents just a fraction of the heirloom items throughout the home. “It’s rare that a designer gets to work with so many family pieces,” Ball says. “Most people don’t have a whole house full of beautiful heirlooms.”
Much of the couple’s modern furniture was reupholstered, including the living room sofa and chairs, as well as the reading chair in the white-wallpapered bedroom. “We were able to change the way a piece looks while knowing how comfortable these pieces were for the Beards,” explains Ball. “I already knew how they were going to use each one: She’s going to curl her feet up under her in that chair.”
The second level, which holds two bedrooms and a connecting bathroom, was revamped with guests in mind. Since the Beards live so close to Reed College, they envision a day when they’ll run a bed and breakfast for visiting professors or anyone wanting to unpack their bags in the leafy, close-in Eastmoreland neighborhood.
For now, the home is all theirs for the first time. “We can come home and truly relax,” says Marcia, who travels extensively for her job. “Every room in the house is pleasant now,” George says. “It’s a luxury I’ve never experienced before.”
Old and new: antiques with modern details
Interior designer Jason Ball offers these tips:
- When bringing antiques into a contemporary space, choose only one or two statement pieces so they look special and eye catching.
- Bring in contemporary pieces that have a modern shape but use traditional materials, or vice versa. For example, the contemporary table lamp in the guest roomhas a traditional shape in a modern color and material.
- Aim for a balance between the two distinct design styles by not having too much or too little of one of the styles. In a traditional space, for instance, bring in at least a few modern pieces so they feel intentional.