Last year interior designer Annie Wise and her husband, Eric, an engineer for Amtrak, decided to refresh their 1954 home in northeast Portland, Oregon, on an extremely strict budget. They did most of the work themselves, spending just $15,000 revamping the kitchen, living room and dining room.
“Our goal was to try to renovate the house to its former glory but add a more modern twist on things,” Annie says. “But it was important that we match the existing finishes and give it a timeless look. We didn’t want to go too modern or too vintage.”
When Annie and Eric Wise purchased their home in 2008, the exterior was a cool white with blue trim. The couple had it painted a medium-tone gray, adding clean white trim to accentuate the home’s lines.
They also had the front door painted red to highlight it, as the entrance is at an unusual angle. “We decided to accent that in red to help define the entry,” Annie says. “We added the planters and a little light there.”
They also added the street address for a modern touch, and the white rock sprinkled in the front planter. The red car belongs to Eric, who restored it with the help of his grandfather.
The door in this view of the living room is the home’s front door; the windowed wall is the front of the house. Before the Wises got to work, the living room trim around the ceiling was caked with layers of paint and in some locations missing chunks.
The couple removed the trim and added new custom mill work made by a furniture-maker friend. They also refurbished the knotty pine ceiling by applying two coats of tung oil. They added new baseboards in a darker color. The trim around the window is original; the Wises simply cleaned it up. They refinished the floors, which are red oak.
A family friend, Joe Coletta, helped them out by painting most of the interior walls for free.
The rug is from Turkey and was an anniversary present to Annie from Eric. He brought the coffee table. The George Nelson clock was a gift from Eric’s parents.
Sofa: Perch Furniture; glass vase: Italian; floor pillows: CB2; throw pillows: Urban Outfitters
The fireplace was in good condition but had a bit of water damage, which the Wises scrubbed off with a brush. They also painted the inside of the fireplace black. The mirror, black candle holder and brass spittoon were gifts.
Lamp: Crate and Barrel; hairpin leg table: Craigslist
The two prints above the sofa are Annie’s own designs: maps of Portland, left, and Amsterdam that she had printed. The teal Dux chair is a Cragislist find that the couple paid about $80 for, then refurbished and reupholstered. The plant is a Dracaena marginata.
Eric picked up the cow skull at the Portland Swap Meet, an auto parts swap.
Bubble lamp: George Nelson, Modernica
The breakfast nook is adjacent to the living room. The Wises installed new trim here and refinished the floor (sanding, staining and replacing baseboards).
Artwork: Max Grundy; table: Ikea
BEFORE: The kitchen prior to the renovation had a linoleum floor and a tall bar with Formica countertops. And the layout just wasn’t working. The couple gutted the space, ripping out the floor and installing red oak.
Removing the sub-flooring allowed the new floor to lie flush with the old one.
The new kitchen cabinets and countertops are all from Ikea. Eric added 4-inch trim to the top of the cabinets to give them a more custom look, and filled in trim in spaces where there otherwise would have been a gap.
The Ikea oak butcher block countertop is sealed with a Waterlox resin-modified tung oil product, a food-safe sealant.
The black tile was a splurge, coming out to about $500. Tiling up to the angled ceiling was quite a chore, but the couple felt it was worthwhile. “We wanted to emphasize the verticality of the space and make white cabinetry pop against a darker background,” Annie says.
The small brass fixture was a find at the ReBuilding Center in Portland. It cost just $5.
Pre-renovation, the refrigerator and stove were crammed together in a corner, an awkward layout that caused the refrigerator door to open right into the oven. The Wises took the opportunity to redesign the layout and separate the appliances, which they purchased about five years ago. They also removed an old hood over the oven and replaced it with a microwave.
Annie picked up the egg-shaped knobs at Hippo Hardware & Trading Co., a Portland shop that sells vintage and pre-owned fixtures and home goods. “They were polished,” she says. “Anything that was a brushed brass was a lot more expensive. So we ended up taking some very fine sandpaper and brushing them ourselves.”
The long handles are also from Hippo Hardware, but the retailer had only four and the Wises needed 11 to complete the project. So they had Barr Casting make more, and then the Wises ground them smooth and finished them to match the originals. “It was expensive. I think it was maybe $130 to get them all cast and tapped,” Annie says. “But I think these details — like the tile and really unique handles that I just fell in love with — these are the things, to me, that took it from an Ikea kitchen to something more special.”
The dishwasher is a rebuilt Bosch, which the couple got on Craigslist for $250.
BEFORE: The dining area had a popcorn ceiling before the Wises renovated, and, as Annie describes it, “awful red carpet.” Underneath was linoleum, which the couple also removed.
Where the ceiling and wall meet, note the garage-style cabinetry above the window. The Wises pulled out the cabinets and then repaired the walls.
The Wises installed a new wood floor and a new knotty pine ceiling. Here is the result of their work. The light fixtures are from Hippo Hardware.
A view of the kitchen from the dining area.
The dining table and chairs are vintage pieces found on Craigslist. The buffet is also vintage, from Lounge Lizard.
This bookshelf in the corner of the dining room was once a utility closet. The Wises gutted it, kept the frame and added shelves.
Curtains: Ikea; black chair: Craigslist; desk: Ikea
A view from the dining room table, with the kitchen at left.
Barstools: Crate and Barrel
BEFORE: This is the full bathroom before renovation. It had a linoleum floor and a builder-grade tub.
AFTER: The Wises renovated the bathroom in 2011. They paid between $100 and $150 for the travertine stone on the floor, then ran a stripe of black river rock and black grout through the floor and up the shower. The fixtures are from an online retailer. (Annie can’t remember which.) “This entire bathroom was about $3,000,” she says.
Wall paint: Calm, by Benjamin Moore; subway tile, travertine and black tile: Stone & Wood Outlet in Portland; vanity: Ikea; shower curtain and towel: Urban Outfitters
This is the half bath, which the couple gutted down to the studs and renovated in 2011. Last year they added a new door and the wood ceiling.
This is the first phase of the renovation; the Wises later replaced the flooring with large dark subway tile.
Annie and Eric painted the mural in 2011 before their first son was born, and it has been featured in a few home publications. The theme was 1950s alien invasion. The buildings are among their favorites in the area; the local St. John’s bridge is also depicted, as well as Oregon’s Mt. Hood.
The couple originally placed their son’s crib right beneath the spaceship with the ray of light beaming down. “This took us about a month to paint, layer by layer,” Annie says. They handmade the stuffed aliens.
Bed, bedding, orange lamp and nightstand: Ikea; gray pouf: Target
The Wises purchased this vintage dresser for $90 on Craigslist and used it as a changing table when their son was little; it became simply a dresser once he was older. The wall is covered in chalkboard paint. The artwork belonged to Annie’s grandparents and is from Asia. The marionette is a souvenir from Prague.
This is the master bedroom. The Wises removed the carpet from all the bedrooms before moving into the home in 2008 and put in wood floors.
Wall paint: Worldly Gray, by Sherwin-Williams; bedding: Restoration Hardware; pillowcases: West Elm; green velvet pillow, curtains: Ikea; brass bedside lamp, nightstands: vintage; rug: West Elm; blanket: vintage Pendleton
The master bedroom has a full wall of cabinetry, which includes a double closet and drawers. Ample built-in storage in all the bedrooms eliminated the need for many furniture pieces. “One of the things I loved about this house so much was that it was just so efficient,” Annie says. “It had a lot of storage and lent itself to a more minimal lifestyle.”
Inside the vintage gumball machine are tiny buildings the couple have collected on their travels.
After spending six months on the renovation, the Wises sold the home in October.
“It was incredibly hard,” Annie says. “We’re living down the street so I see it all the time. It’s hard once you get it the way you want it and then having to sell that.” But with a growing family (two boys, ages 4 and 1), the couple wanted a new home with a little more interior space and land, and in a better school district. They’re still looking for their perfect next home.
A key goal for their next place: space where Eric can work on old cars, one of his favorite hobbies. The midcentury rancho has only a carport. The Wises are considering building a new home, or they may buy a fixer-upper and renovate again.