If you walked into the 1910 Bradshaw house featured on this year’s Irvington Home Tour, you might imagine that it’s little changed since namesake owners, Charles and Helen, moved in. Atmospheric, gracious and lived-in, its rooms seem to be the work of generations – as though a succession of family members had stewarded the house gently into the 21st century.
In fact, the current owners bought it just 2+ years ago – for 246 times its original cost of $6,000. Having moved from a small contemporary loft in San Francisco, they brought no furniture to their 4889 square foot Foursquare in Portland. And though they appreciated its “vintage style,” they were, in their own words, “novices.”
But they had the good luck to find local interior designer Vicki Simon’s profile on houzz.com. With a passion for old houses and 30 years’ experience, she designs unique spaces that respect period architecture and details; modern-day functionality; and clients’ tastes, treasures and history.
That’s not an easy balance to strike, but for Vicki, “The beauty’s in the mix.” She spares no effort to achieve storied and eclectic interiors that hang together in a seemingly effortless and inevitable way.
Case in point: the downstairs powder room. Originally a telephone room, it had already been converted in a nod to modern-day function. But the results were clumsy and workaday – with a lilac and green color scheme grounded in the oversized hexagonal floor tiles, a dropped ceiling and trim that didn’t play nicely with the original window frame, and a sink vanity that was too large for the space.
With architecture in her background, Vicki hand drew the design for a coffered ceiling. It still conceals structural beams inside the staircase, but adds height to the space, is well-integrated with the window frame, and echoes the historic character of the adjoining rooms.
She found an antique table for the sink vanity on one of many shopping trips. Unlike a bulky cupboard, its open legs create the illusion of more space while still offering storage. A bowl of hand towels rests in the stretchers near the floor, which is now resurfaced in discreet white 1-inch hex tiles.
She was just as unstinting in other rooms. For the den beyond pocket doors, Vicki suggested a dark color scheme. It contrasts with the bright, reflective walls of the sitting room, marks off the area as a cozy retreat, and minimizes glare on the wall-mounted tv screen. A grey archival lotus print from Farrow and Ball covers the walls and tin tiles in a deep copper line the ceiling. The complex blue-black paint on the wainscoting and window and door frames was a hard-won success. When the first attempt turned out too blue, Vicki absorbed the cost of remixing and repainting. The space is finished with an antique punch clock. Restoring vintage pieces is a hobby in the clients’ family.
As part of the creative brief, they had asked for feminine curves to offset the Foursquare’s masculine angles. Vicki delivered in full measure – with an oval dining table and round coffee and breakfast tables, the swooping lines of armchairs and sofas, and lighting with curvy silhouettes. She scoured antique shops as far away as Seattle to find vintage fixtures and named each to ease communication with her clients and contractors. A metal lotus with a golden sheen, “Flor” illuminates the entry hall, for example.
Looking back on the 10-month experience, Vicki’s clients couldn’t be happier in their home. They credit her not only with “bringing out its soul,” but also with turning them into vintage design “aficionados.”