When I packed up my car and headed West to Portland, Oregon in November of 2000, I had no idea how that decision would impact the rest of my life. Like our pioneering forefathers who took a similar leap of faith – I didn’t know what I’d encounter, who I’d meet, or if I’d ever return to the East Coast. I now know that not only was my decision a good one, but it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.
At the time, my job required a lot traveling, and I had just started regularly traveling to Asia, as well as other parts of the Pacific Rim, Africa and Europe. I had always been a fan of architecture, and as a boy even aspired to become an architect, but ultimately chose an engineering path. However, I always held a soft spot for architecture in my heart.
Having the opportunity to travel abroad quickly opened my eyes to the vast differences and infinite styles of architecture that our world has to offer. But before that – even as I first got to know Portland and its seemingly endless little nooks and crannies of neighborhoods – I was amazed at the different styles of homes here that we just didn’t have where I grew up in New Jersey. Most of the architectural differences were due to the fact that Oregon was settled at least 100 years (if not closer to 200) after New Jersey, and residential architecture clearly changed a lot in that time. But I won’t bore you with a history lesson.
From a very young age, I considered myself something of a do-it-yourselfer and my favorite show had always been “This Old House”. I loved the way they’d take a home renovation project and walk you through every step – the before, during, and after – from the first day of work to the last. I would tune-in and marvel at the transformation that would routinely take place season after season. I knew that someday, I’d have a house of my own house and had always dreamed of taking an old home and making it new again – all while respecting its historical context and maintaining its “old house charm”.
During my first four years in Portland, I lived in almost every type of situation you could think of – shared houses, apartments, a duplex, and occasionally a friend’s couch in between. In 2004, after the place a buddy and I had been renting was sold right out from under us, I decided to explore the possibility of (gasp!) home ownership. The housing market had been blowing up for several years and it seemed like anybody could just go to a bank, get pre-approved for a loan and (boom!) buy a house.
In the spring of 2004, with my financial pre-approval letter in hand (which as you may recall, was considerably easier to get back then!), I started house hunting. It was during this time, that I really started immersing myself in the styles of homes that abound here in Portland. Without any hesitation, I can say that the most dominant house style in Portland is the bungalow…and I fell in love with it.
I now knew what I was looking for – an older home with character, a bungalow – two or three bedrooms, a decent yard and good bones. And of course, in order to fulfill my dream of a house restoration, it would have to be a fixer – something I could restore, put my blood, sweat, and tears into, and really make my own.
After touring dozens of homes, I finally came upon this little gem (above). When I saw the listing, it wasn’t even officially on the market yet, but I told my realtor that the day it went public, we had to go see it. I was the third person to view the house that day and the other two people had already made offers. THIS HOUSE WAS THE ONE and I knew that if I was going to get it, I would have to be bold. I submitted an offer that was a few thousand bucks over what they were asking and I waived the house inspection contingency. 24 hours later, I got the word that they had accepted my offer…THE HOUSE WAS MINE!!
As I started assessing what projects I would undertake, I began reading more and more about bungalow style, and my enthusiasm sky-rocketed. Over the 5 years that we lived in that house, I completed a number of period authentic restoration projects including: two bathroom renovations, a complete kitchen remodel, rebuilding the garage, installing new skylights, new exterior French doors, an expanded new deck, and countless others.
With each successful project, I put another notch on my belt. By the time 2009 came around, my wife and I started thinking about having our first child and we quickly realized that we would need more room. So you know what that meant – a new house! And with a new house comes lots of new projects…and I was ready for the challenge.