Crafting the Right Blend

Design-build firm Build Forward strikes a perfect remodel balance between historic and contemporary.

Kitchen photos by Clementine Hage. Bathroom photos by Genny Moller.

Is it possible to bring a splash of contemporary taste into a traditional Northeast Portland Craftsman-style home without compromising the integrity of either design style?

With Portland design-build firm Build Forward it is. 

Headed up by owner and CEO Javier Montalvo, Build Forward specializes in custom residential and commercial remodels. The Craftsman-home clients came to the company with several challenges for both their outdated kitchen and a small upstairs bathroom, not the least of which was injecting a flair for contemporary style while respecting the historic elements of the home. 

The way Build Forward Design and Construction accomplished that in the kitchen was through the addition of a cozy breakfast nook, designed in collaboration with interior designer Miranda Waser. The team explored the idea by taking the clients to the Buffalo Gap, a century-old saloon just across from Sellwood, where they sat at the most coveted table. 

“It’s very private and cozy,” Montalvo says. “We decided to take the homeowners there for a drink and use it as a chance to show them our idea. They loved it!”

The nook went into a space formerly occupied by a closet and the existing pantry. While that may seem like a good way to eat up storage space — which the clients were already lacking — Build Forward had a solution: Design a new floor-to-ceiling pantry and cabinetry that more than meets their needs. 

“Because we designed the floor-to-ceiling pantry with so much space and storage, the use of the closet and pantry spaces for the nook did not use up unnecessary space,” Montalvo says. “In fact, it opened it up and created more visual space.”  

The kitchen remodel also included new cabinets and stainless-steel appliances, sleek vertical tiles to open up the space visually, and a handsome island for gathering. The Build Forward team also got creative in rewiring the new kitchen for appliances and lights without disturbing much of the original lathe and plaster that’s part of the original charm.

Upstairs, the homeowners hoped to enlarge a bathroom and give it the feel of an en suite bathroom while also making it accessible to their son. Montalvo says they used every square inch available to quadruple the footprint, including enlarging a small dormer. Doing so meant that existing posts had to be retrofitted to sit directly on the existing foundation walls while preserving the aesthetic. 

“We were able to install the structural posts into closet corners, hidden, but taking up as little space as possible while still meeting safety standards and building codes,” Montalvo says. 

The bathroom also got new tile on the floor and walls, a double vanity and sinks, and a glass-enclosed shower. But the centerpiece of the new space is actually something that came original with the home: a stunning cast-iron bathtub that — along with glazed tiles, soft lighting, candles and other decorative accents — gives the bathroom a spa-like feel. 

“Our favorite part was reusing the original cast-iron tub,” Montalvo says. “It truly became the focal point for the design, as it should.” 

In the end, he adds, both projects accomplished just what the clients had hoped — and then some. 

“Just as in the kitchen, we were able to combine the homeowners’ more contemporary tastes and color palette — they loved the sage-green look of the glazed tile — while still respecting the classic design of a traditional Northeast Portland Craftsman,” Montalvo says. “The results are stunning.”