Function With Form

Interior designer Amy Pearson helps restore functionality and charm to a 1907 Portland home.

There was a time when a particular home in Southeast Portland dripped with architectural charm. Built in 1907, the Buckman Classic is a blend between Victorian and Craftsman styles, boasting intricate siding details redolent of San Francisco’s famous “Painted Ladies” but with cleaner lines.

However, over the years, a series of what interior designer Amy Pearson calls “unfortunate remodels” stripped the home not only of its original details but also its functionality. Bringing that all back is just the kind of challenge that Pearson likes to take on.

“I really love the architecture side of design, the space planning, the finishes, figuring out what an appliance can do to improve my clients’ daily lives,” Pearson says. “And making a space function better is my favorite part.”

A Portland designer who specializes largely in residential remodels, Pearson says the Buckman clients’ main request for remodeling the kitchen and upstairs bathroom was a common one.

“They needed more space,” she says. “That’s a pretty regular request — clients often need their space to live bigger, but we need to stay within the existing walls.”

Before the remodel, the kitchen had very little counter space and limited cabinetry. A bulky refrigerator ate up a sizeable chunk of the room. Upstairs, the bathroom had only a pedestal sink and no usable counter space. And an odd nook once used for a stacked washer and dryer offered little functional space.

Pearson’s design for the refreshed kitchen included beautiful Pratt + Larson tile throughout and new custom cabinets. On a previously blank wall, new cabinets offer functional storage, countertop workspace and hidden microwave storage. At the far-end wall of the kitchen, updated windows are flanked by two tower storage cabinets with counter space and seating between. Below the countertops on one side is a set of drawers; below the other is a custom dog-feeding station with a wall-mount pot filler for topping off a water bowl. (Though the homeowners’ dog, Lenny, passed before the remodel was completed, the station is ready for a new friend when the owners are.)

“The refrigerator placement posed the biggest challenge in the space,” Pearson says.

To solve it, Pearson and her team opted to remove an old, nonfunctioning chimney running through the walls from the basement to the roof. Taking it out opened up a perfect cavity for the refrigerator.

“That was one of the really cool installation elements of the project,” Pearson says. “The refrigerator is recessed into the wall and visually went away!”

Losing the chimney also created space upstairs for a new linen closet.

But it was the primary bathroom that needed most of the attention upstairs. The clients had wished for a larger shower, more storage and, if possible, two sinks. Pearson delivered all of that, as well as a custom floral tile design on the floor.

“Oftentimes when I leave a space, I have an idea what our solution may be,” she says. “We go back to the office and draw out the space like Tetris pieces and just see what we can move around to make the room function better.”

The project also included a cosmetic refresh of a powder bathroom downstairs, which Pearson described as “its own little jewel box of a space.” Unlike the white trim throughout the rest of the house, Pearson went with a black ceiling and trim in the powder bath. In a nod to the home’s original charm, Pearson and team went with a new cheeky wallpaper — a modern take on toile — depicting safari animals at a cocktail party.

Pearson says the whole project went smoothly, in part because of the collaborative approach she likes to take with her clients. It’s not about Pearson coming up with a design but how she collaborates with clients to tailor one for them. That’s something that this client noticed.

“She turned to me at one point and said, ‘You are our design sherpa!’” Pearson says. “I thought that was the sweetest way to describe how we work with our clients. It’s not about us, it’s about them. Our job is to guide them to an end design that speaks to them and their story.”

She also attributes the success of the project to the incredible working relationship she and her team have established with the general contractor, Creative Design & Construction, and all of their trade partners.

“We all agree that it takes a team to get to the end of a perfectly completed project,” Pearson says, “and we all have so much respect for what everyone brings to the project!”