Judging by his famous photographs of seemingly transparent midcentury modern dwellings, the late Julius Shulman might have been attracted to Sid and Teresa Scott’s house in Dunthorpe.
Here, natural light is artfully guided inside through glass that wraps around a south-facing, central courtyard.
One could imagine Shulman, whose influential images of a patio-centric, post-World War II way of living ricocheted around the world, setting up a tripod at the edge of the courtyard’s pavers here and waiting for twilight.
Had the acclaimed architecture photographer done so, he could have perhaps captured another angle of entertaining at a house open to the outdoors.
But the Scotts’ Northwest contemporary house didn’t always have elegant movement between spaces.
Although it was built in 1960 when Modernist architecture’s open concept of fewer interior walls was spreading into suburbia, this floor plan was “really more traditional with a series of rooms blocked by walls and doors,” says Sid Scott.
“We stripped away everything, made the structure stronger” and energy efficient, “and brought it up to code. Then we started over to create a connection to the outdoors,” says Sid, an architect and principle of Portland-based S|EA, a commercial and residential architecture and interior design firm.
Teresa’s focus was on picturesque, water-wise landscaping. Together, they remade their home to follow the hillside topography. Glass walls, doors and windows frame garden vistas from every room.
Across a third of an acre, mature rhododendrons, azaleas and rosebushes thrive alongside new plantings of perennials showcasing seasonal colors. Irises and peonies bloom in spring and summer alongside a rocky stream that borders the property.
“It’s a beautiful site,” says Sid Scott.
Remaking a forlorn property
The Scotts bought the property “as is” in March 2017 and gutted the house, which was in rough shape. “There was a tarp on the leaky roof,” says Sid.
They removed unnecessary, confining walls, installed larger windows and oriented the two existing sides of the main floor plus a seamless garage addition toward a new courtyard were there once was unkept grass.
“Our courtyard is a wonderful activity space for dinner and events,” says Sid, whose firm’s philosophy is “People First. Design Forward.”
Brian Libby, who writes the informative Portland Architecture blog and produces In Search of Portland podcasts, led a discussion at the event, which is part of an annual series to benefit the Architects in Schools program.
Later, Libby talked about how Sid and Teresa Scott have transformed a number of forlorn Portland properties.
“They really have a way of breathing new life into these spaces,” says Libby. “As an architect, Sid has a keen eye, but he also comes from a family in the lumber business, and I think that gives his homes a sense of warmth that can only come from the texture and color and patina of wood.”
The exterior has vertical rough-sawn wood siding in two different widths installed in a random pattern.
An original windowless shop is now a family room with giant glass panels and a vaulted ceiling.
Scott says, “The home told us what it wanted to be.”
[AFTER with a large picture window in the family room that once was a workshop.]
[BEFORE No windows in the front facade]
[AFTER family room and kitchen]
Hidden from the street
Overgrown shrubs and blackberries once obscured the property. “I went to the building department to get a permit and the guy at the counter pulled up a photo and it was funny that you could not even see the house,” recalls Sid.
The split-level dwelling was easy to ignore for another reason: It looked like an unsurprising single story. Inside, however, original architect Daniel McGoodwin had designed five subtle elevation changes to accommodate the property, which gradually drops 20 feet from one corner to the other.
[BEFORE with claustrophobic rooms]
[AFTER living room]
[AFTER dining room]
[BEFORE dining room and kitchen]
The elevation shifts start at the front door. Three steps lead to the main living level. Below, the vaulted master suite and bedrooms are linked by half flights of stairs.
The lowest level was an unfinished basement that the Scotts integrated into the remodeled home.
“We put windows in and connected it to the north yard,” he says.
Teresa had boulders natural to the property moved to gardens bordering the sunny courtyard. Dogwoods, Mexican orange blossoms and Spiraea shrubs as well as grass-like, flowering Liriope and carex were selected for year-round color, fragrance and texture.
“As a bonus, they require minimal maintenance and watering,” she says.
With views now extending to the hills, this 60-year-old house, once closed up and concealed, “just keeps going,” says Sid.
Title: Architect’s remodeled 60-year-old Portland home is picture perfect
Author: Janet Eastman
Date: February 3, 2020