A young family’s vintage Portland home receives a lively refresh with brushes of soft color and whimsical prints.
Written by Kimberly Olson / Photography by David Papazian
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Almost immediately after designer Jennifer Leonard wrapped up work on Leslie and Devon Nevius’ Portland home, the couple began searching for a new one to accommodate their growing family. This time around, it was a spacious 1923 Dutch Colonial with a large yard that they had always envisioned. And, says Leslie, “All of the bedrooms are upstairs, and the main living area has a circular flow to it for easy entertaining.” Although the layout was ideal, the house had been remodeled over the years—with an addition built on—so they turned once again to Leonard to put a fresh spin on their new digs.
Getting started, Leonard engaged in a little subtractive decorating. The bedrooms, which had been previously carpeted, received new hardwood floors to match the living spaces, visually unifying the entire home. Then she began envisioning the living spaces, using rugs as a jumping-off point. “Whether a rug is quiet or loud or even somewhere in between, they are an important foundation,” she explains.
“A good quality hand-knotted carpet is worth the investment.” For example, when she found a one-of-a-kind oversize wool-and-silk rug while shopping at High Point Market in North Carolina, she immediately thought of the living room. “It was lovely in the space—a quiet backdrop of taupe, muddy-gray blues and greens, and creamy golds for the furnishings and art to play off of,” she says. These tones are reflected in the rest of the home’s soft palette of taupes, blues and grays punctuated with some sassy surprises of lime green, gold, turquoise, aqua and chartreuse.
The designer also incorporated patterns and prints, to Leslie’s delight. “Decorating the house isn’t something
I’m going to be doing every couple of years, so I wanted patterns that I love,” she says. “There are fabrics on chairs that make me happy every time I look at them. In the living room, for instance, we have two swivel chairs with a trellis pattern, and we have chairs in our master bedroom that are really fun, with birds and lily pads on them.” Leonard also brought in pattern via wallpaper, including a Phillip Jeffries textured weave over metallic gold in the dining room, as well as one that features grand magnolia blooms in the entry hall. “Wallpaper can transform a space in ways paint can’t,” the designer notes.
Nearly all of the furnishings from the owners’ previous home were used in their new one. “When designing their first house, we knew it would not be their forever home,” Leonard says. “This meant being mindful in the purchases to ensure most of the furniture could transfer to a future space.” Some pieces were refreshed for the new digs, such as the couple’s antique dining chairs, which were recovered in lush silk, velvet and mohair.
Throughout, Leonard bridged her clients’ aesthetic preferences. “I love mixing old and new, and so does Leslie,” says the designer. “I think it gives a house more character, a history, a soul. Antiques feel authentic and genuine to me—classic pieces that can provide a storied backdrop to the new furnishings.” Adds Devon, “Our previous home was about 30 years older, but the owners had done a modern addition to that house, so there was going to be an infusion of modern. Through that process, I started to trust Jennifer’s aesthetic and how she would naturally blend the two worlds.”
Devon got to fully live out his midcentury modern aesthetic in his Mad Men room, a stylish retreat complete with its original wood paneling, a built-in bar, a pool table and animal hide on the floor, making it the ideal spot to watch a game. Meanwhile, Leslie let her personal style
fly unfettered in her dressing room, a space worthy of a Hollywood starlet with an elegant dressing table and inviting window seat. Wallpaper with brightly colored birds darting among foliage and glamorous beaded sconces round out the space. “It was a fun room to decorate,” she says. “I ran with this one and went a little girly.”
In the end, the couple trusted Leonard to help procure every detail for their home—from the art to linens and even down to the flowers. “I was planting flowers in their new flowerpots when they brought their first son home from the hospital,” she recalls. That close relationship has translated into a space that reflects their style and works perfectly for the family. “There are so many houses that have a sequestered living room with the white carpet that nobody goes into,” Devon says. “But our home is fully functional and fully used.”