In Portland’s West Hills neighborhood, a recently married couple weds family treasures, modern design and a twist on tradition in their first home, all while waiting to welcome their first child.
Written by Stephanie Boyle Mays / Photography by David Papazian
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Leslie Nevius was feeling a bit overwhelmed. She and her husband Devon had married seven months earlier, they were expecting their first child in an-other seven months, and they had bought their first house a month before. While it was time to say good-bye to make-do and put-it-together-yourself furniture, the couple needed to furnish their home with something, and they still had pieces they wanted to keep and integrate. It was clear to Leslie that she needed a designer.
“I think I have good taste,” Nevius explained, “but I wanted to know how everything would be put together. I could pick out random nice things, but I wanted nice things that went together and made sense.” And she wanted to be an integral part of the process. The first designer Nevius spoke with did-n’t seem interested in the collaborative approach that she wanted. While the clock metaphorically ticked on the wall, Nevius considered an unusual plan B.
“The house was built in 1890. We assumed it would need some work, so my husband had bought a subscription to Angie’s List. He suggested I look there. I thought you don’t find designers on Angie’s List, you find plumbers and carpenters. But I also thought, he had bought the subscription, so I might as well try it.
“Once I started looking, I read a lot of rave reviews for Jennifer Leonard at Nifelle Design. When I met Jennifer, I immediately felt comfortable with both her aesthetic and approach.”
“When Leslie and I met,” said Leonard, “Leslie explained what she needed, and the timeframe in which it needed to be accomplished. It was an all-encompassing project, and we had six months to decorate the home with the acquired look that Leslie wanted.”
We dove in right away. It was very important to Leslie that we blend her more traditional style with her husband’s more modern tastes, and that we include pieces that had belonged to her parents. In the guest bedroom, for example, we based the design on a Chinese silk rug that had belonged to her mother.”
In the downstairs public rooms, the two drafted their plans from the ground up by refinishing wood floors with a Jacobean stain and choosing beautiful and hard-wearing hand-knotted wool rugs from Kush Handmade Rugs that would set the tone and palette. “After seeing Jennifer’s approach of working from the rugs up, it just started to make sense,” recalled Nevius. “I went from thinking ‘I can’t bring a baby home to this,’ to being able to breathe normally again.”
For the dining room, Leonard found a mahogany dining table fashioned in New York circa 1810 at Fred Squire Antiques in Lake Oswego. Complementary mahogany chairs date from the 1890s. The seats and backs of the side chairs are upholstered in blue mohair while the chairs at the heads of the table traded out blue mohair for inserts of silk fabric from G.P & J Baker. At the back of the room, an Edwardian-era drop-down desk was converted into a bar. A chandelier from Currey & Co provides nighttime lighting.
In the living room, a hand-knotted Pakistani rug from Kush provides a pivot point for the room’s design. A sofa with a unique cut out is covered in a viscose-and-linen blend from Kravet. As with many of the home’s other fabrics, the sofa was treated with Fiber-Seal to provide stain resistance. Elsewhere in the room, a glass coffee table from Stanley allows a view of the rug, while the bolsters on the sofa and pillows on a pair of armless chairs are covered in the same blue mohair that is used in the dining room.
The easiest area to redo was the kitchen at the back of the house, and it was a microcosm of the blend that Nevius wanted to achieve. The previous homeowners had built an addition that included the modern kitchen, eating area and family room. Here, Leonard blended a modern sideboard that Devon Nevius had owned with a new table and chairs from The Good Mod and bar stools that had come with the house. In the kitchen proper, hanging smoke-colored glass pendants from the Caviar line by Laura Kirar at Arteriors pushed the room to the more modern end of the home’s design continuum. Art work that had belonged to Leslie’s mother was reframed at Katayama, and then hung over the sideboard to round out the blend of old, new and acquired.
Upstairs, the master bedroom was designed to provide a respite for the parents-to-be. A dressing area was equipped with an inherited chair from Leslie’s mother reupholstered in a modern tweed with bits of teal, cream, chartreuse and greens. To balance the tweed, an ottoman was covered in a bright solid from Kravet’s custom line. Across the room, tables from Bedford Brown flank a bed from Mitchell Gold. The bed is dressed in SDH Legna sheets and topped with custom-made pil-lows in the same fabric as the dressing-area ottoman. At the foot of the bed, sits a bench covered in a gold-thread embroidered linen from Anna French at Thibaut.
The room with the tightest – and most important – deadline was the nursery. Not only did it have to be ready for the impending arrival, but it also had to be suitable for future children. Walls painted in Divine Butter provide a foil for bright pops of color in the valances, rug and throw pillow. Practical touches include blackout shades and lots of storage. A wall of open shelves provides space for toys, books and treasures from both Leslie and Devon’s childhoods. Other family treasures in the room include framed Winnie the Pooh prints from the new arrival’s paternal grandmother.
“My challenge was to have everything work together and do it quickly,” said Leonard, “but Leslie has such exquisite taste and was so interested and involved with the whole process that it was just wonderful to work with her and see it all come together.”
“When we finished,” says Nevius of her completed home. “I would sit in every room and just admire it. I am so proud of how comfortable, beautiful and elegant it is. It is a completely livable home.”