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Introducing Our Portland Fixer Upper



Welcome to our new Portland, OR, fixer upper folks because I was desperately in need of something to do (ha). Here’s how it all went down – my brother and sister-in-law were looking to invest in real estate and I was looking for an investor in which to do more high-end projects with no client, for content. So we struck a deal – they would buy the house, I’d design it (with the help of the wonderful Portland-based designer/project manager Jenna Sheingold) and document the whole thing – with complete creative control!!! No client = faster, more beautiful work and more transparent blog posts. YAY. Then after we are done with the content (and maybe an event or two) we’d put it on the market, sell it to someone very lucky, and I get a portion of their net profits. We just entered the big time, and it’s terrifying but so fun. There is a lot to tell you. Let’s start with the basics:

1. It was3,500 square feet but will be 4,800 sqft when we are done with the addition. It sits on .69 acre on a very private street.

2. It’s in the Dunthorpe area of Portland (in an amazing Riverdale school district, and one of the most beautiful older neighborhoods in all of USA).

3. It’s a mid-1980’s house that needed a complete re-haul and a big dose of soul. It was originally cheaply done.

4. They bought it for $850k. (update: the original amount that was estimated to put into it was hilariously under estimated so i’ve edited that so buyers don’t think we only put $500k into it – more to come on that). To call it a flip would be inaccurate. I mean, who buys an $850k flip?? (Ken and Katie, not me :)). I’m doing it to create a showhouse of my work – a set for content creation that isn’t in my own home, and the profit is a hopeful bonus. But since we need to sell it I also have to make sure that I do something with mass appeal, that is timeless, classic and worthy of the neighborhood. But still ‘me’. It’s so exciting and it’s a style that I really haven’t ever done before. Our LA house is traditional but more cottage-y and casual. This is going to be more formal and yet modern (duh). Think mosaic tile and copper hoods …. but with modern lighting and art.

These are the types of houses that are in the neighborhood:

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Dunthrope Estates 02

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Dunthrope Estates 03 Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Dunthrope Estates 01

They are generally older, they are almost always big (3500 +), they have beautiful landscaping and they typically feel really grand, more formal and have a decent sized property.

So I have an opportunity to do something special, design-wise and use splurge-y finishes that would typically be outside our budget.

Oh and one of the best parts is that my brother is learning EVERYTHING about renovation along the way, so someday (soon) he can be the GC and I can finally live out my dream of having someone in my family be a contractor (Brian refuses).

Despite looking fine, this house is a total gut job. So let’s take a tour of it, shall we?

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Front Of House Edited With Copy Note

The exterior is pretty basic with fairly inexpensive finishes, for now…

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Front Of House 02 Edited With Copy

It needs new windows, doors, siding and just a better purpose in life. The landscaping is full of missed opportunities but the property is big (almost an acre) and it’s set back off a street and feels super private. The potential is absolutely there.

Here is the original floorplan, with two floors – an entry level floor and a basement level (that opens to the backyard).

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It originally had 3 bedrooms, with the master being right off the family room and the other two in the basement. Totally fine for a normal house, but since it’s in this neighborhood with really beautiful larger ‘estates’ (not really but that’s how they feel) we need it to be bigger and better.

Here is where we are headed:

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Here are the major changes:

  1. Turn the master bedroom into a large formal dining room.
  2. Add stairway to the new 3rd floor.

We essentially gutted the entire thing (my brother demoed it himself because he’s just that cool and strong) but I think it’s still fun to see the before photos. Just know that virtually every single thing is changing. I didn’t even see it before it was gutted (I’m in LA, the house is in Portland) so these are just the real estate photos. Ken worked directly with an architect and a general contractor to get the plans, and then I hired a designer/project manager (the lovely Jenna Sheingold) to help me with it and be on site when needed.

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos First Floor Entry Edited With CopyEmily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos First Floor Living Room Edited With CopyEmily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos First Floor Master Bedroom Edited With Copy

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos First Floor Master Bathroom Edited With Copy 01

The trickiest room is going to be this room below – what was and will be the family room – which opens up to the patio and the new formal dining room.

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos First Floor Family Room Edited With Copy

It’s always a bit tricky trying to put a seating area in the middle of a pass-through room, but we can do it.

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos First Floor Kitchen 01 Edited With Copy 01

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos First Floor Kitchen 02 Edited With Copy

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos First Floor Bathroom Edited With Copy 01

Below is the office, which will be the new office (with pretty built-ins).

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos First Floor Office Edited With Copy

Now to the basement which we are renaming the ‘ground floor’ because this floor will not feel like a basement anymore.

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The storage area was HUGE, so we moved the bedroom, to make a HUGE media room and wet bar. And I’m putting in my fantasy laundry room. Someday I’ll have a huge laundry room that doesn’t also have to house the cat box…

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Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Ground Floor Media Room 02 Edited With Copy

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Ground Floor Media Room Edited With Copy

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Ground Floor Bedroom1 Edited With Copy

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Ground Floor Bathroom Edited With Copy

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Ground Floor Bedroom 02 Edited With Copy

Gone, gone it’s all gone!!! A total redo in every way and it will open into the backyard which you’ll see below.

On to the second floor (the new addition), which will all be new construction obviously. We are adding 3 bedrooms, 2 baths a small laundry room and a big walk-in.

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UPDATE: there is a small laundry room/closet on the 3rd floor! (right next to master).

Now to the side yard.

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Backyard Garage Edited With Copy

It’s a big pretty property with a lot of mature trees (which you know I love) that just needs some TLC. The garage will be dual purpose – for cars, obviously but we are pimping it out to be a dope rec room in the winter. My brother has all the ideas for that (something about a basketball hoop, rock wall … some sort of workout thing … I don’t know, but stay tuned for that.)

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Backyard 01 Edited With Copy

We are making the deck much bigger (big enough to have a living and dining room with a huge outdoor TV – which my brother is insisting on having) and then adding another covered patio that spills out of the giant media room.

Of course, when Ken told me that he already chopped down trees to give the house more natural light I had flashbacks of my traumatic tree-cutting episode, but then he reminded me that in Oregon there are TONS of trees and there is a huge lacking in natural light. And if there is one thing I like more than a shady LA yard, it’s a naturally bright house. We are adding all these amazing skylights (with blinds) from Velux to maximize it even more.

Emily Henderson Portland Fixer Upper Traditional Before Photos Backyard 02 Edited With Copy 01

This house would likely be a family house so we want the yard to be more usable with some more flat grassy space and some space for entertaining, too.

I was going to show you inspiration images but honestly, the design of it is still in the beginning stages and I want them to be accurate. Of course, you can troll my Pinboard to see where I’m headed.

We are looking to put it on the market in May and I’ll be creating a ton content around it, essentially living in Portland that month. I’d love to do a big event there before it’s listed and create some buzz and meet a bunch of you. We have some great sponsors on board and I’d love to work with any local companies for staging. We’ll need everything – like EVERYTHING to design and style every single room. The idea would be that the new owner would likely purchase a lot of it, but regardless there would be an opportunity for press, PR and professional photos of your work in the house. While the style of the house is more grand and formal we obviously want it to feel a little modern and edgy. I think anything too boho won’t work and as of right now the art direction isn’t terribly rustic. As the design direction gets formalized if you think your art could be staged in this home, let us know! Since the house is so traditional I’ll be looking to edge it up for art (aka I might use vintage portraits, but I don’t really think so as of right now).

Meanwhile, I have to go because I (and Jenna) have SO MUCH WORK TO DO. Both this house and the mountain fixer upper need design plans ASAP and yet I don’t want to rush and make mistakes or miss opportunities.

Wish us luck. We look pretty confident here …. right? Also yes, we look a lot alike. The Starke’s have VERY strong genes …

Emily And Ken High Five Gif 1

Any questions, comments or concerns? It’s a lot, I know…

I think the real question is…are we going to love it so much that we sell our place in LA and finally move back to Portland to our newly designed huge house on a lot with gorgeous old trees 2 blocks away from my brother?????

P.S. As we get closer we will need help with the installation so if you are looking to get some experience on that and want to help out, let us know. I’ll likely fly up a few of my people here, but it’s a big job … 🙂 Email [email protected] and we’ll keep track and reach out as we are closer to the shopping/styling and shooting portion of the job.

Fin Mark


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Wow. Just wow. So many thoughts! The financial side obviously. You’re doing the work, but also getting free content and a chance to expand your portfolio so you’re getting more intangible benefits. Not expecting you to tell us how you’re working that with your family but I guess I hope that both sides feel happy with the decision. And I’m sure you’ve thought of this but maybe for others out there, even though you love your family and absolutely trust them, some form of written agreement is probably a good idea. I’d be curious about whether you have a declaration… Read more »


Amen to the contract suggestion. After a few experiences with family and (good chunks) of money, I actively try not to mix the two anymore.


Also Amen to the note about being aspirational! Also not a criticism but to say this blog hasn’t changed a bit recently would be a lie. Still and everyday read for me, just a different read. Good for you, Team EHD!


Did you guys consider laundry on the third (master bedroom) floor? Can be nice not to schlep it all to the basement, have seen that a lot in nicer newer houses


I was going to ask the same thing… this is what jumped out at me immediately when I saw the floorplan. I recommend you talk to some real estate agents in the area and see what potential buyers’ expectations are re. laundry rooms in this market… I live on the east coast in a neighborhood of larger homes in this same (target) price range, and here no one I know would buy a house with a basement laundry room. First floor/near the kitchen is acceptable (and what I have), but these days most people have in their minds that they… Read more »


This jumped out at me too. I only have to walk my laundry down one flight of stairs, but man is it difficult on my knees (and I’m not even that old yet!). 🙂


Perhaps a laundry shoot to the first floor would work also.


I thought the same thing. Or maybe a laundry chute to the ground level (do those even exist anymore?). Would love to hear the reasoning behind the decision. SO excited to see how this turns out!


I have a basement laundry and a chute and I LOVE (x 100) it. BUT- its because we have an older home. Modern fire codes don’t allow them.

Susie Q.



My washing machine is in the walk in closet right next to my bedroom and I STILL HATE DOING LAUNDRY. hahaha


It almost makes more sense to have one less bedroom upstairs and move the fantasy laundry/craft room/wrapping room on the third floor. I think it would be much better for re-sale


Yep…that’s what I’d do. Have an upstairs master suite, a single bedroom with attached bathroom and a craft/laundry space.

Also I kind of think I’d prefer having the dining space right off the kitchen instead of across a family room.


I agree with the above comment about a written contract. Not because anything shady would happen, but it’s better to get it all in writing before anything potentially goes wrong – or just to keep a clear understanding and avoid any miscommunications.

I had the same reaction to reading this as I do to reading people’s birth stories. My adrenaline started pumping and I got really excited. The lot is beautiful and the potential is almost too much to handle. This whole project is rumbling with grandeur! Can’t wait to see it unfold.


Yes that’s the sort of thing I was thinking of. Not expecting anything shady but it would clear up the potential for “wait, when you said 10% I thought you meant of the profit, not the sale price” or “when I said full creative control I didn’t mean $10k for a desk” type stuff.


Also, as a tax advisor, I agree that you need everything in writing, especially when you’re dealing with a related party. Not doing so can result in some nasty and unexpected tax consequences, especially in the realm of gift taxes. The IRS is much more likely to respect the way everything is being set up and divided between related parties if it is in writing and if a lawyer has been involved. Also, lawyers are great at so many things, but they don’t always do a great job of thinking about tax consequences or explaining them to a client, so… Read more »


This is awesome, can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

We just bought our forever home and are about to put some major investment into it. It’s a similar (ish) situation – run down house in a fantastic area on a big plot, which needs £100000s throwing at it (large extension/landscaping/new everything!). I’m thinking the style of this house will be similar to what I’m planning for my house 🙂 so excited to follow along.


As someone currently less than 2 weeks out from COMPLETING a whole home 3.5 month gut renovation job, I am SO excited for you and your family. As you know (probably better than most) it’s a wild, wild ride, but the payoff and getting to appreciate the end result is so worth it in the end. As soon as you see the finished space you quickly forget the stress and challenges you encountered along the way. It’s truly like birthing a child… without the unfortunate physical recovery! Best of luck and can’t wait to see what amazing design ideas you… Read more »


I am so excited about this; you’d think it was my house! Yay!!! That lot is stunning.


I’m SO EXCITED to see this whole process unfold on the blog! This house reminds me so much of one that I considered when I was buying (except the one I looked at was in the Boston ‘burbs, minor difference), right down to the bedrooms being on the lower floor and the huge trees all over the yard. I love that you guys are adding a second story, and the new first floor layout makes so much sense. This is going to be good!


I am so excited to follow along with this project! As a fellow designer, I can only imagine your excitement to design client free, but also not for yourself! (Us designers can be our own enemy at times!) This is an awesome opportunity and am so ready to follow along. I’d love to know how you got to the MUCH larger, new and improved layout/addition. How you worked with an architect, contractors, your brother, as well as Jenna and her team to get the plan to where it is today. There’s so much planning and coordination work on projects before… Read more »


4800 square feet?! For a probably older couple?! My first reaction was surprise. It seems like such an American thing to do, make the house huge to fit into the neighborhood. I can hardly complain, I live in a 3500 square feet but there are two adults and 5 kids in it.


Why are you assuming the house would be for an older couple? Emily said in the post that she figures it will be a family home. She even mentions the school district. If it’s the price that makes you think that then I’m thinking you live somewhere much cheaper than I do – in my neck of the woods, our 1800 square foot starter home cost over $1 million 🙁


She said it’ll probably be a family house – I imagine most of the houses in that neighborhood are family houses.


Really cool house! Can’t wait to see your plans come to life!! I just did a similar reno last year and did enough floor plan analyzing to last a lifetime. I’m sure you have considered all of these things, but I figured I’d put in my 2c anyhow. If I was a potential buyer, especially in the 1.5-2m price range, I wouldn’t want to schlep my laundry down two flights of stairs. Is there a way to fit in a laundry room in the master closet or somewhere on that floor? I also think an elevator shaft might be something… Read more »

Molly Notestine

This is gonna be awesome! My $0.02: I think it oughta have two masters if you’re shooting for that price point. Maybe make the full bath part of a 2nd master in the basement and squeeze in a powder room or 3/4 bath to the giant laundry area.


Yeah having a second master in the basement would be an awesome idea, and a half bath could be added town there. But maybe I’m a sucker for bathrooms 🙂


She mentions a laundry closet on the same floor as the master.


I was thinking the same about the dining room and the family room location. Will there be enough seating at the island in the kitchen for every day hangout/snacks/breakfast? I’m very excited for you and looking forward to see this beautiful house come along. I’m sure it will be stunning!!


I love your suggestion and my sister did exactly as you suggested and opened up the wall between her “family/living” rooms and made one large room with multiple seating areas – tv/lounge, and cool round table (works for food), etc. The multi zone room feels modern, inclusive and totally works!


Yes, I immediately felt the same about dining room/family room/kitchen order! Could be a deal breaker for anyone who cooks real meals for a real crowd! Awkward…..


I’m so excited for this! This house is similar to the style of my own fixer upper, and I can’t wait to steal your ideas!


Two thoughts: First thought—which you’ve already addressed in the comments…laundry in basement—laundry closet on second floor…it would be a deal breaker for me if I had to schlepp laundry up and down…ain’t nobody got time for that, so pimp out that second floor laundry closet and it will have all of my heart eyes! Second thought—the dining room separated from the kitchen by the family room…I would hate taking food through another room to get to the dining room. Might just be my personal preference though. Are dining rooms a thing anymore? If I have a dining room, it better… Read more »


I thought some of the same things as you. The formal dining room seems far in the floor plan. I’m sure in reality it’s really not as far as we think. However, I *think* I still agree with the floor plan with having the formal dining separate. *Think* being the key word. They aren’t used as much nowadays so I get having it separate. We just purchased our “forever” family home and one of my requests was to have a formal dining room. (I’m 30.) I just don’t really love eat-in kitchens/islands as much as most people. I don’t want… Read more »


How exciting!! I can’t wait to see what you do with it! It will be fun to see you add some glamour to the project. My one big concern is the only downstairs bathroom opens to the kitchen. I’ve been in houses like that at parties and the mingling smells can be pretty offensive. That would turn me off as a buyer. Can you close up that door and just have one entrance through the office? I get the convenience of it but It could be a regret later.


I’m with you Amelia- bathrooms directly off the kitchen are terrible. It could also open through the mudroom but that would be a bit of a hike from the main living areas. Not sure exactly what the perfect solution is, but definitely not off the kitchen. Another critique that has also already been mentioned is older buyers definitely look for a main floor master bedroom. I’m currently helping my parents look for a new home and anything without a master on the main floor is instantly ruled out.


What about having the powder room open to the mud room? It’s tucked away for guests & convenient when you walk in the door. It would also give you an opportunity to create a larger pantry…critical imo to get you as close to the 2m mark as possible. Could you consult a few realtors in your area that specialize in your price range & neighborhood? They may Be able to help you learn more about your target buyer. I’m so excited to see this come to life! I just Love down to the studs Renos and the creative thinking and… Read more »


Agreed. I had a friend with a house that had a powder room on the first floor that was surrounded by the kitchen, the family room, the dining room, and the hallway. It was in the center of everything and I HATED using it because it just didn’t feel private (the soundproofing wasn’t great either). Luckily, we were close, so I could run upstairs.


This sounds exciting and a little bit insane but still doable for you and your family. My comments are the following: 1) In response to “Our LA house is traditional but more cottage-y and casual. This is going to be more formal and yet modern (duh).” – I am surprised to see this written down because I’d never describe your LA house as casual. It seems formal to me, or at least, more formal than 95% of the homes I visit (of my friends and family). I totally get that this flip is aiming to be more formal, but maybe… Read more »


Looking forward to seeing the progress. But adding 3100 sq ft for $500K seems to be on the low side especially as I’ve heard (no first-hand knowledge) that additions/remodels tend to be more expensive than complete tear-downs. One comment on the design: personally, I wouldn’t want to go through the family room to carry the food from the kitchen to the dining room. But this may just be my lifestyle as we always use the dining room for eating and the eat-in table in the kitchen is used for homework and stuff.


I am curious about why the dining room is not next to the kitchen. It seems to me like the family would have to carry food/dishes, etc. back and forth through the family room in order to use the dining room. Or perhaps the intent is to have a family dining table in the family room and the “dining room” would only be used for dinner parties, etc. I can’t wait to follow along with your project! Dunthorpe is an absolutely gorgeous neighborhood. I am lucky to have been through a handful of open garden tours in that area and… Read more »


My living and dining area is open (no walls) and I recently moved my dining table six feet closer to the kitchen. Guess what? It made life so much easier for me in terms of picking up after a meal. I mean, the garbage can is going to be in the kitchen, right? So taking table scraps and used napkins from the dining room through the family room to the kitchen is going to get real old real fast. If six feet can do that much good for me, I wonder what flipping the dining and family room spaces could… Read more »


I’m excited to see a new style from you! I am in the process of selling my mid-century house and buying a 1920’s traditional house and the change in style is throwing me for a loop. So watching you merge a traditional home with modern style is perfect timing for me. I like seeing designers with a strong point of view tackle something a bit outside of their normal look. Good luck!


So this project sounds amazing, almost as amazing as the purple plaid coat you are rocking in the final photo. Please share the deets in an upcoming fashion post — maybe Emily rocks the Portland look while working on her Portland $$$ flip?! Such exciting news and looking forward to hearing about the process…


Only suggestion is not to put the laundry in the basement. I grew up in a house with a laundry room in the basement (with 3 levels and laundry shoots) and my Mom still hates it! A main floor laundry room is so nice or 3rd floor!


This is an exciting scope and project! In the basement (or first floor…that seems odd to me, a walk-out basement is still a basement) – it looks like you need a pocket or smaller width door into the second area of the bathroom. Currently it’s going to be hard to get in there and close the door. In Bedroom 3 you should soffit the ceiling of the area between the closet and door so the room reads as square and not L-shaped. Probably no easy way to fix that in Bedroom 4 since the door sits forward of the closet… Read more »


I agree – that would be really educational (I personally don’t know what some of those words mean!) and fun. Perhaps use your three current properties to compare and contrast some choices made for each: i.e. these windows could work in the LA house / these in Portland / these at the lake house. I lived in a series of historic homes through my childhood and young adulthood — now live in a small house in the woods build in 1987. I struggle still with stylistic choices whenever we do something structural to the house.


Can’t wait to follow along on this journey. So exciting! Not knowing the Portland real estate market, I’m astounded that the house listed for $850,000. A house like that in my town wouldn’t sell for more than $350,000 probably. This is going to be super fun to watch unfold.


Haha, it’s a funny world. I was astounded to see a decent house like that on a huge block being ONLY $850k. I live in Sydney, Australia. And something like that would sell for north of $4 million (I weep!)
I think I need to move to Portland!


A friend has a similar setup in that her ground floor has two bedrooms and a bath and a media/living room area. Has worked out great for her college children to be there as needed, so this setup would be very attractive to buyers with older children. Would consider that wet bar area also having the ability to be a small kitchenette of some kind for both Media Room functionality as well as someone (such as post college returnee) living there.


I second the comment about kitchenette v. wet bar. If you do a kitchenette, you can always propose this as an in-law suite, which is really sought after where I leave (bay area).

Interested From Afar

I’m confused about the bathrooms on the first floor – it appears from the floor plan that you’re taking out the full baths on the main floor (which makes sense to me since there are no BRs on that floor) but there are photos showing changes to the bathrooms (larger showers, etc) – are they out of order? is that really the main bath on the second floor?


Just a suggestion about the laundry closet, which seems to be a hot topic. Our machines are in the basement and I’m actually glad because they are loud sue to the super fast spin cycles (couple year old mid-end top loader). Since my husband likes to catch up on laundry on his nights off, if it were right by the bedrooms it would definitely wake up the little ones. I’d recommend some kind of sound proofing in the laundry closet.


I am so excited for this! I wish I lived in Portland and had the budget to buy it when you’re done; it is going to be gorgeous! Best of luck!

Marina H.

I love this idea…except”chop down a few trees” and “more grassy space”. Today’s trend is toward more natural-scaping and I suspect fans of your interior design work (which feels natural and organic) would also appreciate the modernity of a natural outdoor design that honors location and native plants. Speaking as a kid who grew up in the PNW, we didn’t need grass to play out of doors. I bet skylights and removing the covering over the porch would do wonders for bringing in additional light. Best of luck on this exciting new project!


Agree agree agree!!


I also agree! It looks like there’s plenty of lawn space in the front yard, and those backyard trees are so beautiful! Plus, shade cuts down on air conditioning needs.


In the PNW you have to worry a lot more about heating costs than air conditioning 🙂 I live in western Washington and we get full sun on the back of the house, which this time of year isn’t that often. It’s normally gloomy enough out that I wouldn’t want a house in full shade. Plus all those trees right by the house means lots of branches/ pine needles on the roof. Part of our gutter is perpetually clogged because of that.


Trees are beautiful and I love them as much as the next person but they are also incredibly scary during storms – which you get a lot of in the PNW. We live in a wooded area in Seattle and we have had two trees fall on our house in the 9 years we have lived here. Minimal damage both times but we were incredibly lucky. Just sayin’.


I can’t wait to follow this! We just renovated nearly our whole house and have built another time & I love looking at house plans! As I looked at these I couldn’t help but wonder if the pantry is too small. Our house isn’t half that price point and my pantry is about 4x bigger. Seems like the mudroom could be reworked a bit…or maybe my family just eats a lot! Just a thought!


So exciting! As an Oregonian myself, I’m really looking forward to follow along with this fun project! I loved the other commenters idea about doing an Oregon style fashion post while you are spending time up here. This looks like such a beautiful neighborhood and like a private piece of forest. And how fun to get to do a project with your brother. If you need treats for an open house, I make custom cookies, cupcakes, and other sweets 🙂


Just curious: what was “wrong” with the existing hardwood floors?


No bathroom on the main floor? Can you explain why you chose to keep a family room between the kitchen and dining rooms? It doesn’t make sense to me for flow, but I’m sure you have good rationale so I was hoping you could explain further. Can’t wait to see this unfold!


Yes, I would love an explanation on the family room placement too! I was thinking it was odd to place it in between the kitchen and dining spaces, but I’m not a designer so I don’t know. Ha. Would love to hear the rationale behind this?


Wow! What an exciting project! I can’t wait to see the whole thing when it’s done! Please check out my mom’s paintings at she has some great large scale landscapes that would be perfect in a large house surrounded by trees like this!


I will never buy a house without a bedroom and full bath on the first floor. You’ve got a “bedroom” with the office space but are replacing the existing full bath with a half bath. I know you did the same in your own home so it’s clearly not a concern for you but it is for many people.
I sold my last place because my parents couldn’t visit me because of issues with the stairs. Even if a resident is only temporarily incapacitated due to injury or surgery, having all facilities on a single level can be key.


I am SO EXCITED! This is going to be awesome and I can’t wait to watch it unfold. My heart actually started beating faster and faster as you gave more details! The only question I have is the tub placement in the master? Is there a reason for it to be diagonal? The tub in my bathroom was also placed on an angle and every time I walk in I mentally try to straighten it (not to mention, it is super awkward to clean around but I guess the lucky person who buys this house probably will have someone for… Read more »


I love everything about this proposed reno – but do you HAVE to tear out those lovely hardwood floors on the main level? It could be that they’re in rough shape, but based on the pics they look great!


This is so exciting. Also the houses in that neighborhood are INSANE. Who are these people and what do they do?!

J Ferlita

Will your brother be physically performing the renovation? What are CGC licensing requirements there? Just curious bc I know some States are more lenient. Here in Florida my husband (and my father and brother and FIL and BIL) had to pass grueling exams that they studied over a year for, get engineers and CGCs to sign off on/vouch for years of experience on a wide variety of huge jobs, credit and background checks, etc. Not to mention the req. to hold millions in insurances. It is a 5+ year minimum just to get it. I hear of people in other… Read more »

Jenny B

So exciting! Don’t know if you’re interested in floor plan suggestions (was so relieved you have a laundry room upstairs, too), but I would rethink the door situation for the powder room off the kitchen. I would put the pocket door on the outer wall by the kitchen where you currently have just an opening with no door, and a regular door where you currently show a pocket door going into the bathroom. That way, the pocket door from the kitchen could be open most of the time, but when people come over or there is a party, the people… Read more »


Can’t wait to see what you do to it. We have the same type of project on a lake house in MN. Still in the planning stages. SO fun.


Seems like all this would cost a lot more than $500,000


Yes, but remember there will be sponsors on board…


This house rocks! Your plans are dynamite.

Except for the formal living room. At this point, would it be possible to bring the formal living room up to the same level as the rest of the first floor? That dropped room thing has so many drawbacks, including safety (I know one person who was saying goodbye at the front door, stepped back, fell down an unnoticed step into the living room, and badly broker her ankle) and accessibility for the disabled.

I’d be interested in a thorough discussion of the tax implications of sponsored products to your financial planning for the project.


An addition to this comment, is that the secret to a long and happy marriage is never sharing a closet with your spouse, so in the master, please do whatever it takes to have two closets, roughly equal.

Christine Schwalm Design

First off, congrats! I agree with other commenters about having something in writing with your brother. It helps set expectations to avoid hurt feelings/anger/disappointment later. 1.3 million investment + closing costs means your break even will be pretty high. You’ve got the blog to serve as great promotion and your personal brand which will help. I’d save some listings of comps that sell in the price range you’re looking for to help prepare in advance of putting the house on the market. As for the design, I think you’ll need to add some sort of a breakfast area. I worked… Read more »


Hi Emily, love your posts as always! I’m confused however by the siting of the stairs in the new top floor – they seem perpendicular to how they are on the lower floors, or am I not properly envisioning how the new level is going to be laid out? Is the new master bedroom going to be on the side over the old MBR and living room (new living & dining), or on the back over the new covered porch?


I would like to see projects that showcase your ability to create well-designed solutions to help us live on this planet more lightly and with more respect for its gifts. I love the work you’ve done on your own homes–you have a real gift for bringing out the best in what’s already there and I’ve never thought you ripped something out without a good reason. But more than doubling the size of house (4,800 sq ft!) and chopping down 100-year-old trees for “more light,” all to create some sort of design showcase? That isn’t something I’m interested in and isn’t… Read more »


I’d like to second your thoughts on sustainability. Although I’m still very interested in what’s going to happen to the house…


Thank you for speaking up, Michelle.


Hey Michelle, it isn’t actually doubling. It’s actually closer to 1,400 S.F. being added (home was about 3,500 S.F.). Regarding the trees, almost all of the trees that were cut down were unfortunately diseased and would have needed to be cut down at some point. I’m a native Oregonian and I love trees too so I totally understand what you’re saying. 🙂


I couldn’t agree more. I would cheer from the rooftops if Emily and team spoke honestly and openly about sustainability. Like fashion, design is always bound to trends. Even styles dubbed “traditional” or “timeless” when they’re hot are rapidly outdated. (Think of all those dark granite kitchens of a decade ago…and now many have been ripped out for all-white marble kitchens…which will be replaced in a few years with something else. Meanwhile, granite and marble are meant to be used “forever,” not to be discarded like cheap plastics.) I don’t blame Emily for this, obviously—it’s an industry-wide issue. There aren’t… Read more »


I for one am super appreciative of the $$ figures because it shows me what can be done with a certain amount. Love it, it’ll turn out great <3


Oooo, can’t wait to see it all unfold. One thing I have learned from flipping a few houses in partnership with my brother in the Dallas TX area is, A) you ALWAYS go over budget and B) you never make as much profit as you plan to make. Of course, you are lucky enough to have access to amazing partnerships and deep discounts so that will def make a big diff. I will say, for me, it is the most exhilarating process ever! I love my clients but having total creative control is the bomb. Hopefully I will learn a… Read more »


I am so completely excited to see this project unfold! We moved to the Bay Area after six years in Seattle and could cry thinking about how much we miss the PNW! And Salt & Straw ice cream in Portland. 😉 YAY! Oh, definitely sell your LA house and move to Portland.


Very excited for this project! It’s going to be gorgeous.

My request would be “smaller” posts on this project that come more often rather than long big ones infrequently. In particular decisions that you’ve made (things ordered?) before the whole room or set of rooms is decided on/finished.


Agree! Good point!


I love this! It will be like HGTV’s annual Dream Home, only with all the juicy background information. I love seeing all the latest vendor stuff in those homes.

Perhaps you can donate the old things to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Portland.


Looking forward to seeing the big reveal. I understand the need for more light….but I can’t help but feel sad at the thought of cutting down any tree that doesn’t have anything wrong with it.


Exciting project. I couldn’t imagine gutting a home to the studs and leaving a sunken living room (and even ADDING more stairs down into it). It’s so easy to raise the floor in a gut reno and would look and function so much better.

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