Uncovering Traditions

by: Vern Uyetake, Original tile and fixtures from a 1920s remodel remind Lake Oswego homeowner Pat Gustafson of her historic house. In half the house original windows remain from a hundred years ago.

Once, horses pulling stagecoaches traveled the terrain in Old Town. Soon hobbyists enjoyed automobile transportation before sales shifted to engage the general public. Now, fancy sports cars and SUVs can cruise the museum of houses near George Rogers Park in Lake Oswego to give context to lifestyles a century ago.

Pat and Larry Gustafson's 1905 house witnessed changes throughout the 1900s first hand. The home added square footage in 1920 and incorporated a master suite in 1925.

But when purchasing the craftsman style a few years ago, the couple knew they were in for a remodeling and restoration process to get it up to today's living standards. The home needed insulation, new cabinetry and floors, updated appliances and a garage. They added an expansive patio overlooking a wooded area and the Willamette River as a perk.

'We really didn't change the use of a lot (of the rooms),' said Pat Gustafson. 'We just jerked out a couple walls and added a couple walls. We really moved very little.'

Working with a remodeling company, the couple spent eight months camping out in a trailer on an adjoining piece of property to oversee the project.

Now, the house is filled with new luxuries mixed amidst old standards. Built upon sturdy basalt rock from the historical iron smelter down the street, the home 'isn't going anywhere,' Gustafson said, 'and that's a good thing.'

The home opens to an oversized living and dining room - rich color and textures. Natural light beams inside from a wall of windows and illuminates exposed beams. Gustafson's fascination with architecture and art inspired much of the reconfiguring to include clean lines, sturdy structure and natural materials. The expansive space is comfortable, inviting and alive with modest elegance - a signature of the craftsman style.

Although the kitchen now incorporates a large island, rows of cabinetry, a professional stoveand two dishwashers in a stainless steel finish, the updates blend seamlessly with original elements. And quick fixes kept unique period elements from fading. Pipes that protruded from the ceiling are now built into cabinetry to house glass ware. A radiator remains under the island where a cupboard was built above it to warm bread.

Storage seems endless in the master suite. The Gustafsons designated spaces for jackets and shoes modeled after original cabinetry and hardware in the laundry room. An upholstered ottoman in the center of the three-section closet houses overflow clothes.

Shallow, original closets remain in the adjoining laundry room.

'We had to sand down our hangers to hang clothes,' said Gustafson. 'The jackets were rubbing on the door because the closets are so narrow.'

During construction, Gustafson said they discovered several interesting reminders of the home's history.

'I found a recipe tucked down behind the wall (in the kitchen) and we found peacock wallpaper in one room,' said Gustafson. 'The (original) front door of the house was uncovered from underneath the master bedroom lying face down. We had it veneered (and re-installed). Someone must have forgotten about it when they put the shower in.'

A powder bathroom adjoining a guest room had a large stain on the floor from a previous oval claw foot bathtub.

Gustafson said she was told a man that worked for a local cemement company once used the home as his summer house. Later, she said, the home was used to store a library of books for a superintendant. Some tenants rented the home throughout the years.

The couple reworked several original features within the home.

French doors - once enclosing the master bedroom - were moved further down a hallway to open up the living space within the suite. Original radiators were transformed into bench seating and planter boxes.

The home now has space for all that is special to her family and heritage.

In one corner of the living room, a Norwegian spinning wheel and wall hangings reminds Gustafson of her European heritage - and her efforts to keep it. The wheel once belonged to Gustafson's Aunt Julia and before her death she wrote Gustafson's name on the bottom of it. Through a mix-up, the spinning wheel went up for auction.

'I had to pay $800 to get something back that already belonged to me,' said Gustafson. 'But I like this (piece). I used to spend my summers at Julia's house when I was a child.'

Gustafson's favorite room - an art studio - is tucked in the back of the house and overlooks views of the river and mature trees. Art supplies are neatly organized.

'(This room) was one of the selling points,' said Gustafson. 'I sometimes paint in the middle of the night.'

Pastel works of Native Americans drawn by Harley Brown hang for inspiration. Brown - known for his bold portraits and ethnic caricatures - inspires Gustafson's artistic style. She has been interested in Native American cultures since living in Minnesota as a child where she learned about Chippewa tribes.

A lighted bookshelf separating the living room from the kitchen is devoted to Native American collectibles. Starting with only a few baskets, the collection has grown to include dolls, books and other authentic pieces.

'I love it at night when I come down the hall and all the shelves (in the bookcase) are lit,' said Gustafson. 'I like (Native Americans') bold features when I paint. … It's kind of like chiseling it. I love to juxtaposition colors - warms against cools, purples against yellows.'

Her house is also a visual reflection of juxtaposition.

Light greens complement rich maroons; taupes cozy up to white wainscoting and thick crown molding details. Plaid and floral fabrics enhance the living room furniture, amid plush copper leather couches and chairs.

Gustafson keeps a black and white photograph of the home with a horse and buggy in the foreground as a reminder of the home's tradition. The Gustafsons left their legacy on the house through updated features, attention to style and consideration for original elements.

'I love this house,' said Gustafson. 'I'll probably be here forever.'