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Victorian values

Doctors prescribe an upgrade for their stately Reed area abode

Vernon Cowell and RenŽ Anderson-Cowell met in an elevator as med students, so who would deny the couple a little more room to grow into?

The Cowells recently completed a major remodel on the Reed College area home they've owned since moving from New York almost six years ago.

The house is one of 16 residences in the Portland metro area that will be featured in this weekend's Tour of Remodeled Homes.

Both physicians Ñ he's a critical care surgeon, and she's an allergist Ñ the Cowells wanted to update their kitchen and family room. Their goal was to make the adjoining rooms a place to unwind with their children: Victoria, 5, and Vernon, 2.

'We wanted all the modern conveniences, without compromising the house's architectural integrity,' Anderson-Cowell says.

A new entry, library and powder room were byproducts of the remodel, made possible when the back of the house was bumped out to accommodate the new kitchen and family room. The space below these rooms changed, too, when the basement pantry was converted into a cozy bedroom and bath for the children's nanny.

The total project took about a year to complete, doubled the original 2,400-square-foot structure and cost the Cowells between $275,000 and $300,000. The effort was worth it, Anderson-Cowell says. 'The house just seems to make more sense now,' she says.

The couple hired Portland's Hammer and Hand, which specializes in historical home restoration, for the remodel. Company owner Daniel Thomas says remodeling makes more sense than ever, particularly in light of the real estate market's continuing strength.

'What we're seeing now is that real estate values more closely match the cost of remodeling,' he says. 'It used to be that you never got your money out of a remodel. But given where real estate prices are, it's a lot closer. You're still not necessarily getting 100 percent of every remodeling dollar in equity out of it when you sell, but it's a lot closer than it was.'

Tina Barclay, an interior decorator with Lake Oswego's Cristina Marie Design Group, provided the aesthetic flourishes.

Barclay worked closely with Anderson-Cowell throughout the project. The plan was to follow a Victorian motif, which Barclay approached with a light hand.

'Victorian dŽcor typically involves heavy wallpaper and heavy combinations of fabrics,' she says. 'We've chosen to take the quiet route and simplify things, and add the Victorian feel in hardware and small details.'

The kitchen, a rich blend of soft greens and lavender, is the jewel in the remodel's crown.

'It was important that the kitchen blend in with the house, but also be more gourmet; Vernon loves to cook,' Barclay says. 'The inspiration came from the slab of granite Ñ called new imperial blue Ñ that we used for the countertop. RenŽ found it and fell in love with it. It has hints of aqua, lavender and purple in it.'

Cherry cabinets, a farm sink and hand-painted botanical tiles are elegantly traditional appointments to the kitchen, while rich copper fixtures are used judiciously.

'We used mild accents, because you can sort of OD on copper,' Barclay says. 'We used it in the service sink and faucets, and left the rest to RenŽ's pots and pans.'

The adjoining family room is a light-filled haven. Wide-plank floors are a subtle backdrop for the handcrafted ceramic fireplace. The moldings and bead board that frame the room are replicas of traditional Victorian woodwork and are painted in a creamy French vanilla. Floral valances soften the room's edges.

Although Anderson-Cowell mourns the portion of her garden lost to the addition, she was pleased to gain a powder room and office when the original kitchen was eliminated.

'Her office gives her a space of her own and lots of room for her medical books,' Barclay says. 'And the powder room plays off the colors used in the kitchen. In fact, Hammer and Hand was able to piece together remnants of the New Imperial Blue granite for the countertop. It's a pretty, traditional European space without being overdone.'

A vessel sink (which resembles a large bowl on a pedestal), hand-painted cabinetry and lavender walls complete the feminine space.

Now that the remodeling dust has settled, the Cowells are making plans for even more changes to their home. With a new master bedroom and bath, as well as a deck off of the dining room, on the drawing board, the Cowells' children are poised and ready.

'We had to move into a hotel twice the last time around,' Anderson-Cowell says. 'The kids loved it; they thought we were on vacation.'

Contact Jill Spitznass at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .