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In living color

First-time home buyer upgrades one tint at a time

There aren't any bison grazing over on North Buffalo Street. But there is an old pink house that, while faded on the outside, is pretty and pulled together on the inside.

When Andrea Maddox, 34, bought the North Portland house three years ago, the place needed a lot of cosmetic work. Neighbors told her that the rooms probably hadn't seen the light of day in years.

Old carpeting, foam and linoleum covered the floors in each of the large, open rooms on the ground floor. The walls were trashed, and most required new wallboard. The smell of cat urine haunted the place.

Maddox, a bartender by profession, looked at a range of Portland houses before her real estate agent showed her the Piedmont neighborhood home. She knew right away that the house, built in 1901, was the one for her.

'I saw it and said, 'This is it,' ' Maddox recalls.

Three years of hard labor later, Maddox has completed most of the work on the inside of her home.

First she pulled up the carpet and linoleum tiles. She uncovered Douglas fir floors in the living and dining rooms, bedrooms and hallway. Then she rented a floor sander and smoothed all the floors.

'Friends would always ask me,'Is your house done yet?' And I'd say 'Of course not. It'll never really be done.' '

But done it nearly is, and Maddox has the satisfaction of having undertaken most of the work herself. Roommates have come and gone, but today she shares the house exclusively with her boyfriend, Lindy, dog Pika and cat Crow.

Color is the key

For a collector of flea market treasures, Maddox's home is minimally decorated. She has forced herself to stop bringing things home. 'I have enough stuff right now,' she says.

The toothpaste-blue kitchen, where she ends up spending most of her time, remains pretty much in its original state, though Maddox hopes to replace the old electric stove with a professional gas range one day. (She already has had the house converted from oil to gas.)

The original linoleum on the kitchen floor is chipping. So, when there's money, Maddox wants to replace it with Marmoleum, a natural flooring that's more environmentally friendly than linoleum.

The kitchen table is covered in a bright blue oilcloth that matches Maddox's collection of fake grape clusters overhead. Other kitschy collectibles line another shelf, and an old license plate from her native Kansas is nailed to the wall next to a Portland Organic Wrestling poster.

'I don't really like white walls, I need color,' says Maddox, moving into her crimson dining room. The color was inspired by the berries on the hawthorn tree in front of her house.

'I tried gold ceilings in here at first, but it never looked right, so I went back to plain white on just the ceilings. I like flat paint, but it scuffs and shows every mark,' she says.

The color continues in the large dining room, where a table runs the length of the space and houseplants, including a rare plant that blooms once a year, stretch toward the windows.

New Orleans flea market meets Japanese garden in the guest room. Here the walls are violet and pastel pink, and a green quilt covers the bed. Sweetly framed black velvet paintings of Japanese girls hang on the wall, and ivy climbs from vases on the nightstands.

'I'm at the point where most of my energy is really focused on the outside,' Maddox says, heading to the back yard. Cayenne pepper is sprinkled over the raised vegetable beds to keep Crow out, though it hasn't been working.

There's an old metal laundry line for drying clothes, and industrial-sized cans dangle from the trees out back. The cans become lanterns for backyard barbecues. Potted bamboo will go into the ground by spring, and she plans to build a new fence.

How pink it is

'I've never been into pink in my whole life, and I was like, 'Yes, pink' when I saw this room,' Maddox says of the bathroom.

And so the loo is a bubble gum pink decorated with square mirrors inside black frames and a pink plastic shower curtain.

Maddox's biggest find from her collecting days is a red heart-shaped bed with curved velvet bench to match. She bought the set at an estate sale for $800. It used to have a Magic Fingers massage machine in between the mattress and box springs, until houseguests wore it out one night.

Home work is never done

Though she felt cut off from some parts of town at first, the Piedmont location suits Maddox just fine now. It has easy access to both Alberta and Killingsworth streets and is a few minutes from Interstate 5. She can name three excellent taquerias within a mile of her house.

Other Piedmont neighborhood amenities include Pho Jasmine Vietnamese Restaurant, the Jockey Club tavern, Blind Onion Pizza and the New Seasons market. There's a Fred Meyer grocery store and a bowling alley on nearby North Interstate Avenue.

'I like it here. It's quiet. The neighbors are awesome. At first I thought it was too far from downtown, but it's just 20 minutes on my bike,' Maddox says.

And what does it feel like to finally be done fixing up her house?

'We're going to need a new roof soon. There was a bubble in the ceiling over the shower. I finally poked it, and I could see all the way through to the flashing.'

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Digs is an occasional series about Portlanders and their homes. Do you have an interesting home? If so, contact Portland Life Editor David Kern at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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