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Imperial bedroom

Globetrotting artist gives his sleeping quarters a Chinese charge of color and kitsch

Michael Hoskins is a painter. His studio is a mess. His living room is a work in progress. But his bedroom, well, that's a work of art.

From the outside of this 1953 ranch bungalow just a few blocks north of Burgerville in St. Johns, you'd never suspect that behind the bamboo shade lurks a womb-red boudoir decorated in Chinese modern style.

'This style was big in the 1950s when I was a kid,' says the 59-year-old, turning down the Klaus Nomi album that plays on the only postmodern feature in the room, a mini-stereo.

'A few years ago my friend said, 'You always ooh and ah over the '50s stuff, but you never buy it,' and it was like a light turned on. So I started selling all my antique stuff and buying this. No one else was doing it, so why not?'

The room's design coalesced around a lampshade from Portland's Chinatown that a guest gave him eight years ago. It inspired Hoskins to bring out of storage his souvenirs from several excursions to Asia. First, though, he painted the walls Peking red, so rich 'you could put your hand into it,' he says.

'It's funny, but painting a room red is bad feng shui. It's supposed to be unrestful; it's supposed to be about passion and energy,' Hoskins says. 'But I love red rooms. It was difficult finding the right red, but it worked really well.'

He added the black lacquer shadow box on the wall at the foot of the bed. In it, he displays cute Japanese toys, such as a tiny plastic blender and cooking pot from the trendy La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles.

'The shadow box is pure American kitsch, but in this context it looks Chinese,' he says.

To the right of the shadow box are a pair of glittery pressed plastic Asian faces made in the 1950s.

Hoskins left Chicago in 1994 to travel the world, intending not to come back to the United States. However, feeling homesick, he moved to Portland in 1995. Portland proved to be a fortuitous move for his career: He shows at Butters Gallery in Old Town, and until late 2001, he owned a three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot house on Northeast Skidmore Street near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

'But when the stock market falls, as it did spring 2001, the first people to stop making money are the artists; we're screwed,' he says.

He sold his home for a handsome profit to a diplomat who only stays there five weeks a year. Then he downsized, storing his furniture, his Warhols, Motherwells and Reinhardts, and moved to a neighborhood he says is ripe for gentrification.

By keeping largely to straight lines, deep colors and small details, Hoskins has made the room feel larger than it really is. He bought the low-slung bed, which was made in China, from PH Reed Furniture in the Pearl District.

The chairs are also from PH Reed. 'They also look like a throwback to the 1950s,' Hoskins says.

Being ahead of the pack, he snapped up several pieces of fancy Gonder pottery on antiquing raids to towns such as Kalama, Wash. The Zanesville, Ohio, firm was in business for only 15 years, until it burned down in 1957. The lamp under the shadow box is Gonder, and still has its original shade. The matching bedside lamps also are Gonder, but their shades came from Kmart.

'It's rare but not expensive yet. I like to stay ahead of the curve on stuff like this,' he says.

The rug is from Nepal, from one of his trips. The curtains come from a 30-yard bolt of cloth also found in Kalama. Two paintings on the wall are from Ubud in Bali, where he lived for a month.

It's not all serious, though. The 'mashed potato' bedside clock is what he calls new kitsch.

'It looks '50s, but it's not,' he says.

It's a trick he gets away with more than once.

'That tiger pillow on the bed comes from JC Penney,' he confesses. 'But it's new JC Penney, and it works real fine.'

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