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In living color

by: Vern Uyetake, Sheila Carlson, owner of MRC Builders Northwest Inc., designed the living room with plenty of thick molding.

New Orleans buildings are rich with bold color and breezy charm. They're exotic, a blend of cultures and combine classic elements and unique traditions that seem to sing their own praises. Or, toot their own jazz horn.

History is important there, and the present is vibrant.

The city in the South sounds much like the First Addition neighborhood in downtown Lake Oswego - a delightful stroll, a gathering of familiar faces and close to everything. And that's what Sheila Carlson thought when she designed two townhomes near the Lake Oswego Public Library.

While touring 540 C Avenue, Carlson spoke about her time spent in New Orleans in the 1980s when her husband was building a high rise building and how it taught her to embrace color, rooms thick with upper and lower moldings and unconventional floorplans.

'I just feel like color is what makes the house alive and happy,' said Carlson, owner of MRC Builders Northwest Inc. 'It's supposed to be an old style, with the tall moldings. People were a little braver back then with color than we are now.'

But don't think the home resembles a carnival. Its soft browns in the master suite, eggplant accents near the kitchen and soft yellows provide a versatile palette that subtly enhance each room and give it dimension.

Thick crown molding and baseboards, expansive built-ins and a box-beam ceiling in the nook wrap the spaces with warmth and character.

'Notice that there's never a ceiling color that's the same as the wall color,' said Dave Charno, Realtor with Realty Trust in Lake Oswego. 'Every ceiling is a slightly different color from the wall in most rooms.'

And don't overlook the unique floorplan. While some townhomes feature the usual bedrooms upstairs, laundry room and kitchen downstairs, Carlson crafted this 3,580-square-foot home to feel like a home - but with a twist.

The front door opens to reveal a lofted parlor or den to the right and family room to the left. The staircase, which splits half way up the first flight, divides the home. Stairs leading to left go toward two bedrooms and an expansive art studio, built into the roof's eaves. Stairs leading to the right go to the master suite.

As if wrapped in chocolate, the master suite in soft brown and taupe colors is classic, retro and divine. A fireplace sets ambience beneath a small chandelier.

'I just thought it would be nice to have a master suite with a little sparkle, and plenty of room,' Carlson said.

Carlson refers to the generous space, oversized closet and romantic bathroom which features crystal knobs, intricate tile details and a soaking tub.

The other two bedrooms also feature walk-in closets.

Downstairs, subway tiles in the kitchen are reminiscent of the 'old style' Carlson was going for. Feet on the built-in kitchen cabinetry make it look like furniture. Soft lights illuminate the spice rack.

The eggplant-colored accent wall in the nook glows when sunlight drifts into the room from divided windows. A soft light green ceiling pokes through the white box-beam ceiling. The room feels tall, yet comfortable; eight foot doors are customary on this main floor.

A finished two-car garage is just a few steps off the kitchen. And yet a few more steps down reveals a trimmed and carpeted basement with 10-foot walls and a wine cooling closet. Charno and Carlson said the area is perfect for a pool table and large television.

A smaller side room and bathroom could be, 'an exercise room,' Carlson said.

'This would be my golf room,' Charno said, smiling. 'You could put a net up down here.'

Carlson said she was drawn to build these townhomes in the downtown Lake Oswego neighborhood because of its active lifestyle; she also lives just down the street.

'I can walk to Safeway, to the bank, the post office and city hall - wherever,' Carlson said. 'There's almost nothing I can't walk to.'

The yard requires little maintenance; sprinklers and a drip system make watering easy while out of town.

'We wanted to be able to get a decent sized house on the property. We thought with new construction, we could build the amenities for people wanting everything you get in a single-family (home), except the yard care,' she said.

With its expansive front porch and cheerful colors, the home blends with the neighborhood, yet makes a bold statement. The ceiling on the front porch is painted a calming light blue. Some believe that blue chases away evil spirits and bugs.

'It's probably an old wives tale or something,' Carlson said. 'It's so bees don't nest there. They think it's the sky.'

While Carlson stands on the front porch she looks comfortable, content and proud of her accomplishment. Longtime friend Charno, who is marketing the two units, extends this warmth.

'Let's say someone has a big house on the lake and they don't need 5,000 square feet but they don't want to move into an 1,800-square-foot condo, this can extend their lifestyle,' Charno said. 'It's luxury downsizing.'

For more information about MRC Builders Northwest Inc., contact Carlson at mrcbuilders@com

cast.net or visit the company's Web site at http://mrcbuilders.com/.

To view the homes, contact Dave Charno with Realty Trust Group, Inc. at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 503-675-3300.