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The sunny side of life

by: Vern Uyetake, The sleeping porch facing views of Oswego Lake is light and bright. The room, in the shape of an “L,” wraps around the  living room and provides space to relax with morning coffee or a good book. The room was a selling point for the Erts, who sold their home in Georgia to begin a new life in Lake Oswego six years ago.

Before air conditioning, families created sleeping areas on outdoor porches to take advantage of cooler night temperatures. Known as sleeping porches, the space allowed families the opportunity to sleep in a well-ventilated screened room occasionally during uncomfortable warmer air temperatures.

While Bruce and Anne Erts don't sleep on their sleeping porch, the room is used often - for morning coffee, reading and entertaining guests. The view of the water from the room bordered by windows was a major selling point when the family purchased the home in 2001.

Hugging the front of the home and reflecting panoramic views of Oswego Lake, the room is long and narrow and acts as a glass buffer between the formal living room and English gardens outside. Flower boxes were added along the window for a bit of color.

'Everyone tells us that when you're sitting in the living room with all the windows, it's like artwork. It has an aura about it that you don't see in new houses,' said Bruce. 'We saw this room as a real plus.'

While visiting their children in Oregon, the Erts spent an afternoon and drove around to look at houses. They were living in Atlanta, Ga. at the time and had a condo in Florida. Anne described their cottage in Atlanta as the 'ideal retirement home.' But when they came across this 1922 home in Lake Oswego, Bruce became ambitious.

'This was the last house we saw,' said Bruce. 'I stood on the front porch, saw the view and made up my mind quickly. We left (everything else) behind because we liked it here so much better.'

Anne said that his quick decision making surprised her - and the real estate agent. The home was not in good condition, they agreed. The whole structure needed repainting. There wasn't a definable front entrance. The kitchen and master bedrooms were small. A rock garden needed revamping in the front yard. No garage was in sight.

But the house had good bones.

'It's the kind of house that some people will love - some people will hate,' Bruce said.

Half of the home is on the main floor and sits up high on the property - kitchen, guestroom, living and dining room and sleeping porch. Below is everything else.

When beginning the remodel project in 2002, the couple opted to build an attached garage and Bruce worked with his brother-in-law - a retired master carpenter - and brushed up on construction management skills he hadn't used in 18 years.

Adding a 700 square foot addition off the kitchen completed the 3,900 Frank Lloyd Wright, prairie-style cottage and resulted in changing the roofline from the original kitchen into the two-story addition. The kitchen was rebuilt from the floor up to include vaulted ceilings that flow into the addition above the garage.

'I wanted something that flowed with the existing house and blended,' Bruce said. 'Most people say they can't really tell where the old house (ends) and the new house begins.'

This new area included an eating area and family room above and stairway leading to a mud room and garage. While the garage was the only planned remodel project when the home was purchased, the couple quickly changed their plans and began tackling other areas of the home.

An outdoor patio surrounds the home's front door. The Erts extended the area and added slate finishes. They said that 16 people have eaten dinner comfortably in the front while overlooking the well-manicured English garden with water features. A garden patio and back deck area is useful when hosting events such as charity functions.

Beneath the large patio was a sitting room downstairs. Now the room - with exposed beams, built-in bookshelves and French doors - is used as a master bedroom. The laundry room across the hall was moved to another end of the downstairs to allow space for a walk-in master closet.

Guestrooms upstairs and downstairs feel like special hotel suites. The walls in the downstairs guest bedroom are painted green and friends nicknamed the room the French Bed and Breakfast. Through leaded glass windows, Oswego Lake splashes in the distance.

Bruce crafted an office with a similar view outside.

'The bathrooms are the only rooms where you don't have a lake view,' Bruce said. 'Every room in the house overlooks the lake.'

The home gave the Erts a place to relax in the morning and room for entertaining at night. And the house would feel much different without the sleeping porch, they said.

'When we entertain there's always a lot of people here,' said Bruce. '(The home and views are) beautiful, even in the wintertime. We've seen storms cross the lake. We've seen rainbows.'

After 50 years of marriage, the couple said they are finally home.

'We've met more people here that we socialize with than we have in the last 25 or 30 years. And we've lived in 22 places,' Bruce said.

'When you measure the way people are, Lake Oswego itself and close-by downtown Portland - vibrant and easy to get around, it's unique. And the weather is no where near as bad as people make it out to be.'

So life begins now, again, after retirement in a home restored to its original glory and decorated with traditional items from the Erts' lifetime together.

'It's an old house. When you get older you have your blemishes. It's shabby chic. We just wanted to go with the flow,' Anne said. 'These last six years have been absolutely fantastic.'