A tour of possibilities

by: Vern Uyetake, Diane Foreman, designer and consultant with the Lake Oswego-based Neil Kelly, and pictured at right, transformed this kitchen to a timeless showpiece with plenty of storage, views of the backyard and unique cabinetry. Tour this kitchen this weekend on the Remodelers Home Tour, featuring 19 houses in the Portland-Metro area, as well as Salem.

With storybook charm and whimsical playfulness, the neighborhood near Dolph Park in NE Portland isn't just a site to see, it's a snippet of history to be experienced. Many of the homes came to life in the 1920s and 1930s and still look pristine, but with larger SUV's parked in front of them.

Moving from a few blocks away, the Anderson family fell in love with their home's potential - and the large, flat backyard for their three children to play. While the home was charming, it needed some fixing up and attention to current safety standards - such as a dangerous, low staircase railing - before the family moved in.

Designer and consultant Diane Foreman from Neil Kelly Company's Lake Oswego Westside showroom worked with the homeowners to preserve the home's charm while making the kitchen and bathrooms more functional and elegant.

And the wrought iron railing on the staircase became a showpiece, instead of a potential hazard.

View the progress for yourself while on the Remodelers Home Tour, a public viewing of 19 recent remodeling projects showcasing innovative techniques, products and materials. Twelve homes from the Portland-metro area - as well as seven homes in Salem - will be available to view Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 13 and 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

'It's a wonderful opportunity to see the Northwest style and for people to get ideas for their own homes,' Foreman said. 'This is the perfect time to remodel. With the increase in interest rates and everything else, staying put makes a lot of sense.'

Cooking up a modern function

Neil Kelly - a design and build company with showrooms in Portland and Lake Oswego - has been transforming local homes since 1947. Foreman said that on this particular project, she felt a European Arts and Craft movement inspiration would breathe life into the 1930s Tudor style home, blending rich reds, golds and greens with original William Morris wallpaper and fabrics.

'I wanted this to be a warm family atmosphere,' Foreman said.

And where does a family of five spend a lot of time?

In the kitchen; it had to be functional.

What once had a black and white checkerboard linoleum floor, stark white cabinetry and little storage is now a rustic, yet elegant kitchen with a view of the backyard and plenty of room for everything. The floor is now a rich cork in a deep brown tone. A blend of four different types of cabinetry and finishes creates a vintage furniture look.

'You want to blend and coordinate so that everything looks nice together, but not like we just went out and bought it,' Foreman said.

The custom 'dry sink' sits on a stand with legs. The cabinetry was not built to extend to the ceiling or floor, but rather to rest in the middle of the space upon legs - just like furniture.

'It looks like someone has lived here 70 or 80 years and acquired all these pieces over time and it evolved to what it is today,' said Bob Knoll, who markets Neil Kelly.

The original placement of the stove and sink switched spots to create a window facing the backyard, to better view the children playing. A rectangular table in the center of the kitchen can be moved to achieve extra space. A small space surrounded by windows was once the nook, and is now a sunroom. A banquette seating area in the corner of the kitchen will now be the center for mealtime.

'Before the (sunroom) was sort of unused space,' Foreman said, of the space that will now get a couple of comfy chairs. 'We made the windows larger and more energy efficient.'

Every inch of the kitchen was engineered to serve a purpose. Deep cabinets accommodate large kitchen appliances and what look like decorative columns surrounding the stove pull out to house spices.

Instead of using a Lazy-Susan to better reach items in the hard-to-reach 'dead space' within lower, corner cabinetry, the cabinet swivels out making the items in front easy to reach, and dragging the items that were tucked away to the forefront.

'It's called a magic corner,' Foreman said. 'Cabinets can look old but have the storage for modern kitchen items.'

Combining luxury and functionality

A wrought iron railing is the focal point in the foyer - between the living and dining rooms. With its curved and twisting design the railing is a marvel to look at but was too short to be useful.

'The railing is original to the house and we wanted to preserve it. But it was too short and didn't meet current code, and left too many gaps,' Foreman said. 'So, I had it absolutely reworked.'

The design became taller and incorporated the same squiggles and rustic finish so you can't tell where the old portion of the railing ends and the new portion begins.

Upstairs, a hallway bathroom will be shared by the kids. An intricate Calcutta marble mosaic on the floor looks like a woven rug. Because of all the grout, the area also has some traction, to prevent the kids from slipping. Grab-bars also make the marble area safer for the kids and visiting grandparents. The room also has a claw foot bathtub and separate shower.

Down the hallway, the master bathroom is now hardly recognizable. The position of the shower and toilet - along with the bright fuchsia and turquoise tile that encased the bathroom - made the space look dated and small.

'Before, when you walked in you walked right into the toilet,' Foreman said, 'and the shower blocked a window.'

Now the space is soft with light woods, a cement floor, crystal knobs, dual sinks and plenty of storage. The shower and toilet traded positions, and the color scheme was updated to include emeralds and a light patterned wallpaper.

'The two greatest luxuries that (the Andersons) are going to enjoy is the fact that there is under-tile heating and the heated towel warmer,' Foreman said.

Throughout the home new light fixtures from Rejuvenation, Halo and Seagull resemble the 1930s and highlight the large hallways and illuminate dark spaces. The remodel took six months and the Andersons moved in this week to their four-bedroom home - just in time to share it with the public on tour.

David Ewing of Lake Oswego-based Ewing Design Concepts, helped start a similar tour of remodeled homes through the Home Builders Association, but said that he enjoys participating in the Remodelers Home Tour. His company will share two remodeled homes next weekend.

'(We are) looking forward to more business, and more opportunities to meet potential clients. I wouldn't be a good businessman if I didn't say that,' Ewing said. 'But tongue and cheek, it's just nice to be able to show off the efforts of our production partners and our staff. We all do this because we have a passion for home remodeling and renovation. It's our art.'

For more information about Neil Kelly, visit the Web site at www.neilkelly.com.

For more information about the Remodelers Home Tour, visit the Web site at www.oregonremodelers.com. Tickets are available for $15 at Safeway TicketsWest locations and through the Web site.