A Per­fect Mar­riage

Amer­i­cans re­belling against or­nate Vic­to­rian dec­o­rat­ing looked to­ward the Bri­tish Arts & Crafts move­ment and other ‘modern’ de­sign in­flu­enced by Ja­panese art and in­te­ri­ors.

Arts and Crafts Homes - - CONTENTS - by Donna Pizzi pho­tos by Black­stone Edge Stu­dios

Se­rial re­stor­ers re­turn to Port­land, Ore­gon, where they fur­nish a 1920 bun­ga­low with Asian and Crafts­man an­tiques, im­bu­ing it with a time­less aes­thetic.


W henSteve Austin and Cathy Hitch­cock de­cided to leave their condo for a small house, they gave their real-es­tate agent a list of musthaves—and said not to con­tact them while they va­ca­tioned in Ja­pan. Hav­ing found what might be the per­fect prop­erty, the agent promptly ig­nored that pro­viso. Emailed pho­tos showed that the bun­ga­low ful­filled ev­ery wish: sin­gle­storey, garage, oak floors, wood win­dows, orig­i­nal kitchen and bath, a fire­place, and even room for Steve’s pi­ano.

“We were an­noyed for about a minute,” Cathy says, “un­til we looked at the pho­tos—and then I wor­ried it would sell be­fore we got back!”

The 1920 house pays lip ser­vice to Colo­nial Re­vival with its colon­naded por­tico en­try, but the win­dows and in­te­rior trim lean to­ward Amer­i­can Arts & Crafts. Lo­cated in Port­land’s his­toric Irv­ing­ton neigh­bor­hood, the bun­ga­low of­fers a trim 1,630 square feet. At the time of con­struc­tion, de­sign re­stric­tions

re­quired each house be dif­fer­ent from its neigh­bor, giv­ing this area the ar­chi­tec­tural di­ver­sity of more ex­clu­sive en­claves.

The two pre­vi­ous own­ers had been good to the house. Most re­cent owner Chris Healy had land­scaped the lush back gar­den, torn out over­grown rhodo­den­drons in front to re­place them with a camel­lia and box­wood hedge, and added a box-beam ceil­ing, a pe­riod built-in, and the vin­tage pill­box toi­let. Be­fore Chris, owner Bianca Hart had re-plas­tered the ceil­ings, up­graded non­work­ing win­dows with hand­some re­place­ments, re­fin­ished the floors (per­son­ally coun­ter­sink­ing thou­sands of nails), and, most sig­nif­i­cantly, added French doors be­tween the break­fast room and a stair­case to the gar­den.

Steve Austin and Cathy Hitch­cock picked up the thread, car­ry­ing out a dra­matic new look in just six months. Al­ready painted black when the cou­ple ar­rived, wood trim fits well with the aes­thetic cued by a long-stand­ing col­lec­tion of Asian an­tiques. As it turned out, the cou­ple’s tra­jec­tory of in­ter­ests fol­lowed the evo­lu­tion of de­sign: they started out with Asian an­tiques, in­cor­po­rated them as ori­en­tal ex­ot­ica in sev­eral Vic­to­rian homes, and re­turned to an ap­pro­pri­ate Ja­panese aes­thetic in this Arts & Crafts bun­ga­low.

“When Amer­i­cans re­belled against or­nate Vic­to­rian dec­o­rat­ing,” Steve ex-

plains, “they looked to­ward the Bri­tish Arts & Crafts move­ment and to other ‘modern’ de­sign in­flu­enced by Ja­panese art and in­te­ri­ors.”

“Here, I didn’t want ev­ery­thing to be Stickley,” Cathy adds. It was her idea to cover the white walls with grass­cloth wall­pa­per to cre­ate flow be­tween rooms and en­hance the ebony-color wood­work. Asian an­tiques do the rest: the yoshido screens that sep­a­rate spa­ces within rooms; the 19th-cen­tury hi­bachi (his­tor­i­cally used to serve tea brewed over char­coal), in use as a cof­fee ta­ble; the gakubuchi sig­nage over the arch be­tween liv­ing and din­ing rooms; a kake­jiku scroll in the en­try; the Chi­nese sang-de-boeuf vase stand­ing guard over the orig­i­nal Arts & Crafts fire­place.

The cou­ple did ag­o­nize over whether to leave the cus­tom shoji screens they’d built for the din­ing-room win­dow in their post­war condo. “The fen­es­tra­tion of a 1940s build­ing has noth­ing to do with that of a 1920s house,” says Steve. “So I thought it would be im­pos­si­ble to re­use the screens. But turns out, they are a per­fect fit in the din­ing room.”

Ad­just­ing to black cab­i­nets in the kitchen took a while. “At first,” says Steve,

“I thought the black would have to go. Over time, though, it grew on us, and be­sides: what would we do with a black range and dish­washer? It’s an un­usual kitchen but we’ve come to love it.”

The hand-dyed indigo ikat (ka­suri in Ja­panese) wall hang­ing is the high­light of the din­ing room. They spent hours ne­go­ti­at­ing to buy it in Ky­oto at the famed Aizen Kobo shop, with the help of a be­mused trans­la­tor.

Steve ex­plains that their wall­pa­per hang­ers had said they would not be able to match the seams in the grass­cloth, be­cause it’s a nat­u­ral prod­uct. “They were right about grass­cloth,” Cathy says, “but it doesn’t mat­ter, be­cause the indigo wall-hang­ing and our shoji screens draw the eye away from any seams.”

The three mo­tifs that ap­pear on the wall hang­ing—pine trees, bam­boo, and plum blos­soms—rep­re­sent for­ti­tude to the Ja­panese, be­cause they all sur­vive gru­el­ing win­ters. Cathy and Steve re­mem­ber all the trav­els and sto­ries that are be­hind each ob­ject, which have brought them laugh­ter, beauty, and joy—as has this house, made by a mar­riage of two far-flung aes­thetic vi­sions. a FOR SOURCES,

Black cab­i­nets in the kitchen took some get­ting used to, but the fin­ish, which re­calls eboniz­ing, goes with the vin­tage O’Keefe & Mer­ritt stove.

Wis­te­rias grow up from ei­ther end of the ce­ment porch with a trel­lised per­gola roof. The box­woods trimmed into gum­drop shapes lend sto­ry­book ap­peal to the tidy house.

ABOVE A mov­able yel­low is­land adds stor­age space to kitchen, which is near orig­i­nal save for the black paint. A ranma is vis­i­ble in the din­ing room; gen­er­ally used as a tran­som over a shoji screen, here it is solely for dec­o­ra­tion. RIGHT The pill­box...

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