habitat-kitchen

The kitchen, with a range hood-and-shelf combo designed by Jessica Helgerson.

Instead, after slogging through what felt like every Irvington Victorian, Laurelhurst Craftsman, and Westmoreland foursquare on the market, Kelly and Alexis found themselves missing their home. Specifically, the flowing spaces of their midcentury-modern California ranch, a design that is rare to nonexistent in Portland’s close-in historic districts. “We were somewhat charmed by all those Portland-style bungalows,” Kelly recalls, “but the floor plans weren’t conducive to open family living.”

Moreover, Kelly and Alexis weren’t sure they actually needed a coffee shop within walking distance of their house. After all, their real objective was to slow their lives down, find some peace and quiet, and give their toddling boys, 4-year-old Jack and 2-year-old Peter, plenty of room to play. Maybe they really did want to live on a cul-de-sac—just one without the dead-end suburban values they’d fled.

"The house was such a dog," Helgerson recalls with a guilty laugh. "It had all these small vinyl windows. The kitchen was super-cramped. Inside, everything was mauve."

Midway through the house-hunting trip, Kelly and Alexis drove with their real estate agent through the looping streets of Southwest Portland’s Bridlemile neighborhood, which is close to the border of Washington County, near Raleigh Hills. The planned midcentury development was, Kelly says with a mix of irony and genuine admiration, a place where the Cleaver family would have felt perfectly at home. And the rambling 1959 split-level they’d come to see actually held some promise.

The living space centered around an open great room, which was located on the main floor; a spacious upper-level master suite; and a daylight basement with three bedrooms and, perhaps most appealing, a sprawling rumpus room where Jack and Peter could spread out their toys. Furthermore, the 14,000-square-foot property was about triple the size of the standard inner-city lot. There was a parklike backyard for the boys to play in, and also a broad, sunny, south-facing deck, where mom and dad could supervise the action—demitasses of homemade espresso in hand, if they so desired.