ON A FROSTY WINTER MORNING, as the wind whips around shivering trees in the West Hills, Jessica Spies and Martin Sommer’s home beckons like a beacon of light. The graceful, century-old Victorian with a farmhouse mien has a wraparound porch that invites guests up the steps and through the front door. Inside, the fireplace crackles, Legos are scattered underfoot, and aromas of beef bourguignonne waft through the air. “I wanted the house to feel like sunshine,” Spies says.
Spies, a busy dermatopathologist, and Sommer, a software engineer, followed their jobs to Portland from Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2007 with their young son, Max. Lamenting the absence of desert light and clear skies, they were determined to find a bright, airy house to compensate for the gray outside. They fell in love with their home’s large rooms, plentiful windows, and ample 3,700 square feet, as well as its location in the storied Ainsworth grid. It was an added perk that the house had already been extensively remodeled by two previous sets of owners, who had added trim, overhauled the kitchen, and knocked down walls. All that remained, then, was to put their own personal stamp on the place with décor—for assistance, they turned to local firm Jessica Helgerson Interior Design.
Often, when a designer is called in to decorate, the designer’s style ends up filling the space. In this case, Helgerson was stonewalled. Spies, a vivacious blonde and self-professed fashion maven known by first name at Mario’s, had a clear vision of a comfortably elegant space tinged with Hollywood glamour—she just didn’t know how to achieve the look on her own. “She has a strong point of view,” says designer Andy Beers, who worked on the project at Helgerson’s office before co-founding his own firm, Ore Studios. “She just needed a filter and someone to tell her which pieces to add to make it cohesive.”