AFTERNOON SUN FLOWS through French doors into MK Guth and Greg Landry’s dining room, splashing bright squares of light across the Persian rug. Sparingly appointed with contemporary prints, a teak dining table, and a white-paper George Nelson “Saucer” lamp that hovers over the table, the room is at once welcoming and coolly urbane. Outside, a wisteria arbor veils a cedar deck, and beyond that, Adirondack-style chairs cluster on an inviting brick patio.
The tranquil domestic scene in this Mount Tabor cottage calls to mind the subject of a museum installation that Guth, a conceptual artist and chair of the Pacific Northwest College of Art’s visual studies MFA program, created earlier this year. One of 81 artists selected to participate in the prestigious 2008 Whitney Biennial in Manhattan, Guth contributed an 1,800-foot-long braid, woven from artificial hair and flannel ribbons (the piece will be shown this November at the Portland Art Museum). Inscribed on the fabric were responses, collected from members of the public, to Guth’s question “What is worth protecting?”
Looking around the interior of Guth’s home, a few obvious answers come to mind. Like the couple’s art collection, which includes a cheerful abstract painting by Portland-based artist Mike Shea and a whimsical house of cards sculpture by Brooklyn-based Peter Kreider. Then again, it’s good home design—harder to carry off, both literally and figuratively, than beautiful possessions—that makes this abode particularly covetable.
Guth and Landry credit their architect, Martin Houston, with making the change that, according to Landry, transformed the character of the whole house. The two recruited Houston to design the dining room and deck addition for their 1937 residence. By placing the dining room at the rear (southeast) corner of the main floor, and building a deck off of that, Houston connected the couple’s interior living space with the garden, turning a formerly bottled-up area into a series of indoor and outdoor rooms attuned to light and site.
But it’s clear that Houston had the advantage of clients who themselves possess a flair for organizing space—and for creating a sensual and rich sense of place. That becomes evident as Guth, a youthful-looking 45-year-old whose long hair is streaked with brown and blond, walks me through her garden. The small backyard slopes upward and is interwoven with grassy expanses, contemplative enclosures, and a planting bed that exudes a seasonal outpouring of scents (daphne, Sarcococca, and Pieris in the spring; lavender, Corsican mint, and thyme in the summer). We stroll past a minimalistic fountain, water dripping down a slab of rock, and a sunny patch of herbs, which sits at the base of an ivy-covered retaining wall.