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A Portland Craftsman, Cubed - The New York Times

Category: Finance,Real Estate


An unconventional addition turns an old house in Oregon into something even more interesting than the original.

Seen from the sidewalk along Lincoln Street, the 1907 Craftsman-style house in Southeast Portland, Ore., looks entirely traditional, with its covered porch, shake siding and exposed roof beams.

But a careful observer will notice a few unusual details. Parked out front is a 1980s black Cadillac limousine, one of several retro vehicles — including a Revcon motor home and a Nash Rambler — that belong to the owners. More startling is the western side of the house, where a cluster of glass cubes protrude from the walls of the old home.

As Doug Skidmore, of Beebe Skidmore, the architecture firm that renovated the house, pointed out, those cubes are “only 10 percent of the outside wall.” But the visual impact is a lot bigger, and the statement they make is clear: This is not a typical antique house.

Then again, there’s nothing conventional about the owners.

Arrow and Jessica Kruse came to Portland after stints in Hollywood and New York. Mr. Kruse is a video producer for music, fashion and movie industry clients; Ms. Kruse, a former stepdaughter of teen-idol-turned-television producer Shaun Cassidy, owns the Addison + Crescent fashion showroom in Los Angeles and founded the La Bête clothing line.

As their careers advanced, however, the couple, who have two sons — Odin, now 11, and Alder, 6 — began to worry about the effect their environment was having on family life.

“I was in a car for three hours a day,” Mr. Kruse said, recalling their lifestyle in Southern California, where “the reality gets a little skewed.” Some of their friends’ houses, he said, were so big the owners used a Segway scooter to get around indoors.

On the main floor, the renovation involved removing walls between the kitchen and dining room, and between the living room and foyer.CreditLincoln Barbour

For some time, the couple had been contemplating a move to Portland, not just because they were inspired by the city’s emergence as a food and entertainment destination, but because they wanted to return to Mr. Kruse’s childhood neighborhood of old homes and tall trees, where their sons could have an experience like the one he had growing up.

An all-cash offer on their home in Los Angeles prompted the move a year sooner than they were planning, and in January 2015, they bought the Craftsman-style house for $965,000.

“They liked the old house, but they were fearless about changing it,” said Heidi Beebe, one of the architects who designed the renovation. When her partner, Mr. Skidmore, first drew up the new facade, she recalled, “I half-jokingly said, ‘You can’t do that.’ But when we showed it to Arrow and Jessica, instantly it was, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ I think they understood that the character of the old house is an asset, and that a hybrid will inevitably be way more unique than something old or something new.”

One of the couple’s first priorities was bringing in more natural light. “That was really important coming from L.A.,” Ms. Kruse said. “We loved all the architectural detail and the neighborhood, but it was so dark inside.”

To do that, the architects used “the biggest sheets of glass we could get and the biggest sliding doors we could get,” Mr. Skidmore said, for the floor-to-ceiling boxes on the west facade.

A wall between two upstairs bedrooms was removed to create a master suite with large sliding doors. CreditLincoln Barbour

Other changes included removing two walls on the ground floor, between the kitchen and dining room (so a long island could extend from one to the other) and between the living area and the foyer. A second stairway in the kitchen, originally intended for servants, was also removed to create a light well that, in combination with a rooftop skylight, illuminates the center of the house. Upstairs, a wall between two bedrooms was removed to create a master suite.

When the house was built over a hundred years ago, Ms. Beebe said, it wasn’t considered nearly as conventional as it is today. In fact, “it was sort of over the top,” she said, with the large decorative beams beneath the overhanging roof and the wooden lattice pattern running down the side of the front porch. “Some people still build Craftsman homes today, but they tend not to have all the flair and oddities of the originals.”

Since the renovation was completed last year for about $550,000, the Kruses have added a few more oddities. Ms. Kruse’s favorite is the light well, which is open at every floor, so that it doubles as a communication device.

“It works great for going, ‘Odin, Alder, get down here!’” she said. “It’s like a megaphone.”

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