Chris, Gretchen & Eero’s Playful Portland Split Level

published May 25, 2010
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Name: Chris, Gretchen & Eero Hotz
Location: Portland, Oregon
Size: 2,600 square feet
Years lived in: 3

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Chris and Gretchen have put a lot of love and thought into their mid-century home. They’ve renovated sections to open it up and streamline the aesthetic. This couple, along with their 6-year-old son, have created a space that is full of art, fun and adventure, while retaining a sophisticated design sensibility.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Chris is one of the founders of Nemo, a design firm in Portland, Oregon. Gretchen is a hair stylist. Both are very creative people and this is infinitely reflected in their home. Set on an acre of wooded land, their home and surroundings provide a perfect place for their son, Eero, to play and explore, sometimes from the great heights of his lofty tree house. Lots of windows throughout the home help bring the outdoors in. A tree-patterned wallpaper running along one side of the kitchen mimics the trees just outside, playing with boundaries. Art is everywhere in this home, and the general openness and neutrality of the space allows each piece to be seen. Eero’s room is every little boy’s dream, complete with a fort under his bed, a disco ball and plenty of surface space to display his massive toy collection. Because everyone needs to be able to make a mess sometimes, they’ve kept one room on the lower level relatively unstyled as a playroom/painting studio. This house is a great example of design and comfort uniting to create a home for a family to enjoy together.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our style: We like clean lines and a lack of clutter. We try to straddle the line between so empty that it looks like an unfurnished bachelor pad and a home that’s actually lived in. You can have all the fancy famous furniture, but without some humanity, it just doesn’t work. We’re also fortunate enough to have a bunch of artist friends, so our philosophy is to keep walls mellow and let art bring the color into the home.

Inspiration: Japan and Scandinavia, ski lodges, skateboarding, our son Eero, growing up in Cleveland, Ohio and Bend, Oregon, Apple computers, vinyl toys

Favorite Element: The top front step that wraps into the house and becomes the bottom step of the upstairs staircase. I’m also a sucker for the ribbon window that wraps around the front of the house.

Biggest Challenges: Dealing with Clean Water Services. We replaced a retaining wall that was falling down, it was actually made out of lava rock, with a legitimate concrete wall. Once the county saw what we were doing they put a stop to the construction. They told us the backfill dirt was too close to the creek, and we contended that all we need to do is pour the wall and then all that backfill dirt will become “backfill”. It took months of of back and forth. The worst part was that it took so long that the Portland rains started and even once they finally gave us the thumbs up, it was so muddy that we couldn’t do the work…the county wasn’t too thrilled about that. The second most frustrating thing was trying to pour countertops during the big 2008 snowstorm. Everything was cracking and breaking.

What Friends Say: That’s a funny one. Our friends always compliment us on the house, but it’s Eero’s friends that really make you feel special. Kids are so open about saying things, like “You have the coolest house, I want to live here.” or, ” Can we trade houses?”.

Biggest Embarrassment: Having a pile of rubble and garbage in the front yard for months and months.

Proudest DIY: 2 things. We bought a cheap home depot faucet and had it powder coated bright yellow for $35. That, and the front yard and all the landscaping. It’s not all the way figured out, but it’s getting there.

Biggest Indulgence: We have 2 of these. The handmade cabinets that encompass the extra wide refrigerator are gorgeous. The second would be the large back window. It really feels like we’re a part of our backyard and all the nature that comes with that.

Best advice: This is pretty standard. Plan for twice as long as you think it will take and save much more money than you think it’s going to cost. I know that’s the cliche’ answer…other than that, I’d say think of things in systems. Make sure you don’t design the kitchen cabinets without thinking how the doors are going to look. If you’re going to hang a TV over the fireplace and a painting over the TV, think about how that whole chunk works together.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thanks Chris, Gretchen & Eero!

Images: Molly Anderson

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