Emily's Magical Homemade Home

Emily's Magical Homemade Home

Leela Cyd
Mar 23, 2011

Name: Emily Christensen
Location: Portland, Oregon
Size: 1200 sq/ft
Years lived in: 2.5 years

Emily's home has a magical quality to it. Tucked into a friendly neighborhood of early-mid century homes in NE Portland, walking through the arched doorway, I felt as though I stepped into a fairy tale. There was just so much creative, homemade, found and repurposed treasure. Emily even has a hallway fort, resplendent with strange stuffed animals, soft blankets and cozy pillows — perfect for a midday nap. Join me on a stroll through this enchanted work/live space.

What's so lovely about this home is that the personality of the renter is apparent in every room. There's tenderly cared for feathers pinned to a wall, old binoculars in a bookshelf for inprompteau bird watching in the pink rhododendron outside, mobiles made of dried flowers adorn the ceilings, thrifted mason jars full of canned veggies and vintage/found piece of furniture, to name just a few of the highlights. The real miracle though is how each of these seemingly disparate elements comes together in a stylish, refreshing manner, full of care but happy randomness. Nothing is too fussy, but everything has its place.

It's the type of layered space that Portlanders dream to find. Sure there are many historic homes in this Pacific Northwest city, but many of these exterior gems have been remodeled along the way, resulting in a mish mash of eras, styles and tastes. Emily's open, light-filled space, is a creative, upcycled haven for this fashion designer. Because Emily's studio is within her home, she and her housemate worked hard to cultivate an inspiring, peaceful space.

The most striking aspect of this home are the absolutely wonderful walls. Downstairs, there's a grid of postcards, covering the wall entirely with found, sent, old and new postcards. This wall was started before Emily even got there, she just opted to complete the look — and it's a spectacular display of collected history and memory. This postcard wall would make for an approachable, relatively inexpensive DIY. Maybe you even have your collection started, why not display it in this fashion?

Upstairs, Emily scraped off 100 years of wallpaper to find the most perfectly distressed soft blue and cream texture. The effect is beautiful — perfectly imperfect, this is the look we distressed-chic buffs would kill to achieve with hours of painting and never quite attain.

Re-Nest Survey

Our style: Farm / Bauhaus

Inspiration: I grew up in Santa Cruz, CA in a big craftsman. My father loved this house and spent his weekends carefully tending to every detail of the house's interior, exterior, and yard. I understood, at a young age, that a house of one's own is the ultimate goal and the ultimate pleasure. My Father's loving servitude toward his home is my inspiration. Love your house as if it were your child.

Favorite Element: When you enter our house you walk into a large room with walls that curve into the ceiling and a fireplace at one end. It smells like wood. The feeling of this room sets the tone for the whole house. This is not a crisp, succinct house, it is a languid woman with her eyes half-closed.

Biggest Challenge: Our biggest challenge has been the lack of natural light. The large rhododendrons out front, while stunning, block a lot of light.

What Friends Say:
"I love dancing in your house!'

Proudest DIY: Upstairs the lath and plaster walls have begun to rot and can not support paint. Lucky me! The grayish white paint that was last applied was buckling and peeling on its own. It didn't take much to scrape it off and reveal the fresco surface underneath. I love the irregularity of the color. It makes the rooms more interesting and alive than they would be otherwise.

Biggest Indulgence: We have a working fireplace and indulge in fires throughout the fall, winter, and early spring.

Best Advice: Buy this house. Don't buy this house.

Green Elements/Initiatives: The greenest aspect of our home is our lifestyle. We only turn the heater on for special occasions and even then never past 60. We compost using the three large compost bins we built two years ago (there's even a bin to composts dog poop!), we have chickens to eat our leftovers and provide us with fresh eggs, we recycle and reuse and generally prefer to ride bikes instead of driving our (shared) car.


When I came to view the property it was as if the previous tenants had simply vanished into thin air. The house was a wreck but contained a wealth of resources. The couch, dining room table, chairs, ceiling lamps, and stove were items I chose to keep.


  • Aqua Wedgewood gas stove: This beautiful old thing was here when I moved in.
  • Bernina industrial sewing machine: my workhorse. I purchased this is Santa Cruz right after I got out of art school. It took four people to get it upstairs and even then we almost killed our backs.
  • Vintage dress form: This was a gift from the old lady that lived across from my childhood home. She was a shut-in and so it came as a surprise when she passed away.


  • Sea-foam green sectional: Found at a garage sale. It is very versatile although getting a little raggedy because of the cat.
  • Dining room table: It was here when I moved in. It has a leaf that we add for dinner parties. I love how delicate it is.
  • Large wooden hand built chest: This was made by my first love when he was a young man. It might have been one of his first building projects (he has since built two studios and completely remodeled his house and many others).
  • The rocking chair: Purchased from a Goodwill because of its beautiful leather.

All are made, found or received as gifts.

  • The dried flower puffs that hang in the curved archway have been there for almost two years. I make the various ceramic figures that watch from the walls and recline on the tables.
  • Aqua ram: Purchased in Paradise, CA and received as a gift.
  • Bundles of feathers: I am an avid bird watcher and feel it is a real treat to find feathers. These are very dear.
  • Bird nests: I collected these with a friend before the rains came to rot them out of the trees.
  • Banjo: A gift from my sweetie. He found it at a garage sale, completely refinished the body, replaced several tuners and the bridge and removed the broken resonator to make it an open back banjo, all with the hope that we would play together. It looks beautiful on the wall.
  • Basketballs: Here when I moved in. They are so happy and their striped colors remind me of the clothes I make.
  • Lucky horseshoe: a gift from a trip to Eastern Europe.
  • Red Clock: a gift from my Gramma.


  • Blue Standing Lamp: I found on the sidewalk. I hoped it would work but assumed it wouldn't. It does.
  • Brass Wall-Mounted Bedside Lamp: I think I stole this from my Father but it was so long ago that I can't be sure.

Rugs and Carpets I love rugs but hate carpet. There is nothing like worn wood under feet. But it's also nice to warm up the room and create color with a rug.

  • Circular navy blue braided rug: I found on the sidewalk in Santa Cruz. It stayed down there until a friend offered to bring it back in his van. That favor led to a dinner date and now he is my sweetie.
  • Large kilim rug: a gift from my father whose appreciation of oriental rugs is legendary. Smaller kilim rug: I purchased this North African tent rug from an antique store in Santa Cruz.

Window Treatments The copper mini blinds were here when I moved in. They conveniently disappear during the day but are a nice addition to the overall appearance of the house when the sun goes down.

Artwork From friends and lovers.

Paint All of the wall paint on the ground floor is the original color. The house was built in the teens when they had awesome taste! I love the aqua ceiling in the dining room so much!

Flooring Narrow oak flooring on the ground floor. Upstairs we are lucky to have beat up painted wood floors. The black paint has chipped and now shows an amazing pattern of black with peach colored scratches, slashes, and checks.

Visit Emily's Clothing Line: Filly

(Thanks, Emily!)

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(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)

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