A Calm, Renovated, “Post-IKEA” Portland Home

updated Feb 7, 2019

A Calm, Renovated, “Post-IKEA” Portland Home

updated Feb 7, 2019
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Square feet
Sq ft

Name: David and Katy Kippen, and dogs Violet and Wally
Location: Laurelhurst — NE Portland, Oregon
Size: 650 square feet
Years lived in: 12 years, owned

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When Katy and David bought their 1922 Craftsman bungalow in Portland a dozen years ago, they visualized a place where they could enjoy privacy and calm, despite their home’s very urban location. With time and patience they have created their ideal space: modern, minimal and inspired by “nature, open spaces, and contrast.” The updates the couple have managed over the years — including gutting the kitchen and bathroom, and completely updating the landscaping — honor the vintage era of the home.

Katy is the owner and designer of Grayling, and David is part-owner of a hardware store in Portland. Katy explains the reasoning behind the calm, simple aesthetic of their home, “we both work in retail and our stores are highly stimulating environments. When we come home, we like to let our eyes rest.”

Katy details the numerous house projects that she and David have managed during the twelve years they have owned their house:

“Our home is a small two bedroom, one bathroom with about 650 square feet on the main floor. We may convert our 250-square-foot attic into a full-on second floor someday if time, money, and mental faculties allow.

We’re pretty certain our house was a Sears Roebuck & Co. kit home (or something similar) and it was officially built in 1922. One man owned the house for 50 years, but it became a rental and the victim of some rather poorly executed remodels in the early ’70s. When we bought it in 2004, the first thing we did was convert the “shed” (framed in 2×2’s, filled with walnuts and squirrels) into a full-on garage because David loves to work on his car.

Then, David rebuilt one of the windows that surround our fireplace (it held a shitty A/C unit), and replaced several windows which were broken, painted shut, or both.

In the spring of 2007, we demoed our bathroom! One highlight was when we accidentally smashed through a wall into our tiny hallway when the glass shower blocks came crashing down (oops!). But, it wasn’t all DIY — we were both working full-time and one toilet does not a happy couple make — so we hired help for the tile, wainscoting, and some electrical work. Our neighbors were extremely generous and let us use their facilities for several weeks! My favorite feature is our reproduction clawfoot tub. All the water we conserve through xeriscape gardening gets used in a different way: my bubble bath habit.

By spring of 2013, we’d saved up enough money to remodel our kitchen. This was a project that stretched into the following year because we did 90% of the work ourselves. David is a part-owner of a hardware store here in town and is incredibly handy, but nothing could have prepared us for how much work would be involved. Not to mention he and I are perfectionists, so that worked against us. We went with an IKEA kitchen, which resulted in no less than 20 trips back and forth, but, we got it done, and we have WAY more storage than we used to…and it is so easy to prepare healthy, delicious meals at home now (we cook six nights a week). Plus, it was really fun for David to try out many of the products he’d been dying to work with from his hardware store. This year, we got our original oak floors refinished, which meant we moved every piece of furniture out of the house.

One of Katy’s favorite hobbies is gardening, and her yard has benefitted from her love of landscaping:

“We have two distinct gardens here at the house, on a typical small city lot. When we bought our home in 2004, the exterior sat untouched for several years and drove me mad because we needed to make interior improvements first. So, I used that time to learn all about plants! The front garden faces south and gets baked by the sun, so I designed it as a xeriscape garden that requires very little water. A lot of people assume Portland is rainy year-round, but the truth is, we get almost no rain in July and August. Xeriscape doesn’t mean boring, though; we have blooms from January – late October, with many plants being fragrant. …I really wanted our house to feel secluded in a lush landscape.

The back garden was done in a more Japanese style with bamboo, maples, hostas, ferns, etc and a very large walnut tree for a canopy. We look at this garden from the kitchen window more than we actually sit in it because the freeway noise here in town can be loud. This garden looks its best in the spring when all the foliage is fresh.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Post-IKEA minimal

Inspiration: Nature, open spaces, contrast

Favorite Element: High ceilings and our fireplace

Biggest Challenge: Entertaining house guests with one bathroom

What Friends Say: It’s so cozy!

Biggest Embarrassment: We have yet to commit to artwork on our walls.

Proudest DIY: Our kitchen!

Biggest Indulgence: Converting from oil heat to natural gas and splurging on a new furnace.

Best Advice: Old homes will take all your time and energy if you let them. Decide what’s really important and turn a blind eye to the rest.

Dream Sources: Maruni and Schoolhouse Electric Co.


We aren’t very adventurous when it comes to wall treatments. The main reason being we both work in retail and our stores are highly stimulating environments. When we come home, we like to let our eyes rest. White is our go-to.

Since David is part-owner of a hardware store he is a natural (serial?) DIY-er. He has tried almost every brand of paint under the sun, and Benjamin Moore AURA is his favorite paint hands down for its “low-spatter and exceptional coverage.”

Living, Dining & Kitchen Walls — Benjamin Moore AURA Intense White
Trim — Benjamin Moore AURA SuperWhite
Office Walls — Benjamin Moore AURA Crystal Cave (out of production)

PAX —Ikea – One half holds all our shoes and outerwear and the other is our office nook. This unit is the reason our house isn’t a mess of papers and “stuff”.

Upholstered Ottoman — Wayfair
Throw — Seek & Swoon
Mantis Wall Sconce — CB2
Lira Lounge Chair — Room & Board
Shelves — Modern Shelving
Blinds — JC Penney
Plants — Garden Fever + cuttings from friends

Monika Leather Sectional- Moroni – We are limited on the amount of furniture we can reasonably fit in our living room, but the size of this sectional doesn’t overwhelm. We love leather because it’s impervious to scratches from Violet and Wally, who use it as a launchpad during intense play!

Nelson Wall Sconce — Design Within Reach We don’t have overhead lighting in our living room or space for floor lamps. Wall sconces offer the perfect solution!

Knitted Graphite Pouf — CB2 Poufs are a great option for small spaces. Paired with a chair, it makes a nice reading nook but if we have guests over, it serves as occasional seating.

Duello Gun Bookend — IMM Living (no longer in production) This was a gift from David’s mother and we think it’s a fun nod to our Montana roots.

Antler — When I was growing up, my grandparents had a cabin by a river in the Paradise Valley near the north edge of Yellowstone Park. It was rustic and decorated with arrowheads, interesting rocks and other found objects like this one. This antler is at least 30 years old.

Antique Mirror — My father had this empty frame from my grandmother Georgina’s high school in Laurel, Montana and put a mirror in it. It reminds me of her every time I walk past it.

Black Cabinet — David and I got our first apartment in 2001, and this is one of the first pieces of “real” furniture we owned. My parents bought it from their neighbor and planned on repainting it. But once David and I saw it in their garage, we fell in love with it and they let us have it (after some convincing). Originally turquoise, we decided stained black was more our style. David reglazed the glass, and rebuilt the back. It’s only 10″ deep so it never gets in the way.

On top and in cabinet (clockwise)

Agate — This is one of hundreds of rocks from my grandfather, Guy’s collection. I inherited my love of stones from him.

Ceramic Elephant — I received this as a gift in (ironically) a white elephant gift exchange like, 10 years ago. We face it towards the front door for good luck.

Candle — Linnea’s Lights I’m addicted to woodsy, amber scents and ‘Hearth’ from Linnea’s Lights is probably my favorite. I keep it in a cloche because the scent throw is so strong. I tend to reserve it for cooler months when we’re hanging out in front of the fireplace.

Bird Watercolor — Amber Alexander

Buddha Statue — Buddhist teachings really resonate with me. One of my favorite spiritual teachers is Pema Chödrön and I find such peace reading her books.

Antique Silver Butterfly Pin — One of the few things I have from my father’s mother, Eunice, who died when he was little. We think it might have been her mother Stella’s, which would make it from the early-1900’s. The filigree work is quite impressive.

Urns and Bolo Tie — David’s parents gave us the large urn as a wedding gift in 2005. It holds the rose petals from my bouquet, and anytime I get roses from him they get added to the urn. The smaller red urn was my grandmother Georgina’s, and the bolo tie was my grandfather Guy’s. It’s special to me because he cut, polished and set the stone. The other two urns are from South Korea. My father is retired Air Force and we lived outside Seoul for 2 years in the early 90’s.

Books and Asian Statue — I was (and still am, to some extent) literally obsessed with the Griffin & Sabine books from Nick Bantock when they debuted in the 90’s. The Asian statue is a trinket my father picked up at a restaurant gift shop. I’ve always liked it, so I permanently borrowed it a while back, along with the necklaces (they belong to my mom).

Terrier Watercolor and Train — This watercolor was given to us by a sweet friend for Christmas one year. It’s a portrait of our beloved Lizzy, a spitfire elderly rat terrier we adopted from The Pixie Project in 2011. The framed paw prints are hers, too. She was head shop dog at Grayling for a few years! The little train is a replica of an incense burner David remembers having as a kid. The smoke comes out the chimney, how fun is that?

Nelson Saucer Pendant Lamp — Design Within Reach When we bought our house in ’05, we installed a candelabra from Rejuvenation. Boy, was that a mistake. The bulbs were blinding and the light was way too harsh. Nelson lamps give off the perfect glow no matter how bright you set them – and the light never blinds you. Having all our lights on dimmers helps, too.

Alton Dining Table — Saloom We like mid-century styling but pieces that point too far that direction don’t look right in our Craftsman-style home. This table felt like a nice blend of modern and classic.

Spindle Dining Chairs — Safavieh A matching set of table and chairs felt too traditional for us. These have a Danish modern feel that’s not over-the-top plus they’re super comfortable and really well made. Bonus: they’re lightweight!

Cabinets — IKEA

Walnut Countertop and Cork Flooring— Lumber Liquidators David insists on using WaterLox because of the depth it creates in the finish. It’s also incredibly durable and has held up to our cooking 6+ nights a week. And we absolutely love our cork floors. The large tiles were fairly easy to install and they’re naturally warmer under foot than the vinyl we had before our remodel. Plus, they magically hide any bits of dirt the dogs track in!

Asbury Lighting — Restoration Hardware
Tile and Wainscot — Home Depot

I work from home a few days a week because I’m easily distracted when I’m in my shop. My little office is such a tranquil space, and it doubles as our yoga and meditation studio.

Besta Burs Desk — IKEA When I launched Grayling, my office budget was tiny but I splurged just a little on this desk. I love it because it’s wide enough to spread out and the drawers make it possible to stash anything I want out of sight. And at only 16″ deep, it’s shallow enough that it doesn’t take up the entire room.

Avery Chair — Modern Domicile

Wool Rug —Loloi David’s mother is an interior designer with amazing taste, and occasionally we get her hand-me-downs (like this chair and rug). This chair is ultra comfy and because it doesn’t have arms its my favorite meditation spot.

Alberta Table Lamp — Caravan Pacific I met Shannon a few years ago and absolutely fell in love with her midcentury-inspired lamps. They’re handmade in Portland and I love supporting other women-owned companies.

Throw — Seek & Swoon This throw is substantial without being heavy and I love the muted colors.

Thanks, Katy and David!

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