A Small “Swedish Bungalow” in Portland Is DIYed and Adorable

updated Nov 8, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Square feet
Sq ft
(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

Name: Nicole Wear and Calle Holmgren, and daughters Jade (8), and Isla (5)
Location: SE Portland, Oregon
Size: 1,400 square feet
Years lived in: Almost 2 years, owned

House tour cover

Can't-Miss House Tours Straight to Your Inbox

Keep up with our latest house tours each weekday with our House Tour of the Day newsletter

When Calle and Nicole bought their two-bedroom bungalow at the base of Portland’s Mt. Tabor, they loved the original charm of the 1923 home, but knew they would need to be intentional to make the space work for their family of four. Creating a home that Nicole describes as “texture-rich, kid-friendly and inviting… all with a light, bright Scandinavian feel,” was a top priority for the couple. Another wish for their home: They wanted to be able to host Calle’s relatives, who live in Sweden and South Africa, on their extended visits to the States.

1 / 35
Calle, Nicole, and their daughters on the front porch of their 1923 Craftsman bungalow. (Image credit: Heather Keeling)

Calle’s background as a realtor, and Nicole’s expertise in interior design/staging, served the couple well as they set out to create a home that would meet all of their family’s storage and hosting needs. In the two years that the couple have owned their 1,000-square-foot bungalow, they have installed beautiful and practical built-in storage (see their “Biggest Indulgence”), created an outdoor living space, painted nearly every surface, updated the main bathroom, and added a 400-square-foot guest apartment in their formerly unfinished basement. Much of this work has been DIY and low-cost, “where blood, sweat, and tears were plentiful and budget was small.”

Small space strategies and the couple’s shared love of art can be found in every room of the home, which the family lovingly refers to as their “Swedish Bungalow.” The dining room is a wonderful example of these elements: a built-in bench runs the length of the dining room and opens up to hold the girls’ toys, while every wall showcases a meaningful piece of art.

This family does small-space living right, and their home reflects Nicole’s advice: “Create a space you love to live in and want to invite friends into. Incorporate pieces that make you happy and remember to work with the architecture of the home, not against it.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Texture-rich, kid-friendly and inviting… all with a light, bright Scandinavian feel.

Inspiration: We were very inspired by the beautiful bones and original details in our 1923 bungalow. While textures and art are a mixture of genres and eras, the home itself is a classic example of 1920s architecture.

Favorite Element: The original details still in tact: glass doorknobs, wood-framed windows, hardwood floors, picture railing, tall baseboards. We love it all!

Biggest Challenge: By far the kitchen, which is still in limbo. The layout is difficult with two doorways, a wall opening from dining to kitchen, another to the hallway/bathroom and bedrooms, an operational chimney stack for the furnace, and a breakfast nook turned “gateway” to the backyard, hence very little wall space to accommodate all the modern amenities we are accustomed to: stove, oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, sink. Our previous home had a large, open, and very functional kitchen so this has been quite an adjustment and definitely the trickiest part of our downsizing journey.

What Friends Say: They love spending time here.

Biggest Embarrassment: Although we like the checkerboard floors in the kitchen, they are always dirty and seem to possess magnetic powers where all dirt, debris, and dust are welcome comrades. Someday it will be replaced. Someday.

Proudest DIY: It’s a toss-up between the bathroom makeover, where blood, sweat, and tears were plentiful and budget was small; and the kitchenette which was a lot easier to complete but just as rewarding! In the bathroom I tackled the demo myself and hired professionals to waterproof the shower before installing tile. In the kitchenette I was up against visible plumbing from the bathroom above but decided to work with what was there and simply embrace the reality that a basement will always be a basement. I did the tile myself and felt pretty proud despite the imperfection.

Biggest Indulgence: Built-ins! With small bedrooms and even smaller closets we knew adding storage space to our tiny bungalow was essential. We worked with Thomas Prather of LakeWood Working to bring our built-ins to life.

We added an A-frame bookshelf with cabinets below for games, toys, more games and more toys, and a wall-to-wall dining bench with storage for all the Legos, a collection of Playmobil characters, and perhaps a tablecloth or two!

The end result is a win/win: We love the clean-lined Scandinavian aesthetic of the built-ins and we have a place to stash everything at the end of the day. Storage bins from IKEA fit perfectly inside the bookshelf cabinets and the bench so the kids know exactly what to do. This makes clean-up an absolute breeze.

Best Advice: Create a space you love to live in and want to invite friends into. Incorporate pieces that make you happy and remember to work with the architecture of the home, not against it. This doesn’t mean you have to buy 1920s furniture for your 1920s home, it simply means you should find pieces that properly fit the space, don’t overcrowd, and allow for flexibility. Form and function can coexist in a harmonious relationship if you let them. There is also something to be said for cohesive, complementary spaces that work together to create a consistent vibe throughout your home.

Dream Sources: I am a sucker for locally-made goods and would love to fill our home entirely with items from our talented Portland makers.


Interior: Rodda — Interior walls are Pure White, woodwork is Snowdrift
Exterior: Benjamin Moore — Exterior walls are Graphite, woodwork is Black
Front Door: Sherwin Williams — Jovial (my favorite shade of pink ever)

Lowboy Dresser — Drexel courtesy of Vintage Seattle Rain (my go-to vintage treasure finder)
Vintage Rug — Sourced by Vintage Seattle Rain
Gio Chair — Sitte Modern
Pendants — Cedar & Moss for Rejuvenation
Large Artwork — Self portrait of Andrew Myers
Accent Table — Thrifted in Laguna Beach
Built-in Bookshelves — Lake Woodworking

Leon Wood Frame Sofa — West Elm
Cocktail Table — Harkavy Furniture
Vintage Kodawood Chairs — Kodawood
Vintage Mid century Chair — Frank & Sons sourced by Vintage Seattle Rain
Vintage Folding Foot Stool — Sourced by Vintage Seattle Rain
Accessories — Carter and Rose

Modern Dining Table — West Elm
Vintage Swedish Dining Chairs — Sourced by Hawthorne Vintage Modern
Modern Buffet — West Elm
Floating Shelves and Brackets — World Market
Large Mirror — Salvaged wood + IKEA mirror DIY
Throw Blanket — Seek and Swoon
Original Artwork — Carson Ellis, Justina Blakeney and more

Island/table — Lakewood Working//Thomas Prather

Side Tables — Harkavy Furniture
Bedside Sconces — Rejuvenation
Ceiling Light — Cost Plus World Market

Hex Tile — DalTile
Lighting — Kichler
Towels — Slowtide

Bedside Sconces — Rejuvenation
Wall Hanging — Vintage Seattle Rain
Built-in bunks — Designed by me and built with the help of a friend

Cabinet — Lake Woodworking
Tile — Pratt & Larson Matte White Diamond (installed in diamond pattern)
Shelves — Rejuvenation

Share Your Style:

See More:
⇒ Recent House Tours
House Tours on Pinterest