Aug 14, 2014

Behind the Design: Lynne Parker

Portland-based interior designer Lynne Parker, of Lynne Parker Designs takes us behind the scenes of her latest project: transforming a simple midcentury ranch house into a colorful, eclectic space with lots of personality. Below, Parker shares her tips for getting the right look in your own home. Click here to see images of the finished project in the 2014 August/September issue of GRAY.

By Lynne Parker

There is something innately invigorating about the idea of starting over. In college, I learned about the concept of tabula rasa, the blank slate, and have loved the idea of starting fresh ever since. This concept is one I often apply to my design projects. I walk into a space and visualize it completely transformed. The clean-slate beginning is often the birthplace of amazing ideas.

Renovating or designing a space is a mix of hard work and fun, but for me there is a method to the madness and I generally follow five guiding principles when approaching a project.

1. Start with wishful thinking. Ask yourself, “Could I make this place uniquely amazing?”

My latest project, featured in the August/September issue of GRAY magazine, sits on a hill overlooking Portland. When I first looked at it, the house was an average 1950s ranch (minus the covetable cool midcentury vibe) in need of some reno-TLC. I immediately saw the potential for modern updates, while keeping in mind the preservation of its amazing panoramic west-facing views.

Downstairs, Parker transformed a dull room that led to the laundry into a bedroom for one of her 20-year-old twin daughters, each of whom have a space downstairs.

The "in-process" shot of the image to the left shows the replacement of the lighting panels and faux wood siding with smooth white wallsone of which will be covered in wallpaper from Flat Vernacular. 

Good design begins with solid decision making. There are an infinite amount of choices someone can make when designing, but only a limited few that will bring out the best in a space. In order to achieve this, I find that having the ability to be agile during the decision-making process makes a project run much more smoothly.

Before the remodel, the galley kitchen in interior designer Lynne Parker's mid-century Portland ranch was cramped and dark, peppered with dated appliances and not conducive to entertaining. 

2. Always honor a structure’s heritage and architectural integrity.

The hilltop house had a good layout on the bottom level but needed some structural adjustments on the top (main) level. The first decision on the main level was to remove a small wall in the outdated kitchenette to create a larger, more open kitchen area.  Raising the ceilings created additional volume and removing a doorway to the garage created an L–shaped opportunity for kitchen essentials—the fridge, ovens, sinks, a microwave, and the stovetop.

The ceilings in the living room (as well as the rest of the upstairs) were vaulted to bring in more light and give the space a more expansive feeling.

The kitchen is important to me. I have twin daughters and lots of their friends, my friends, and our family are always here. I am southern, so the beginning of any great night is food, drinks, and people you love. We crammed 12 people around the table for the first Christmas in the house … just five days after moving in. A great kitchen and big, open table are always a part of my life and a recommendation for my clients. It shouldn't be something you are afraid to spill on, drink on, or lean on, and this table is exactly that—it is four-inch-thick reclaimed lumber that I chose from the salvage yard with Jason Gillihan from Black Rabbit. It doubles as dining table and kitchen-island.

Together, Gillihan and I also designed a bar cart that doubles as additional seating at the big table. Simply take off wheels and the bottom shelf and it nestles up to the table for two extra place settings.  The cart’s full-time job is as a beautiful walnut gathering place for cocktail essentials.

Located on a hill in Portland's Council Crest Park neighborhood, the home offered great existing views, especially from the living room.

I also added double French doors onto deck to capitalize on the fabulous view—the main level sits two stories up and it is in the trees. Beyond the large Oregon pines I see the western rolling hills.

3. Invest resources where it matters.

Think about investing in structural changes, mechanical upgrades, high-quality fixtures, and hard surfaces—wherever you can afford it.

Working with architect Kevin Fischer of Portland's Alice Design and contractor Hammer &Hand, Parker took out the walls of two small bedroom and two small bathrooms, combining them to create a spacious master suite.

The master suite one step closer to furniture. 

I invested in the modern master suite. I took two tiny existing bedrooms and two small baths and demolished the walls to create a wonderful oasis. The bathroom is at the back of the house, so I added double French doors to once again take advantage of the view, providing the ability to soak in the tub while watching the sunset. I love the placement of a tub in the middle of a big bathroom because it just insists that you relax every night. When I first saw the space, I knew I wanted to raise the roof to give the suite a grander feel. The rooms were not that big to begin with and the small 50s windows gave it a boxy, cramped feeling. The vaulted ceilings really opened up the space and the added double French doors give a great perch-view in the trees.  Between the bathroom and bedroom I added two separate closets with custom closet shelving, which is an essential luxury in every great master suite.

Another priority of mine was to use Arabescato Carrara marble throughout the entire house. In some places, such as the kitchen countertops and bathrooms vanities, it is honed, and in others, it is polished (kitchen backsplash, master bath floor, and shower). I laid it in a herringbone pattern on the heated master bath floor and powder room to add to the interest. (The herringbone pattern especially looks great in homes more than 50 years old.) The rest of the floors in the house have wide 7-inch white-oak plank floors for a clean modern feel.

4. Acknowledge trends without being trendy.

Wallpapers are a great solution to providing that pop of personality and trend without going overboard. Gorgeous grasscloth, hand-printed graphics, and whimsical prints from all over the world can be integrated into any design, and I often use them like art.

For the master suite of this house, I chose a graphic gold-on-white print by the amazing ladies at Hygge & West. I am a big fan of their work and use it often in my clients’ homes. It takes a village, a very talented village to make an amazing space.

5. Let your space tell your story.

We all have special things we have collected from travels, our past, our relationships, and our families. Everyone’s home should reflect who they are, and collected items help tell that story. In this house, I used vintage light fixtures in some of the rooms, for that personal, collected feel. And on floating shelves in the kitchen, I display other treasures and functional pieces. (It also keeps us from collecting too much stuff we don't need. My floating shelves force me to keep tidy and clean; definitely a bonus.)

People’s things help guide me as I work on their homes—every client has a different style, and starting with the things they already own provides a good foundation for the design of a space.

When a project wraps up, the last drape is hung, and contractors have vacated the site, you can sit back and enjoy your new space. As much as I gush about special fabrics and amazing wallpapers, the most important consideration is creating a space that my family—or my clients’ family—is able to call home.

Click here to see images of the finished project in the 2014 August/September issue of GRAY.

Images courtesy of Lynne Parker and Zillow

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