Home is where the heart is.


Correction: home is where you feel comfortable straying from the norm and not caring about what others think. Except that the norm is becoming less and less weird and more and more mainstream with the rise in hipster migration, but I digress….

I have a special place in my heart for Portland because it’s where I spent a significant amount of time as a child. I should point out that I actually lived across the Columbia River in Vancouver (Washington, not B.C., George explored the US before Canada, people!), a town made famous by the smutty bondage twilight fanfare that appealed to more 40-year-old housewives than its intended 20-something audience. However, Portland was the happening place during my childhood and this is becoming even more evident today.

I recently spent a week at my brother’s 1940’s bungalow in the neighborhood of Mt. Tabor, an east side community that sits on a volcanic cinder cone (inactive, of course). Over the years, it has become quite a hot spot and most recently, rose to fame serving as the recurring filming location for the television show, Portlandia.


To my delight (and the slight aggravation of some neighbors), they happen to be filming an episode during my visit. Naturally, I had to sneak by and gawk.


Nicknamed the “Eyebrow House” after its arch shaped addition, the 1940’s bungalow probably looked similar to the neighboring homes prior to its remodel.


There’s a great article on the house where you can see interior photos and more remodel work. There are mixed reactions from architectural critics. Some call it trailer chic and others deem it innovative and futuristic. I think it’s interesting and it definitely stands out from the neighbors. Whether it’s because of its aesthetics or fame, I’m not quite certain.

One thing that I am certain about is the abundance of charming homes in the neighborhood. The Portland Foursquare is a common sight throughout the city (I’d love to see someone check in to their Foursquare on Foursquare).


The American Foursquare was manufactured by Sears as a pre-fab home and sold in its catalog. Starting in the mid-1890’s, the American Foursquare originated as a departure from the ornate Victorian styles that had dominated Portland.  It also became one of the most popular styles of homes across the country.

The house is characterized by its square, boxy design with two stories and four large rooms made visible by its windows from the outside. There might be a front porch and many of the homes have arched entries and built-in Craftsman style cabinetry.

Here’s one for sale in the neighborhood.


Seeing it in person is much more impressive. There are hints of Japanese elements that I love. For under $700,000, I’m tempted…..


….which is crazy talk since it’s Portland. It’s no longer the last affordable frontier on the West Coast. I pulled the classic San Franciscan “if this house were in <hot SF neighborhood>, it would cost a couple mill!!”

There are other houses in the neighborhood worthy of the San Franciscan sticker shriek. Here are a few that I found appealing. J’adore this porch.


A classic Craftsman example.


I love the front Japanese-style fence of this home.


Apparently, a very grouchy man lives in this one. Why the grouchiness? He lives in a really nice house that probably didn’t cost him his 401K.


This is my brother’s rear neighbor. I love the simplicity…..


Aside from Portland’s charming homes and neighborhoods, I miss seeing horse rings on sidewalk edges, remnants of a time when horse-drawn vehicles were the mode of transportation. Only a few remain throughout the city, and many residents have made efforts to bring attention to their historical significance and nostalgia. One such effort is the Horse Project in which an artist started tethering toy horses to the horse rings while encouraging others to do the same. I hope to see these endearing reminders of the past for many years to come.


It’s not surprising that Portland has seen waves of immigrants from the East Coast and California. Although there’s rain 370 days out of the year (the rain really stretches time when you live there), the city’s abundant charm, little quirks, nostalgic homes, and affordability (compared to many metropolitan areas) make it one of the most popular destinations in the country, permanent or temporary.

2 thoughts on “Portlandish

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