Open Door to Modern Homes

A tour of new homes in the modernist style, which is alive and well in Portland.

By Kristin Belz February 25, 2013


The Full Plane Passive House (designed by Michelle Jeresek of Departure) is full of sustainability and energy efficient features.

In the spring season of home tours, one of the newer tours on the block is beginning to stand out as a regular you don't want to miss. The Modern Home Tour is in its second year in Portland, but the eight houses opening their doors look inspiring and worth a trip to see. 

The Modern Home Tour is actually a company based in Austin, Texas who are trying to spread the word of modernist architecture and design. Since it's a good hundred years or so since Modernism came about as a new architectural and artistic movement, the word has been out there for a while. But Matt Swinney and James Leasure seem confident the bandwagon hasn't slowed down and that modernist styles will chug along energetically into the 21st century.

They organize tours all over the country (and beyond – Canada is represented by tours in Vancouver and Toronto). Check their map: they tour in their hometown of Austin, Texas, of course, plus Houston, San Diego, Denver, Kansas City, Silicon Valley – even Fayetteville, Arkansas (where eminent architect Fay Jones has long had his practice). 

A unit in the building at SE Clinton and 26th designed by Holst will be open during the Modern Home Tour.

Part design booster, part real estate sales event (sometimes a house on one of the tours is for sale), part architectural appreciation, ooogling and education, the tours are a growing business. Adding Portland to the list of markets was a natural choice. Here, modernism is deeply rooted in our young cities, and takes on the special flavor referred to as Northwest Regional Modernism, a continuously popular style since the 1930s or so. 

Looking at the photos of the eight houses on the Portland tour this year, it's hard not to wonder if there is a particular subset of modernism being practiced here right now. Several of the houses share a resemblance to one another in color, materials, and massing that wasn't apparent in last year's houses. Last year there was a lot of wood – typical for our regional modernist style – and this year is no different. But there seems to be a subtheme of homes featuring elements that are bold, boxy and black, that flaunt a geometric simplicity of volume and plainness of texture. Three homes (by Works Partnership, Departure Design, and the Dukehart house renovated by Greenline Fine Woodworking) exemplify this trend, if indeed it is a trend. A fourth house, the Papazian home, adds its own version of exaggerated, bold geometry, but without the black palette. 

We'll be previewing some of the houses on the tour in subsequent posts, but for now, be sure to get the event on your calendar.

Modern Home Tour Portland
WHEN: Saturday, March 9, 2013 from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. 
Tickets are $30 in advance online (on sale until 8:00 pm on Friday, March 8. Day of event tickets are $40, available at any of the tour properties beginning at 11:00 am on March 9. 


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