Town and Country

A former carriage house in the Southwest Hills gets an elegant new life for a family of four.

By Anna Sachse May 19, 2009 Published in the March 2009 issue of Portland Monthly

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First-time visitors to the home of Ron and Jillian Cain might think they’ve stumbled upon a secluded country cottage. Perched high in the Southwest Hills and down a private drive lined with towering conifers, the unassuming two-level stucco house is set amid such tranquil grounds, you’d never know the bustle of NW 23rd Avenue lies mere minutes away. This proximity to and distance from city life was a major perk fifteen years ago when Ron first found the single-level, 1,600-square-foot former carriage house. The property’s choice location sold him on it despite its size and color—the previous owner had painted the entire exterior pink. The one-bedroom structure also had good bones. But within five years it would need a massive overhaul if the Cains were to live there comfortably.

One paint job and a two-and-a-half-year remodel later, the Cains’ French villa–style home now has triple the square footage. With the help of architect Liz Dexter and Lake Oswego–based interior designer Mary Roberts, the family added a master bedroom, two bathrooms, a family room, and a brick courtyard on the main floor, along with two more bedrooms, a bathroom, a laundry room, and a wine cellar on the floor below.

But the home’s grand new size is deceptive, both outside and in. The main floor’s 3,300 square feet feel both connected and cozy because the design centers on the light and airy kitchen at the heart of the house, with surrounding rooms flowing into one another. And while the Cains’ aesthetic tends toward the traditional, Jillian always wanted it to feel approachable. Stately antiques and modern furniture mesh seamlessly thanks to the unifying theme of natural tones and elemental patterns. “We all have pretty calm dispositions in our family—even the twins—and I think you can see that reflected in our décor’s neutral color palette and lack of clutter,” says Jillian, who picked up her love of minimalism, clean lines, and attention to detail while working for Calvin Klein in San Francisco.

The family’s goal, she adds, is to infuse high design with warmth and livability—which explains why in winter they always have a fire going when friends come for dinner. Lucky for the Cains’ many guests, a visit to this “countryside” retreat doesn’t require packing a suitcase.

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