Home Design

Before the Finishes

Remodeling advice from the pros

By Jessica Pruitt August 19, 2009 Published in the September 2009 issue of Portland Monthly

Dreaming of granite countertops, sparkling hardwood floors, or a new attic bedroom? Not so fast.

Long before you can apply that final, gleaming coat of paint, you’ll have to fix problems you never knew you had, from inadequate foundations to faulty wiring to decrepit plumbing. But don’t abandon your dreams. Instead, bolster them with a little reality and a lot of good ideas from Spaces’ panel of remodeling specialists.

Image: Thomas Cobb

Tom Kelly

Neil Kelly

A second-generation remodeler, Tom Kelly worked on his first project at the age of 12 and has received much of his training on the job. After studying business at the University of Oregon, he took over as president of Neil Kelly in 1979 and has since worked to incorporate the company’s founding principles with sustainable business practices.

What, to you, is the most coveted aspect of your home? When I’m sitting in the living room reading, I just think about what a wonderful place it is. We have a great view of Mount Hood, and it’s a great place for relatives and friends. The sense of place that it provides is what’s most important.

TIP Make sure that your home’s traffic patterns are appropriate and thoughtful. “If you design an office that your children are going to be running through during working hours, it’s not going to be a very effective space.” 

Image: Thomas Cobb

Anne De Wolf


After receiving a degree in interior design from Marylhurst University, Anne De Wolf joined her husband, Richard, as a co-owner at his design/build firm, Arciform, in 1998. Her goal? To improve client communication and the design process. Since joining the company, she has taken delight in helping clients to realize their dreams.

What has most inspired the design in your home? Art nouveau. It’s very romantic. It’s organic and still formal. And it has great colors.

TIP If you want to add a second story to a one-story home, make sure you’re committed to the house. A lot of money will go into structural changes that you won’t be able to actually see.

Image: Thomas Cobb

Matt Raphael

Raphael Design Inc

After receiving his BA from the University of Virginia School of Architecture, Matt Raphael worked briefly for an architect and then a builder before deciding to start his own design/build company 15 years ago. He has since specialized in creative solutions for all areas of the home, from furniture to new construction.

What has most inspired the design in your home? The wood itself. I get inspired by the beauty of the old-growth fir we use from reclaimed timber, and I love to show it off and complement it with walnut and other natural materials.

TIP Make recycling a top priority during your remodel by reusing products from the old home or sending them to the ReBuilding Center. “Reused lumber has great old character and a great story to tell.”

Image: Thomas Cobb

Stephen Aiguier

Green Hammer Inc

With a degree in community development and applied economics from the University of Vermont, Stephen Aiguier realized his love of longevity and durability in construction during a three-year stint in Italy. He founded Green Hammer in the winter of 2002 and has been working toward sustainable business practices ever since.

If you could describe your home in one word, what would it be? Efficient. And I think of the word not just in terms of energy, but also space
and the use of natural resources.

TIP Eliminate air leaks in the home. Mastic glue is a cheap and easy way to do so—it’s messy but doesn’t require a huge amount of skill. “Who would leave their water faucet running all day long in the sink?” Aiguier asks. “The problem is that you can’t hear energy leaking like the drip-drip of a leaky faucet. But if you could, everybody would be crawling around sealing air leaks.”

Image: Thomas Cobb

Paul Frey

Home Inspector

Coming from a hands-on family, Paul Frey learned the ins and outs of construction at a young age. He launched his career in the rehabilitation and resale of older homes, but when, over 25 years ago, a friend suggested he get out of “that rat race,” Frey turned to the field of home inspection.

What is the aspect of your home you covet the most? I have solid-wood cedar siding that’s in perfect condition!

TIP Pay close attention to the siding flashing on the outside of your home. Poorly done or missing siding flashings at doors, windows, and penetrations allow water to seep into wall voids and cause mold and rot damage, which can often lead to expensive repairs. 

Image: Thomas Cobb

Erin Manwaring

Ste. Maine

Erin Manwaring’s first degree was in business, but home design proved to be her true calling. She studied architecture at the California College of the Arts, and in 1992, she and her husband relocated to Portland to pursue residential design and work with the city’s many beautiful homes. She now co-owns Ste. Maine, a design studio and home furnishings shop in Westmoreland.

What has most inspired the design of your own home? Our home is a mix of midcentury modern and antiques, and we love to mix things up like that. It’s sort of modern with a twist.

TIP “Hire carpenters by the hour and work side by side with them. It’ll give you motivation to get the job done and provide a great learning experience. If you can do one room with somebody, you can do the next one by yourself.”

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