Editor’s Note: Welcome to Portland Monthly’s new “Property Watch” column, where we’ll take regular looks at interesting homes on the market in Portland’s super-competitive real estate market (with periodic ventures to the burbs and points beyond, for good measure). This week: A cute-as-a-button Portsmouth bungalow. Got a property you’d like to suggest for this feature? Get in touch at [email protected].

Of course, there are the real estate stars, those showy custom builds that embody money and high design no matter what era they were built, whether it’s a ginormous Southeast Craftsman or a more modern showstopper in the Richmond neighborhood. But let’s take a moment, shall we, to appreciate our city’s more humble abodes?

Architectural historian Thomas C. Hubka suggests as much in a series of articles for the Oregonian written a few years back, wherein he catalogs Portland’s most common housing types: those smaller-scale, everyday ranches, bungalows, and foursquares that proliferate in our neighborhoods and are the backbone to the city’s charm. Houses just like this sweet little bungalow in the Portsmouth neighborhood.  

With a low-lying hip roof and inset front porch, this 1922 bungalow is an excellent representative for its type. It’s got a simple interior floor plan, with the living room and kitchen aligned on one side and on the other, two bedrooms sandwiching a bathroom. (Older bungalows wouldn’t have necessarily had a bathroom, but rather an outhouse in the backyard.) Bungalow plans like this one, or with slight variations, were the most popular spread in the U.S. before 1930, and amenities like electricity and a three-fixture bath is what made them “the first modern house … for an expanding working-to middle-class,” writes Hubka.  

This pretty Portsmouth residence has charm to spare, thanks to chic designer updates and preserved details: like the refinished Doug fir flooring on the front porch and in the living room, and the saved kitchen cabinets, now painted a fresh coat of Farrow & Ball’s Teresa’s Green and capped with bamboo counters.  

It clocks in at 832 square feet, but lives much larger, thanks to the intervention of its previous owner, Portland designer Jordan Woodard. Woodard scoured flea markets and big box stores alike to find furnishings for the perfect fit, all of which will be included in the sale, from the vintage hanging egg chair in the living room, to the modern bistro table that doubles as a prep spot in the kitchen. The laundry room, which used to be a dumping ground as the intermediary space between the kitchen and back deck, is now much more functional, thanks to new cabinetry hiding the water heater and organization solutions.  

There are delightful surprises, like the unusually large closet off the main bedroom—77 square feet!—and the remodeled bathroom, which now combines black penny floor tile and artisanal wallpaper with the preserved wood vanity topped with a quartz counter. 

There’s too small, and then there’s cozy, which is just the balance that this home strikes, from the board-and-batten wrapping the living room, to the cute-as-a-button Smeg refrigerator. With a walk score of 70, and St. Johns a short bike ride away, the choice to go out or stay in will be the hardest one to make, although there’s also the oversized deck for sitting back and relaxing under the twinkly string lights.  

 Listing Fast Facts:   

Address:  9039 N Van Houten Ave  

Size:  832 square feet, 2 bed/1 bath  

List Date:  7/8/2021   

Price:  $399,900  

Listing Agent: Breylan Deal-Eriksen, Windermere Realty Trust 

Melissa Dalton is a freelance writer who has focused on Pacific Northwest design and lifestyle since 2008. She is based in Portland, Oregon. Contact Dalton here.

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