Real Estate

Rent Crawl: 4 Apartments in NW Portland for Under $2,000

We scour apartment listings so you don’t have to.

By Shannon Daehnke February 25, 2022


Exterior of The Empress building. 

Renting a place in Portland can be a bit of a blood sport—so let us here at Portland Monthly help you. A couple of times a month, we’ll be compiling a quick list of digs for rent in the city right now, at a variety of price points. This time, all our picks are under $2,000/month. We’re on the lookout for non-cookie-cutter spaces—think antique detailing to useful amenities—without breaking the bank. This week: homes with genuine stucco interior, shared outdoor patios, an in-unit vintage phone that actually works, and walk scores that would be in the millions, if we had a say in the matter. 

 $1,155, Sara Ann Studio  

We stumbled across this beauty of an apartment before meeting up with a friend at Tea Chai Té on NW 23rd. But it wasn’t the brick exterior, vintage detailing, or “apartment available now” sign that caught our eye. It's because there is only one building sandwiched between it and Mio Sushi, and less than half a block separating it from the rest of the destination shops and restaurants on NW 23rd Avenue—Grassa, The Matador, Tender Loving Empire, Urban Outfitters, the list goes on. Inside, this bright, studio with hardwood floors does a lot with just 425 square feet. The walk-in closet (complete with a built-in dresser) and the small area adjacent to the kitchen (separate from the main living room area and perfect for a quaint WFH set-up) provide a lot of separation, which is very much appreciated in studio-living.  


Exterior of Sara Ann. 


$1,025, The Empress Studio 

This 1920’s hotel-turned-apartment complex gives off “McMenamins hotel before being McMenamin-ified" energy. Although it lacks the tried-and-true McMenamins’ features—no secret rooms or psychedelic-looking murals here, sorry—the Empress has a similar historic feel, with its classic long, hotel-like hallways and an ornately decorated elevator old enough to make the more cautious among us opt for the stairs. Located at the edge of the Pearl District, this third-floor studio is equipped with in-unit laundry, gorgeous dark-wood hardwood floors, lots of natural light, and vintage tiling in the kitchen and bathroom. As is typical of a hotel room, the tiny kitchen adorns the same wall as the living space, though it somehow seems to make the 400-sq ft space feel bigger.  


Lobby of The Empress apartment building. 

$1,325, Arneson Court Studio  

First of all, whoever took the photos for this Zillow listing definitely has access to a retro photo editing app and favors the “vignette” effect tools. This 1930’s castle-turned-apartment building—j/k, but the exterior literally looks like a castle, and it was built in the ‘30s—has some of the most gorgeous stucco interior we've ever seen inside a studio apartment, arched entryways, antique light fixtures and a seemingly out-of-place, very modern-looking kitchen (but who’s complaining about a sink that wasn’t installed in 1930? Not us!). Other highlights include a shared patio space, locked bike storage in the basement, and the fact that all utilities are included in the monthly rent—score!  

 $1,295-$1,695, The Nordel Apartments   

There's just something about the retro black wraparound letters atop a white stucco background adorning this red-brick building. The arched entryway, white-paneled windows, and two enormous potted plants cozily invite you inside. The three units currently available at the Nordel are almost entirely different from each other. The most expensive studio unit comes fully furnished with a few modern and trendy pieces, and the mid-price unit (at $1,395) is a carpeted one-bedroom—easily the most bang for your buck on this entire list. Each unit includes period details and a beautiful shared outdoor patio, but the cheapest studio unit has the coolest vintage detail of them all—an attached phone from who-knows-when that actually works. And if all of that isn’t enough, The Nordel’s marketing team is also apparently very proud of its distance from Salt and Straw (only one block away!) But, let’s be real, it’s definitely a selling point.  

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