Real Estate

Property Watch: A Classic Midcentury In Multnomah Village That May Have Been the Architect’s Own

We know from his obituary that he designed his own home

By Melissa Dalton October 24, 2022

Image: Ruum Media

Editor’s Note: Portland Monthly’s “Property Watch” column takes a weekly look at an interesting home in Portland’s real estate market (with periodic ventures to the burbs and points beyond, for good measure). This week: a midcentury-modern in Multnomah Village that may have been an architect's dream home. Got a home you think would work for this column? Get in touch at [email protected].

The fact that we’ve been on a streak of midcenturies here at Property Watch should be no surprise, considering the stock we are lucky to have in Portland. Apparently well-known architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock once said—in 1939, mind you—that Portland was the place for some of the best modern residential architecture. We’re going to add this home to the group, built in 1952, and designed by architect James Jamison.

Jamison was a founding partner of Hewlett, Jamison, Atkinson, and Luey, a firm started in 1959, responsible for the design of primarily institutional buildings. The list includes Sprague High School in Salem, Albany High School, Oregon State University's administration building and Aloha High School in Beaverton.

Jamison passed away in 2007, and the obituary also mentions that he designed his own personal SW Portland residence. So, the question is: could this be it? Another clue: The first sales history that we can find is in 2006, a year before the architect’s passing.

Image: Ruum Media

Regardless of the answer, this house is special. Sure, it’s turned over in ownership a couple times since 2006, so it doesn’t have the original interior finishes in some places, notably the kitchen and bathrooms. But it definitely feels like the architect’s intentions are still here. 

Image: Ruum Media

In comparison to the neighbors, its form is long and low, the 1701-square-footage spread over one level and capped with a metal roof. The front walk is a modern concrete installation spliced with fun angles for visual interest. Then through the bright aqua front door, the main room is a large space with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the backyard and dramatic contrasting ceiling beams directing the eye outwards. The ceilings are high and sloped in such a way that the home feels like it’s nestled on the street-side, and opening to the landscaping in the back.

Image: Ruum Media

The kitchen is defined by one extremely long run under the front windows. Simple white cabinetry and streamlined white quartz balance the darker original concrete floors, wood ceiling, and Roman brick on the fireplace wall.

Image: Ruum Media

There’s no shortage of storage here. In addition to the kitchen run, there are new built-ins throughout, from the tall open shelves in the living room, to inset boxes in various spots around the house. 

The primary suite sits on one side of the main living areas, complete with high ceilings, a large closet, and bathroom with curbless shower, double vanity, and soaking tub. The most recent owners added a cedar hot tub to the backyard, just steps from the suite’s glass exterior door.

Image: Ruum Media

The other three bedrooms and bathroom are on the other side of the house. Two bedrooms face the back, so also have those big windows, and one of them is kitted out with playful built-ins and a bunk. The front-facing room with two smaller windows would make for a great office.

Speaking of the backyard, the new landscaping that mixes concrete and metal accents continues out here, and there’s a new outbuilding with the same exterior siding and punchy door color as the main house.

Image: Ruum Media

Looking back at the rear façade, you can see how the architecture really shines, with the ceiling beams protruding dramatically from the glass, underscoring the eaves, and even the Roman brick fireplace extended outside to include a little built-in grill. This is the indoor-outdoor life circa 1952, but it’s still pretty fresh today.

Listing Fast Facts 

Address: 8121 SW 47th Ave, Portland, OR 97219

Size: 1,701 square feet/4 bedroom/2 bath 

List Date: 10/14/2022 

List Price: $1,039,000 

Listing Agent: Katherine Williams, Rose City Realty Group

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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