Real Estate

Property Watch: A Remodeled Midcentury-Modern Home with Its OG Attitude

Views, woodwork, a bathroom balcony, an outdoor dining room and entertaining garden, and seamless updates in this architect's gem in Portland's Southwest Hills

By Melissa Dalton February 6, 2023

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 smartly updated midecentury-modern number in Portland's Southwest Hills. Got a home you think would work for this column? Get in touch at [email protected].

We’ve said it before, but Portland sure has some stunning midcentury modern gems, and this house is one of them. Not only because it’s got the pedigree, designed as it was by architect Walter Gordon. Gordon trained in the Ivy League, worked with legendary architect Pietro Belluschi, eventually opened his own practice in Portland and Eugene, and later became the dean of University of Oregon’s School of Architecture and Allied Arts.

This house, completed in 1966 in the Southwest Hills, is perched on its sloping 1.35-acre lot so as to soak up the distant views of the Southern Tualatin Valley, and sited so natural light cascades inside all through the day. Other windows capture the generous surrounding lot, including its artful landscaping, leafy trees, and bubbling water feature by the front door, all of which suffuses the house with a private and serene feel throughout. Add to that all the glorious woodwork, from the cedar-clad kitchen and family room, to the dining room’s slatted screen and built-ins, to the custom wall-hung teak cabinet in the living room, and saying there’s “good bones” feels like an understatement.

What makes this particular house so compelling is not just Gordon’s original design, but how these bones inspired the second owners, who had bought the property from the original family, to be very intentional with any updates. (Let’s just say the kitchen and bathrooms veered a little too midcentury and needed to be more modern.) The owners hired Emerick Architects and Right Angle Construction to be as seamless as possible with their interventions, all completed to impressive effect.

Take the kitchen and family room. The remodel expanded the previous tight galley layout, installing a quartz-covered island that seats six and custom cabinets that blend with the walls and vaulted ceilings, the latter all covered in its original cedar, which was expertly restored. (We love how even the stove’s hood vent fits right in.) In the adjoining family room, the fireplace façade was updated, as was the custom cabinetry along one wall to fit a TV above, making for a cozy destination to watch or relax. 

At the other end of the main level is the enlarged primary suite with a bathroom we love so much we've profiled it once before. Thanks to a sculptural soaking tub, standalone Finlandia sauna, built-in window seat, heated floors, and private balcony, it’s a veritable in-house spa.

Additionally, the expansive primary bedroom has a wood-covered ceiling, fireplace, and serene treetop views, as well as a large walk-in closet with its own laundry units. The latter even has a custom peg hook system that mirrors Gordon’s original in the mudroom, while in the hall, a built-in teak console perfectly matches the living room’s version, attesting to the design-build team’s exceptional eye for detail.

Downstairs, there’s four bedrooms, one with a brick fireplace, a family room with a second fireplace and kitchenette, two bathrooms, and dedicated laundry and storage rooms. (That’s five fireplaces total, if anyone’s counting.)

As the house is built on a slope, the lower level has high ceilings, large windows facing the view, and two covered decks of its own. In fact, between the total of five decks, outdoor dining room and entertaining garden designed by Karen Ford, and terraced hillside that culminates in a firepit, there’s no shortage of outdoor spaces to complement all those stunning interiors.

Listing Fast Facts 

  • Address: 5500 SW Hewett Blvd, Portland, OR 97221
  • Size: 6,542 square feet/5 bedroom/3.5 bath 
  • List Date: 2/3/2023 
  • List Price: $2,850,000 
  • Listing Agent: Traci Holder, Think Real Estate

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.