Historic NW Home with a Modern Kick

Historic NW Home with a Modern Kick

The historic John Vogt house in NW Portland is set to begin a new life. Rather than a straightforward restoration, the house now reflects a calming interior incorporating modern design elements and a greatly improved floorplan.

The 1907 home has been expanded to include 2 ADUS, one in the basement, and one above the new garage. Altogether, there is nearly 4,000 sf of interior space, which required great design and a lot of patience to bring it all together.

We asked Ashton Ford, principle at AshtonforDesign, to walk us through the project, beginning with how the design concept was developed.



After, with final touches underway...

After, with final touches underway...

"Every project begins with the client. They usually have a source of inspiration and for this client it was her workplace, a natural medicine and wellness clinic. The modern approach also reflects the style chosen by the client. 

I grasped the idea of calmness in the design, but also created a lot of contrasts within the material choices and lighting so it didn't feel monotonous. I wanted the client to live in a relaxing place; a home that gives her the feeling she gives to the clients in her practice each day.

The wood cabinetry is walnut and we exposed the douglas fir flooring beneath. We also added doug fir trim throughout. I am a huge advocate for embracing the original elements of a historic home to showcase and celebrate the early 20th century esthetic. One of the first things we did in this home was restore the leaded glass windows located at the front of the home.  


The color palette is a blend of neutral whites and grays with an introduction of bold colors and materials throughout the home. For example, the kitchen is mostly gray and white, but we added an amazing Pratt and Larson tile backsplash in Indigo. To complement this color scheme, I chose a dark teal faux leather to be used on the custom built-in bench cushions in the dining room. An even larger connection, but soft design element, are the shaker style cabinets corresponding to the shaker panels on the base of the built-in bench.

With client approval, this is the design style I bring to most of my projects. I'm not a fan of monochromatic white or all bold colors. I think it's hard to appreciate a beautiful white if there is no contrast to punctuate it. The same goes for an extremely colorful palette when there is no white or larger context of a single neutral color that creates a backdrop for the space.

When you bring an opposing color into the mix you are affected by the other colors far more than if everything is white or a myriad of bold colors. There's a balance and it's a tricky one, but it can be accomplished with the careful selection of paint, materials, lighting, furniture and accessories.

The greatest design challenge was overall space limitations, but I continued to refine the individual rooms and the overall flow until it came together harmoniously. In particular, I reworked the entire floor plan to maximize as much space as I possibly could. The bathrooms were the hardest, but I managed to make each bathroom quite a bit more roomy. The master bathroom was originally designed with almost no space to move. I loved the challenge of making that space look and function like a master bathroom. The mission was definitely accomplished and I loved the way it turned out!

The bathrooms were the hardest, but I managed to make each bathroom quite a bit more roomy. The master bathroom was originally designed with almost no space to move. I loved the challenge of making that space look and function like a master bathroom. The mission was accomplished and I loved the way it turned out!

Above: Main floor bath.

Right and below, the transformed  entryway.


The necessary pieces of a plan can’t be thrown together, but must reflect how people will use the room; how it's related to the adjacent room, and so forth. The windows matter, the flow of people through the space matters, the details are extremely important. People intuitively know when space is used proportionately and efficiently, and when the design is haphazard.

Downstairs kitchen in the ADU.

Downstairs kitchen in the ADU.

The scale of the project did impact the design. I wanted to give each room it's own style without becoming an outcast. The end result is a series of connected spaces within a space. We were fortunate the client had the budget for a significant project. It allowed us to design casework and choose products for everything at the same time, which results in a cohesive look.


Even the attic dormer was converted to usable, comforting space.

It’s remarkable how transformative this process has been. The home was taken down to it's lathe and plaster. Even though I was designing and visualizing the space the entire time, the end product is still something out of this world when you look back to old photos and remember the conditions we started with.

Second floor bath

Second floor bath

Working on this project I learned that historic homes like this take quite a bit of time to get permitting from the city. If a client has a timeline for a project it really should rest on the permitting process. The client for this project was incredibly patient, which is why she was a dream to work with.

I'd recommend hiring an architect well-versed in the permitting process and/or an architect who can work closely with a FIRS inspector that will tell you what you need to know before you do it. 

The growth edge for me was the complex project management. It underscored again that relationship building is key in order for the project to come together. I truly do love that aspect of design; staying on top of details, process, and timing. Communicating with all the necessary people involved is very important.


Ashton Ford is the founder of AshtonForDesign

Effective interiors that breathe life and inspire. 

Ashton has a strong focus on connecting with the local community and collaborating on projects both large and small. Whether the job calls for custom design, catalog sales, or salvaged items, she knows where to find it. With a bachelor of fine arts in interior design, her abilities range from concept and research to development and execution. Follow on instagram @ashtonfordesign.