by Bridget A. Otto, The Oregonian
Katelyn Randall and Michael Parsons’ home on Mount Tabor’s western flank takes in a view toward the city and the West Hills (something Parsons wanted), sports a yard for baby Spencer to grow up in (something Randall wanted), and sits in a desirable, walkable neighborhood (something they both wanted).
What they didn’t want when they bought the house in March 2006, however, was to find asbestos, mold, dry rot, lack of insulation and more.
But that’s what got when they started what they thought would be mostly cosmetic changes to remove the dark woodwork and decidedly shiplike decorative theme running throughout the ranch-style house.
To this day, Parsons lets out a laugh and admits that if they’d known the extent of structural work the 1976 house needed, they might have walked away.
Others would have walked after just seeing the ship theme.
Huge wood beams set on end held up the spiral staircase; more wood — 4-by-4s –were used to create a wheel of spokes on the ceiling over the stairs; a wall in the master was “paneled” with horizontal boards as though in a captain’s quarters; and all the cupboards and built-ins were dated, constructed in heavy, dark wood.
And then there was the massive two-sided, brick fireplace between the foyer and the living room, which Randall wanted to remove.
That was not an option.
“They were dominating,” Neil Kelly designer Janie Boyl concedes on a recent tour of the work she and the homeowners undertook in stages, which included stripping the fireplace of its large mantel and rock hearth, shrinking the firebox and re-siding it with drywall.
“It’s a transformation,” Randall says, looking at the sleek gray-hued reincarnation that now is a focal point of both the home’s gleaming foyer with its bronze tile floor and its light and airy living room with a western view.
In addition to the gargantuan fireplace challenge, there was the wood spiral staircase, which created several feet of unreachable dead space behind it, and blocked any natural light from flowing to the downstairs.
“The staircase was a labor of love,” Randall says, shooting Boyl a quick smile.
Nodding in agreement, Boyl says the transformation was a challenge, but the hard work paid off for both levels of the house. And the bonus? They reused the vertical “railing” beams that spiraled down as the treads in the new design.
Reusing what they could and remodeling with a overarching green aesthetic was crucial to Parsons and Randall.
And Boyl embraced it.
She says the stairway turned out to be her favorite aspect of the project. She loves the marriage of the steel and glass used to create the balustrades and the old-growth fir used as treads.
“It was a dramatic character development.”
Randall, an attorney with Legal Aid Services of Oregon, credits her husband with the entire development of the house.
“He has a knack for it,” she says of Parsons’ ability to make changes to bring out the best of the architecture and floor plan. “He knew exactly what he wanted to do.”
Parsons, a cardiologist, says he was just looking to create a home that reflected the Northwest. Having grown up in New England — Randall is also from the East Coast — Parsons wanted a less traditional, more open, modern house. He says he hoped to keep the style of the house, just bring it into the 21st century with simple lines and good lighting.
“I like things like this,” Parsons says, reaching up to touch the chandelier hanging like artwork over the dining table. “That was probably the theater part of me, the lighting. Lighting is what sets the tone. You can set the mood with lighting.”
He was also concerned with upgrading the ventilation.
They reworked the interior climate controls to create two zones, one for each floor, and also added several awning windows to allow fresh air to cross-ventilate the house.
Designer Boyl credits Parsons and Randall for their diligence and approach.
“They were so insightful to choose this house and made well-thought-out changes,” she says. “They were thoughtful and stuck to the plan and the image that was in their mind.”