“It was very exciting, I just really felt like the space was calling us more than anything,” Marisa Swenson recalls about her Gresham, Oregon home. “We weren’t actively on the hunt for a mid century home. A lot of them are high maintenance and at this stage in my life, I wasn’t really interested in a high maintenance house,” she admits.
In fact, Marisa, a real estate broker who specializes in Mid Century Modern, first visited this 1960 Portland area gem with the intent of listing it. But her keen eye quickly noted the well-planned materials, combined with an efficient design, and she fell in love. Instead of listing the property, Marisa and her husband, Peter, purchased the home and moved in with their two children in 2013.
“The structure itself was in incredible shape,” says Marisa. The original owner was a commercial contractor with a company that’s still in business today. When the home had been built, “ he had access to a lot of commercial grade products and that’s what he used in the house,” she continues. With no major plumbing, electrical or foundation issues, the couple first focused on painting, flooring and yard work.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE
Thanks to the care of previous owners, many of the home’s original features were not only intact, but in pristine condition. Guests are still greeted with gorgeous terrazzo flooring from 1960 in the entry. Once inside, a unique recessed brick fireplace showcases the first owner’s experimental spirit in the living room, which is partially separated from the entry with original wooden built-ins. A second fireplace in the dining room features a scalloped hood—one of Marisa’s favorite details—and sits next to a built-in barbecue that appears to have never been used.
“But then when it came to our kitchen, it had been remodeled in 2004 and it was basically falling apart. Doors were coming off the hinges, it just wasn’t the style we wanted and it didn’t meet our family needs,” says Marisa. The kitchen and dining room quickly became the family gathering place, but she admits that “We were always running into each other.” The compartmentalized kitchen was separated from the dining space by a partial wall, and the dropped ceiling felt confining and inconsistent with the rest of the home.
Originally intending to keep the same kitchen footprint, an architect and designer team changed Marisa’s mind with several innovative options to reconfigure the layout to meet the family’s current needs. “They opened our eyes to reorienting the entire space,” she says. Beams were exposed and restored in the kitchen ceiling while skylights were moved to maximize their placement between beams.
A small window was replaced with larger ones, replicating the look from other parts of the home. Concrete flooring received a polished finish, and a wood sliding door was added to create a path into the hallway. Now open and airy, the updates allow for more family time in their favorite room. “We are always in that space and now it’s in a configuration where we’re able to spread out, but also be in the same space,” says Marisa.
With so many unique and well-preserved original features, it’s fitting that Marisa’s home is now on the Historic and Cultural Landmarks List in the city of Gresham. Looking ahead, Marisa envisions possible updates for the backyard “We have a greenhouse right now, which we like, but we want to do an outdoor patio cooking space. But after doing this kitchen renovation, we’re going to take some time off!”