Portland-dwelling Tess Darrow and Jeff Weithman loved their city life but had dreams of country living. It was 2006 and the real estate market was hopping. Their budget wouldn’t allow them to touch anything near the Portland coast, but every Friday, Jeff would take their then-two-year-old son for a drive just to see what was available a little further inland. On one of those drives, he came across a 900-square-foot, turquoise-blue A-frame in the Tillamook State Forest. Though furnished with La-Z-Boys (multiple!), the prefab did have the original 1967 paneling inside and an unbeatable location: an hour west of Portland, in a state forest, overlooking a river. As anyone who has gone looking for a country home knows, you can change the color but you can’t change the location. They snatched it up.
Photo: Dina Avila
Tess is the lead designer and owner of Egg Press, a design studio and letterpress shop; at the time, Jeff was the global brand and digital design director for Nike. Their son had been joined by a little brother, making this family of four a little busy. So they went to their turquoise cabin whenever they could manage to get away, but they didn’t touch anything. After five years of La-Z-Boy-country living, they were ready for a remodel. Before removing even a nail, they crafted a comprehensive plan that outlined every detail down to the placement of every light fixture. Since they were working with only 900 square feet, being extremely detailed was key.
After waiting for five years to do the renovation, this wasn’t going to be a paint-the-walls-and-call-it-a-day kind of project. They gutted the home down to the studs (it was just four walls for a while) and then rebuilt from the ground up. The goal was to be able to pack in friends and still feel like there was enough space for everyone. A 300-square-foot loft, accessible from a ladder in the kitchen, was added to increase capacity. A second building containing storage and a carport was turned into a little guest cottage.
As a way to keep costs reasonable and still achieve their desired aesthetic, the couple mixed custom pieces (the window bench) with off-the-shelf IKEA (the kitchen) and topped off the combo with vintage accessories. They even added more windows to balance the space and bring in natural light. Tess would move a lawn chair around the exterior to gauge the sunniest locations.
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The renovation took two years—and by the end of it, Jeff realized he had found his calling. He left Nike to work in real estate, where he now focuses on providing creative and strategic services to buyers and sellers and focusing on midcentury, modern, and architecturally significant homes.
Tucked behind the ladder, leading up to the sleeping loft, is another bedroom, outfitted with plug-in wall sconces from Schoolhouse Electric and IKEA’s Malm beds.
The sleeping loft over the kitchen is the perfect place for summer sleepovers. Pendleton has been making blankets in the Portland area since the 1860s; choosing them was not only a nod to history, it also gives the loft a camp feel, which is exactly what the couple wanted.