1911 image of the Blaine Smith house from the AHC collection.1911 image of the Blaine Smith house from the AHC collection.


The owners of the historic Blaine Smith house, Rebecca and Dean, discuss the renovation of the kitchen in their 1908 home.


1) What was your goal with this remodel?

We live in an historic home, the Blaine Smith House, which is on the National Historic Register and was built in 1908.  When we bought the house in 2008, the year it turned 100 years old, it was clear the house had been meticulously cared for.  The one downside was the kitchen, which was last remodeled in the early eighties at a time when it was trendy to have all the appliances built-in.  We had built in toasters and blenders and grills and even a deep fat fryer!  Unfortunately, none of them worked.  We made do over the years, but as our family grew, it was increasingly clear that we needed to remodel the kitchen.

The kitchen was separated from the rest of the house by three doors and a hallway – it was initially built to be a kitchen where servants worked.  My initial goal was to open the kitchen up and make it feel like a modern kitchen in the style of a 1908 historic craftsman house.

2) How do you feel about the final outcome?

In a word, thrilled!  We gutted the old kitchen, raised the ceilings about three feet, took out a wall to eliminate a tiny hallway and make a back staircase part of the main kitchen room.  We changed a pantry into a coat room and added steps so there is a new main entrance in the back of the house.  And, we built a new patio off the kitchen door.  It is a stunning transformation.

It is the kitchen of my dreams and I wouldn’t have done anything differently.  We worked with Melody Emerick of Emerick Architects and they have such a great partnership with the general contractor, Tom Corvi at Right Angle. 

3) What was it like working with the Right Angle Construction team?

The Right Angle team is fantastic.  They are professional, they are experienced craftsmen and they have a can-do attitude.  At the beginning of the remodel, I didn’t realize how many choices I’d face in the coming months.  From cabinet styles to paint colors to hardware to hardwood floors, they were so helpful, laying out options and offering opinions and sending us to the best vendors. 

All of their subs were professional and courteous and great at their jobs.  There were times when a sub would finish work on a part of the project and Tom would make them come back to fix something that wasn’t perfect enough, something I wouldn’t even have noticed.  I really felt like they had our backs and I know we’ll use them for other projects in years to come.  Right Angle really is an invaluable resource.

4) What is unique about your home?

The house has its own Wikipedia page for one thing!  I discovered that a few years ago.  The house was designed by Ellis Lawrence, a prominent Portland architect and founder of the University of Oregon School of Architecture.  The original owner, Blaine Smith, worked for the Old Western Clay Manufacturing Company and supplied tile for many of the skyscrapers being constructed in downtown Portland at the turn of the century.  I’ve been told that Smith traded tile for construction services to build the house and so the house is built to commercial grade. 

5) What is your favorite feature of the home?

The dining room has an ornate plaster ceiling featuring intricate arabesque designs.  The arabesque shape is echoed in hardware and woodwork throughout the house.  To carry on this tradition, we chose arabesque tiles for the kitchen walls.

6) Tell me a little bit about your home and family life, and how you interact with your home.

When we moved here in 2008, our son was three-years-old and our daughter was six months.  Now our son is fifteen, and daughter is twelve and our third child is nine. We are busy and the house is always full of friends and family.

An important part of our remodel involved the transformation of our large backyard.  One of the house’s former owners had blacktopped a large portion of the yard, turning the space into what our neighbors called “The Parking Lot.”  We worked with Emerick and Right Angle and landscaping company Stone, Water, Tree, to remove all the blacktop and install a flagstone patio and incorporate trees and plants to make the space a lovely place to hang out.

7) Overall, what are you most pleased about with this project?

We all know that everyone tends to hang out in the kitchen and now we have a kitchen that’s wonderful to hang out in.  I really love the built-in benches around the kitchen table.  As part of the project, we lowered the windows in that part of the room so we now have a view into the backyard from the kitchen table.

For more information: Learn more about this renovation and projects like this from Emerick Architects, see the project pages of Emerick Architects


Image 1 of 10

Home exterior. Photo courtesy Melody Emerick.