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A Sewing Revivalist’s Quiet Home in Portland, OR

by Bethany Joy Foss

Sarai Mitnick left her tech job in Oakland, CA eight years ago with a heart for designing and publishing sewing patterns for women who wanted to make their own clothes. “It was something I felt deeply passionate about, but I couldn’t afford to start a business in the San Francisco area.” Sarai and her husband, Kenn Wilson, founded Colette Patterns in 2009, a publishing company that creates home sewing patterns, books and an online magazine called Seamwork for sewists of all experience levels. Since then, Colette has grown to an office of 11 enthusiastic and creative people with the goal to revive the art of sewing and home garment making. Their modern taste and variety give followers an open invitation and resources to curate a wardrobe with their own hands.

The couple has been a part of their current neighborhood since the move, and they feel fortunate to have found a house in the same area five years ago. “It’s really walkable and there are plenty of restaurants and bars around, but it’s still quiet and residential. I feel incredibly thankful that we get to own a home in such a wonderful neighborhood,” Sarai shares. Working with a small budget, Sarai and Kenn looked at a dozens of “run-down, creepy, smelly places” before walking into their 1923 colonial revival house. Sarai grew up in an old house and couldn’t imagine living in a space that lacked historic character and charm. They immediately refinished all the original floors, which had been covered with Pergo laminate, and coated the rooms with soft, cool colors to reflect as much natural light as possible and counteract dark Portland days. “One of the rooms was painted bright turquoise, including the ceiling, and the floor was painted shiny white. Because the floor reflected the turquoise, it gave the appearance of blue skin when you walked in!” After the initial renovations, they started taking care of little things like lighting and shelves, and tried not to overthink how the house should look, but focused on finding décor that captured their interests. “I tend to just collect things that feel like me or that I find particularly beautiful,” Sarai shares. “I like the way a house evolves over time and reflects the people who live there. That’s more important to me than whether or not it looks perfect.”

Sarai and Kenn work together all day, so their primary goal for the home was to create a space to recharge. Sarai believes that a home should, “inspire serenity and a certain amount of curiosity.” The space has a natural, homemade air with a penchant for vintage imagery, floral patterns and quiet, cozy vignettes that provide the perfect escape from an active lifestyle. Surrounding themselves with books, photographs, art and other personal items helps Sarai and Kenn unwind and activate the emotions they want to experience when they are home. “It’s like a good cup of coffee, relaxing and stimulating at the same time.” Bethany Joy Foss

Photography by Sarai Mitnick

Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
1/19
The 1,200-square-foot home reflects Sarai’s unique voice with handcrafted pieces and elegant details. The chairs and sofa in the living room are from Room and Board and the walls are painted Benjamin Moore "Icy Blue." “It’s wonderful to sit in front of the fireplace in winter with the cats [Basil and Colette] and a little knitting.”
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
2/19
This mid-century shelf houses a growing record collection. “It’s actually modular and expandable, but we have no room to expand it.” Sarai balances portrait drawings and florals over the shelf with golden accents, showing her love of vintage-inspired personality.
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
3/19
Issues of The Paris Review are stacked over the mantel near a reading chair. “I love being surrounded by wonderful books and art that I can turn to when I’d like my mind to switch gears.”
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
4/19
Sarai likes to rotate the mantel display depending on new finds and thrift store adventures. “Recently, I was going out to an antique mall with a friend and Kenn asked me to find him a brass cat. I came home with this little guy.”
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
5/19
Sarai and Kenn use a bar cart in the living room to hold a portion of their total liquor cabinet. “We both like a good cocktail.”
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
6/19
Sarai made the linen pillow resting on the club chair from Room and Board. The Pendleton wool blanket and the roman shades were made by Sarai and the rug was purchased on eBay. Warmth from the wood and pale tones of pink and red create an inviting corner to escape with a good book.
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
7/19
Sarai and Kenn recently found the teak dining room table at a vintage store. “It’s perfect because it folds out to a very large size when we have guests, but otherwise is quite compact.” The chairs are from Craigslist, but were originally made by Pottery Barn and the same Benjamin Moore "Icy Blue" continues onto the dining room walls.
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
8/19
The buffet is from an antique store that was going out of business and is the perfect size for housing extra dining items. The figures above the buffet complement the cool walls and reflect the warmth of the wood and the playful pinks of the candles and fresh flowers.
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
9/19
Flowers from the garden and an unscented candle often sit on the dining room table. “I grew up with a lot of rituals around dinner time and that’s always felt very centering for me. Every night, we light the candle before we eat and then toast to something good we experienced that day.”
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
10/19
“I remember reading Scott and Helen Nearing’s book 'The Good Life,' in which she says that a tapestry of books on the wall is the only decoration you really need. I have to agree that they add more joy to a room than almost anything else.”
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
11/19
The built-in kitchen space between the dining room and kitchen sold Sarai and Kenn on the house as soon as they walked through the door. The detail keeps the house open and provides counter space for prepping and cooking. The walls in the kitchen are painted Benjamin Moore "Irish Green," a mint green that carries the quiet palette throughout the space.
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
12/19
When Sarai and Kenn ripped the Pergo covering off all the floors, they discovered beautiful hardwood in every room but the restroom. “It took us years to get it together and finally get this tile.”
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
13/19
Sarai recently installed these marble shelves from CB2. “I really enjoy a good bath with some fancy scents.” The walls in the bathroom are painted Benjamin Moore "Wedgwood Gray."
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
14/19
The house was built before closets were common, which left Sarai and Kenn with a storage challenge — one that they are still solving. This second bedroom doubles as a spacious dressing room for Sarai and is painted soft pink in Benjamin Moore "Ecru" with a rug from eBay picking up on the blush hues of the walls and vanity accessories. “As soon as we moved in, I painted this room pale pink and made the pinch-pleat curtains.”
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
15/19
The vanity in Sarai’s dressing room, along with most of the bedroom furniture, was purchased as part of a five-piece set on Craigslist for a few hundred dollars. “It’s hard to believe how cheap it was.”
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
16/19
When she is at home, Sarai spends much of her time in the backyard garden, cultivating flowers and vegetables. The flowers find their way into the home at least once a week, adding color to the soft interior finishes and creating temporary still-life scenes all over the home. “The big lush rose here is called Rouge Royale and it’s one of my favorites.” The ring dish with gold cats is from Pottery Lodge on Etsy.
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
17/19
Sarai and Kenn slept on a cheap metal bed frame and box springs on the floor for decades before finally investing in a real bed. They chose a piece from Restoration Hardware with a large, upholstered linen headboard. Because of the limited space, the bed covers the window, but finally gave the couple the comfort they were looking for. “I could not be happier. It’s great to finally be able to read in bed without a window frame digging into my back!”
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
18/19
Sarai shot this photograph on a hike at Tent Rocks in New Mexico that picks up the delicate tonality of the neutral palette in the house. The walls are painted Benjamin Moore "Palladian Blue" and Kenn’s dresser was a part of the set purchased from Craigslist.
Sarai Mitnick's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
19/19
Sarai and Kenn have crafted their home to reflect who they are and what they love.

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Comments

  • I saw “Sewing” + “Revivalist” and somehow read “Survivalist” and thought…. wow, Design Sponge is really trying something new today.

    Not related to the lovely house, but thought everyone could use a laugh on a Monday!

  • What a dreamy little house! Love the soft colors. Can I ask where that blanket in the first photo is from? Crossing my fingers that you’re going to say that you knit it, and then tell me where you found that interesting basket-weave pattern.

    Curious what neighborhood you’re in that you love so much. It seems like it’s talked up, but then the name is left out.

    P.S. I have that same little brass cat, found in a Portland thrift store. Nice find! :-)

    • Hi Rachel! I wish I could say I knit it, but I found it in a thrift store here in Portland. The pattern is really unusual, it almost looks woven from knitted strips. You might try finding some of Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns books at the library. I know at least one of them has some cool basketweave patterns!

      We live in inner SE, in the Clinton neighborhood.

      Oh, and I found this brass cat in an antique mall in Vancouver!

  • Beautiful, beautiful home – those flower arrangements! And I ALMOST feel like taking up sewing! (I also recently watched the British series “The Great British Sewing Bee”- very inspirational). In spite of the cool colours on the walls it seems such a warm comfortable home but I was looking for the turquoise room!

  • Just checked out their website and subscribed. Clothes for plus-sized folks that can be sewn in an afternoon? Count me in!

  • The interior design and sewing worlds collide! So cool to see Sarai’s personal style highlighted along with her sewing and business expertise. Big fan :)

  • The Paris Review? An abundance of books? How wonderfully these enrich their lives as well as furnish rooms in this charming home. And I wouldn’t worry too much about that headboard blocking the window. You do sleep better in a dark room. P.S. Best end statement ever.

    • Thanks Marann! The bedroom has giant french doors on the other side, so I’m afraid the benefit of a darker bedroom is lost. Ha!

  • Wow! I love it – every bit of it! Lovely to see the Alexandra Quartet (Lawrence Durrell) among your books! One of my favourites!

    I must say that, of all the homes I have seen, yours is my ‘dream home’!

  • Ooh! I’m a huge fan of your work, Sarai – have made so many Colette and Seamwork patterns. I’ve always wanted to see more of your home from the glimpses I’ve seen on Instagram – and was so tickled to see this pop up on DS. Unsurprisingly, I love it!!!

  • I LOVE your home. It is cozy but spacious, retro and modern, filled with light and beauty all at the same time. Thank you for sharing.

  • I just finished a sewing project using a Colette Pattern. It’s the prettiest little shirt ever, and I love it. Thank you, Sarai, for making patterns accessible and fun! Your home is lovely!

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