Interiorssneak peeks

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe

by Sofia Tuovinen

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge

Each time I’ve moved into a new home, I’ve had the urge to change things up and give my home a new feel. Maximal, minimal and everything in between, all of my homes have told different stories and have each represented particular phases in my life. While I’ve kept some key pieces, scouring flea markets and auctions for new treasures has been one of the most exciting parts of moving.

When Sarah Nelson, a stay-at-home mom, and her husband Ian, a freelance photographer and creative director for non-profit organization Remember Nhu, began looking for a new home in Southeast Portland, OR, they too wanted it to look completely different from their last one, both inside and out. They didn’t want to limit themselves too much with a list of must-haves, but still had their hearts set on a few specific traits. They wished for a house with a bit of curb appeal and character, a decent sized porch, an open banister-style staircase, a spacious dining room for entertaining, four bedrooms and plenty of natural light. They assumed that they would have to compromise on something, but as if meant to be, the perfect house came along.

It was a dull and drizzly day in February when Sarah and Ian first visited what would become their dream home. There was no doubt about it — they immediately knew it was the right choice for their family of four. Although Sarah and Ian were eager to give the house a new look with cosmetic updates, they wanted to avoid bigger projects. Before closing, they made sure that the 1911 colonial-style bungalow was structurally sound and ready for a visual makeover. “We were in a bidding war, but ultimately won due to the family photo and heartfelt letter we submitted to the sellers with our offer!” the couple shares.

The family’s previous homes focused on an eclectic mid-century modern feel. For this home, Sarah and Ian wanted a big change and decided to start from scratch. They sold most of their old furniture and went in a completely different direction. Sarah, who is passionate about fashion, decorating and refinishing furniture, saw her family’s new home as the perfect blank canvas and ideal creative outlet. “I wanted to create a home with a chic boutique hotel vibe,” she explains.

During their eight years of marriage, Sarah and Ian have been lucky enough to travel the world together. A lot of the family’s home decor is inspired by those travels — the old bungalow oozes a comfortable, stylish and global feel. “No matter which destinations we travel to, we will always love coming home to this house,” Sarah adds.

The style that Sarah chose for her family’s new home is a bold combination of black and white, tropical greens and soft pinks, sumptuous velvets and modern brass elements. Some of the most breathtaking design statements include dandelion patterned fabric on the master bedroom walls, a combination of black paneling and dalmatian spotted walls in the dining room, not to mention the jaw-dropping pink velvet sectional in the living room. Together, these spaces make up a family home where all luxe-bohemian dreams come true under one roof. “We were finally able to pour a bunch of time and some of the equity from our last home into sprucing up this house and we couldn’t be more proud! It is now everything we wanted it to be that first day we walked through,” Sarah shares. The family’s unique aesthetic feels like a breath of fresh air, and proves that starting from scratch can lead to some truly amazing end results. —Sofia

Photography by Ian Andrew Nelson

Image above: Sarah and Ian with their children Greyer and Ruby on the front porch of their 1911 colonial-style bungalow. The family first thought about painting the exterior black or pale pink, but eventually chose black shutters and trims and a grass green door. Such a fun pop of color!

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


The grand entry was one of the things that sold Sarah on the house. “I love the windows, open railing, and high ceiling!” she explains. The inside of the front door was painted pink for subtle contrast. Ian had the idea of painting the word “up” on the wall above the stairs, as in quaint Parisian cafes that have hidden upper levels.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


A set of french doors open into to the beautiful living room, defined by a stylish pink velvet sectional and brass accents.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


The refined silk and brass cantilever chair was a steal from HomeGoods. “It’s not the most kid-friendly, but I absolutely love it!” Sarah says.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


The main level lacks wall space due to the amount of windows and doors. To compensate, Sarah chose to make a big statement in a small corner of the living room — she placed all her plants under a large piece of art and added an oversized floor basket to the mix.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


The spacious dining room is ideal for entertaining friends and family. The black paneling grounds the room, while the spotted walls help create an inspiring space that leaves guests in awe. “Everyone thinks the dalmatian spots on the walls is a wallpaper, but it’s actually a stencil!” Sarah shares.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


This vintage credenza was all torn up and missing knobs when Sarah bought it. Now it’s the perfect pink accent in the dining room.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


The kitchen used to be butter yellow and dingy white before Sarah transformed it with as little as $200! The cabinets were painted in “Ink Black” by Behr for high contrast. Sarah used her DIY skills to conceal the sand-colored countertops. “Would you believe me if I told you the ugly laminate countertops are covered in marble print contact paper?” she reveals.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


The kitchen features one of several strange nooks and crannies. Ian ripped out the built-in bench and replaced it with this vintage hutch that happened to be counter height. “Now it looks like our cabinetry wraps around the kitchen instead of just having an L-shaped layout,” Sarah explains.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


Sarah wasn’t afraid of big design statements in the master bedroom. She adhered dandelion print fabric to the walls, made custom valences and upholstered a headboard in luscious green velvet to match the bedskirt. The end result feels luxurious and custom-made.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


“These lip prints bring the perfect amount of surprise to a primarily basic black and white room,” Sarah says.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


In Sarah and Ian’s home, you can never go wrong with pink velvet. This wingback chair is the perfect addition to the corner in the master bedroom.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


To make the move easier on their kids, Sarah and Ian decorated Greyer and Ruby’s rooms with all their old furniture. Greyer’s room feels like a safe haven that sparks the imagination — “he loves looking out those windows when he should be sleeping,” Sarah shares.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


Open shelves store some of Greyer’s favorite books.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


Sarah had a specific vision for Ruby’s room. “I wanted my daughter’s room to feel very feminine and kind of storybook-like. Hence, the French-style dresser, which reminds me of Beauty and the Beast,” she explains.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


As a child, Sarah always dreamed of a giant giraffe stuffed animal. “Having a daughter was the justification I needed to have one in the house!”

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


“What I love most about my house is…the calm it brings to city living.” — Sarah

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


Ian wanted a home office with a library feel, so Sarah surprised him by redoing the fourth bedroom while he was out of the country. The sofa bed is ideal for overnight guests.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


Visitors often think the guest room is wallpapered, but the palm leaf print is actually fabric that Sarah adhered to the wall!

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


The guest room has an odd layout, and needed a smaller desk for functionality. Sarah framed it with a vertical bookshelf and open shelf that displays Ian’s vintage camera collection.

A Chic Portland Bungalow with a Boutique Hotel Vibe | Design*Sponge


Floor plan of the family’s 2,600-square-foot bungalow.

Source list:

Living Room
Couch: Skyline Furniture brand via Bed Bath and Beyond
Brass armchair: HomeGoods
Brass floor lamp: Target
Toss Pillows: TJ Maxx
Pottery on Brass etagere: IKEA
Rug: Overstock.com

Dining Room
Large vase on table: World Market
Rug: Overstock.com
Horse Photo: Ian Andrew Nelson
Light Fixture: Home Depot
Plants: IKEA
Dalmatian Stencil: Cutting Edge Stencils via Amazon

Cabinet Color: “Ink Black” by Behr
Brass pulls: Homediy brand via Amazon
Contact Paper: dc Fix brand via Amazon
Light above sink: Lighting Horizon brand via Amazon

Door Paint: “Taffy Twist” by Behr
Rug: RugsUSA.com
Bench: Target

Master Bedroom
Lip prints: The Aestate
Pom-Pom toss pillows: Target
Glass and brass table lamps: Target
Brass floor lamp: Target
Valence fabric: IKEA
Wall fabric: fabric.com

Greyer’s room
Dinosaur duvet: H&M Home
Rug: Target
Bookshelves: IKEA

Ruby’s room
Crib: Jenny Lind-O
Zebra Rug: Target

Guest Room/Office
Bookshelves: IKEA
Rocking chair: Overstock.com
Pouf: Target
Wall fabric: Fabric Depot

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  • BEAUTIFUL!!! Love how creative and thoughtful every room is and how they flow into each other so perfectly. <3

    • Hey Erin! Thank you so much! The coffee table was from Salvation Army. It was in bad condition (water stained cherry toned wood), but I LOVED the shape, so I brought it home and painted it!

    • Hi Susan,

      I used liquid starch! The short step-by-step is:

      1. Tack your fabric along the top edge of the wall.
      2. With a clean paint roller, roll on Purex Sta-Flo liquid starch ($2 at WalMart) onto the wall while a partner holds the fabric out of the way.
      3. While the liquid starch is still wet, begin to press your fabric onto the wall with your bare hands.
      4. Once the wall is covered in the starch and fabric, roll on a coat of liquid starch on TOP of the fabric.
      5. Use your hands to work out and wrinkles or bubbles and let dry.
      6. Once dry, use an exacto knife to trim the edges off.

      Hope that helps! I always tell everyone to use a thin cotton material (the thickness of a bed sheet or quilting cotton) as opposed to a thicker material. I made the mistake of using duck cloth in our master bedroom (the dandelion print) and it took twice as much liquid starch, and once it finally started to dry it bubbled in a lot of places! So I’d avoid using a heavy material! You don’t want it to be sheer though either haha!

      Good luck!

  • This home could not match my dream more perfectly. I’m lying on a lavender velvet sofa with chrome legs as I type and pin every single image.

    I adore everything about this place!

  • I have come back to this page like four times since it was posted yesterday. I love it so much.

    It’s grown up without being stuffy; bright and airy without being empty; whimsical without being twee, and full of beautiful finds without being claustrophobic. Really lovely.

    For the past three years, I’ve been getting rid of things constantly, and our beautiful big Brooklyn apartment has veered into too-minimal territory. People think we just moved in, and we’ve been there more than four years. I think I’ve been scared to commit to a new direction — I love some of the new trends (pink velvet!) but I want a timeless feel. I’m feeling very inspired by this-thanks, Sarah! :)

    • Wow Liza, thank you! You totally get it and will find the perfect items for your home over time. That’s the best way to shop anyway! Buy only what you love!

  • I agree with all the positive comments ! I also want to add that the lack of clutter really brings out each beautiful piece.

    • Thanks Mireille! Clutter just doesn’t work with my toddlers running around like tornados all day haha! But I too, need the visual calm of clean and clear spaces in order to truly relax!

  • in the 60’s I have wallpaper similar to the dandelion print only as was the style in pippin apple green., I still miss that paper. I know you will enjoy your choices for a long time. Lucky kids

    • Aww thanks, Christine! My mom had a similar apple green printed wallpaper in her room growing up and I always loved staying in that room when visiting my grandparents : ) I totally get a retro vibe when I’m in my room… gotta love wallpaper!

  • I love everything in your house so much! But I especially love the leather sofa bed! Where did you find that!?

    • Hey Katherine!

      I found it on Craigslist, actually. I think west elm sells one in the same color leather! Not sure if it’s a sleeper, but worth a looksy!


  • Oh Sarah, this place is so perfect !! I love your IG but I was away for a while and I can’t believe I missed this feature ! It’s amazing to see all the nook and crannies, everything is so thoughtfully decorated. Your living room is still my biggest crush of the year. I can’t think of a more deserving home for a big tour like this, congratulations !!

  • PINK DOOR! Who’d have thought that could be so lovely and perfect! I am so gonna paint the inside of my front door now. Thank you for this wonderful tour into such beautiful spaces.

  • Your home is so beautiful and welcoming. I was wondering where the white chandelier was from? It is lovely.

    • Hi Katherine,

      The chandelier is from The Restore Center. It was brass and I spray painted it white and switched out the bulbs. Thank you!


    • I used an old paint sample I had (“Feather Boa” by Clark & Kensington) but diluted it WAY down with white.


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