A Colorful Portland Home Balances Modern Design & Victorian Charm

by Sabrina Smelko

Some of my favorite homes are those that merge modern pieces and plenty of color with century-old, timeless character — and both of these aesthetics are balanced perfectly in this 1898 Victorian beauty. Home to artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon, her wife Clay Lauren Walsh, Wilfredo the chihuahua, and cats Margaret and Barry, this unique and personalized Portland, OR property has only been a year in the making.

After living in California, the couple decided to relocate to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to Lisa’s family, and they immediately began their house hunt. After losing out on what they thought was “the one,” Lisa happened upon this home in the Kerns neighborhood of Northeast Portland while on a run. “We immediately contacted our agent to get a viewing,” they explain. “When we walked in, we both fell in love — even though the walls were painted brown, there was brown carpet and outdated light fixtures and blinds everywhere!” Overshadowing the less-than-thrilling aesthetics, the pros — an abundance of natural light, an intuitive layout, and the fact that it was situated on a corner lot with beautiful, old growth outside — won them over, and the following week they made an offer. Just like that, the house became the pair’s little project, but despite the cheerful aesthetic the home boasts now, the process wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

“We have been working on renovating the house since we moved in,” Lisa shares, “but we still have a long way to go!” The couple started with the easy stuff — painting the walls, changing the carpet and swapping out the window coverings and light fixtures — but there are still items on the to-do list, such as their kitchen, which hasn’t been updated since the 80s. “There are all kinds of little quirks that we are learning to live with for now,” Lisa begins, “Home ownership is an exercise in patience!”

Through it all, in the short 12 months that they’ve lived here, Lisa and Clay have managed to create a perfect balance between their modern, Scandinavian style while paying homage to the home’s charm and character. The space is clean and organized yet also cozy and livable, filled with plenty of personal touches, making for an entertainer’s dream. Sabrina

Photography by Luke and Mallory Leasure

"We love the living room because it has loads of natural light and a beautiful reupholstered vintage sofa by Leland Duck of Revive Designs," Lisa says. Opposite the sofa are vintage chairs with cushions by Jenny Pennywood (Jen Garrido). The coffee table is a vintage Herman Miller for Eames, the floor lamp is by Terence Conran, and the throw pillows are by Anna Joyce and Jennifer Hewett.
The happy couple (Clay on the left, Lisa on the right) and their furry friends.
In the living room, a bay of tall windows overlooks their street -- which is their cat's favorite spot to lounge and keep watch.
Lisa and Clay love to entertain and host family and friends often, so the dining room being larger than the living room was a huge plus. It easily fits all of their Danish modern furniture, including their mix of vintage Bertoia and DWR Salt chairs. A cobalt blue Butte Dome pendant (from Portland's Rejuvenation) completes the space.
This danish cabinet holds Lisa's vast Scandinavian enamelware collection.
Below one of Lisa's plate walls is their Kofod Larsen credenza which is host to their table linens.
The three-story home's floor plan.
Off the dining room is the kitchen, which features one of Lisa's famous plate walls with works by Diana Fayt and Rae Dunn.
Jutting off the kitchen is a tiny powder room with Tolson fixtures from Rejuventation and Lisa's own Hygge & West gold fern wallpaper. The lovely drawing of the girl is by Sarah McNeill.
"This is one of our favorite spots in the house!" Lisa says of this small kitchen nook complete with Danish stools.
The entryway of the home features an accent wall wallpapered in Lisa's "Little Village" pattern for Chasing Paper.
Peppered throughout the house is the couple's favorite color, blue, and plenty of artwork, which contrasts beautifully against the warm wood catch-all table from Dania Furniture. The paint is Benjamin Moore's Lucerne.
This corner of the third-floor master bedroom is their dressing area under bright skylights.
Without having an enclosed closet in their master suite, Lisa and Clay opted for this copper clothing rack to store Lisa's dress collection.
Their bedroom is calm, clean and tranquil with just a few touches of their favorite hue, blue. The accordion sconces are from Rejuvenation and they powder-coated their West Elm nightstands in white to match their West Elm bed.
Across from the bed is this antique dresser and plenty of sweet wedding gifts from artist friends.
More of Lisa's illustrated wallpaper can be found in the guest bathroom. This pattern is "Poppy" for Chasing Paper.
Once again, natural light reigns in this space, as does their signature use of a hit color -- this time with red.
The guest bedroom is a cozy Scandinavian sanctuary. The duvet cover is from Nordstrom and the light fixture is from IKEA.
Artwork of their pets by various artists (including Trish Grantham, Rachel Frankel, Lisa Solomon, Christine Aria, Leigh Jackson, J.T. Yost and Sian Keegan) completes the space.
"Portland can be very dark in the winter, so we are also grateful for the incredible windows and skylights we have in the home, which let in so much natural light," the couple says.

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  • What a beautiful, colorful home! I love the blue and white plate (and spoon) in the final picture – do you have a source? Thanks for sharing this tour!

  • Gorgeous! Many congrats to Lisa and Clay on their beautiful home. I had to chuckle over the photo of the happy couple with all their fur kids. Wilfredo looked at little overwhelmed! He normally looks so relaxed when I see him on Lisa’s Instagram feed.

  • I love the pops of blue everywhere. It reminds me that I need to get more blue into my house.

  • I absolutely love this house although for a few minutes I was thinking Portland Maine and not Oregon. It would be an awesome before and after house to highlight

  • This is such a great house… very personal and colorful and animal-ful. You might want to close the bathroom door for pix of your dining room – just a thought.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • All my favorites! Mid century/Scandi mod, in an authentically old Victorian, in the Best Little City in the World, Portland.

    Fresh, charming, livable, drool-worthy.

  • Love this house! And I second the request for info on the blue bedspread. Also, how does one go about powder coating a nightstand? Is it a diy project, or do professionals need to handle it?

    • Hi there! The bedspread is from a vintage shop. As for the powder coating, we found a local powder coating shop and took it there. It’s definitely a job for a professional! :)

  • Cute home, but I’m getting pretty tired of homes being declared colorful with room after room of white walls. This home is sweet, it’s got character, but it’s not colorful.

    • Lee

      I understand your point, although I don’t think paint color is the only thing that can qualify a home as colorful. Lisa and Clay’s home is full of pattern, artwork and textiles that have bold bright colors (as well as a peacock blue wall, so I think that’s what we were referencing here. That said, I’ll make sure we’re extra careful about “color” and how we use the word.


  • I have to agree with the last commentator. This house is BEAUTIFUL but to those who are passionate about lots of color our heart skips a beat at the title and is a bit let down by the lack of color within. This happens often on design blogs as of late. That said, this house is JUST BEAUTIFUL. I love the bedspread in the master.

  • Absolutely beautiful and exactly the way I like to see color and pattern used in a home. I have white walls too and it’s the best design decision we ever made! I like to look at photos of spaces with super-colorful painted walls and decor but couldn’t live with it everyday (been there). I love how they left natural wood here and there. It adds a lot of warmth. And of course Lisa’s artwork and wallpaper is to swoon over!

  • Love this space! I can imagine how all that light is so cheery on your darker days.
    Is there any way to find a source for Lisa’s wallpaper designs? I loved each one showcased here in their home.

  • May I ask where are the Roman shades are
    from and what fabric are they? Love the bright and cheery character of this home.

  • Gorgeous house. Lisa and Clay, do you mind sharing what color white the walls are painted? I have a house in Portland and am trying to find a white that doesn’t skew yellow, but also won’t look gray/blue on drizzly days!

  • I really appreciate the aesthetic of this lovely home. I’m curious about the Danish stools in the kitchen nook. Are they vintage or new? Where did you find them?

  • love this home! I’m planning a plate wall of my own and am wondering what hanging method is used here. Thanks!

  • Hi There! I just listened to the two of you on Being Boss–How funny to come across this post right afterward! Beautiful space! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Post an update when you do the kitchen someday. I am sure it will be as lovely as the rest of your place.

  • Lovely house! May I inquire where the side table in picture three (in front of the bay windows) is from? Thank you.