From the street, it doesn’t look like much: a single-family, 4,800-square-foot house built in 1960 with a floor plan reminiscent of an oversize Cape Cod — common rooms downstairs arranged around a central staircase, with five bedrooms above — in the tidy, polite Dunthorpe section of Portland, Ore. Hidden behind a concrete-and-stucco fence, the house recedes to the point of disappearing. Even its exterior colour, a broody burnt charcoal, fades into the Oregon shadows.
But upon crossing the threshold, you quickly realise that this facade is an aesthetic misdirection — the home is, in fact, a Trojan horse of subversive design. To begin with, the interior literally glows: Beneath the lip of each wooden stair is a strand of LED lights, which at night bathe the foyer in a violet haze. In the front window of the adjacent living room, two plastic mushroom-shaped floor lamps also glow: one peachy orange, the other fuchsia. Around the corner, a home office confounds every expectation of a sober workplace — hugging two walls is a massive L-shaped built-in desk made from three slabs of labradorite, a semiprecious stone streaked with black veins, like Carrara marble gone goth. A wall-hung bookcase shifts in the light from magenta to aquamarine — it’s lacquered in chameleonic automotive paint, the kind you’d find on a lowrider. For seating, there’s a backless ergonomic kneeling chair upholstered in metallic-eggplant vinyl.
Left: In the hallway, a custom plaster plant-shelf hand-sculpted by Scott Foster. Right: In the master bedroom, a rug hand-dyed by Kostiv beneath a vintage Lucite vanity and chair.
“My vision was surreal mixed with functional,” says the homeowner, Allie Furlotti, 35, a comedian and philanthropist. “I wanted my home to feel like a beautiful installation.” She bought the property in 2017 because she loved the oversize lot — more than half an acre, complete with a swimming pool and tennis court — and the idea of challenging staid neighbourhood conventions. But it needed work. On top of structural renovations such as a new fireplace, the house would have been unlivable to her without a very specific design scheme, one that reflected her sense of high camp.
Furlotti found a collaborator in Andee Hess, 40, a Portland interior designer who has created spaces for locals including Pok Pok chef Andy Ricker, Stumptown Coffee Roasters founder Duane Sorenson and the actor Fred Armisen since launching her firm, Osmose Design, in 2006. Most of her residential interiors are one-off jobs for opinionated clients, and thus don’t have much in common visually: For Ricker, she installed felt walls and colourful, midcentury American furniture; for Sorenson, she created a kid-friendly, open-plan paradise using lots of teak and mahogany. But all her work conveys a sense of wonder and surprise, whether a new-build residence with stained-glass windows for a hedge-fund manager or a retro ice-cream parlour with oak parquet floors for the creamery Salt & Straw. “I knew she had what it took,” Furlotti says, “to take me through my Italian disco fantasy.”
Hess grew up in Portland working with her hands. Her father owned a leather-repair business, which focused on automobile interiors, and insisted his daughter learn to detail cars and change oil. After high school, she began welding metal tanks for Oregon wineries, then went to design school, after which she spent four years at an avant-garde architecture firm in town called Skylab before starting her own company when she was 27.
The child’s room is covered in Makelike wallpaper with a West Elm bed upholstered in the same print and a pendant lamp by Coleen & Company.
For Furlotti, Hess focused on what she calls “a curated collection of moments,” not unlike a museum with different exhibitions in each room. She kept the communal spaces — kitchen, office, living room, family room — downstairs, with the exception of a cosy upstairs media area that has a Tetris-style grid of Missoni cushions on the floor for movie nights. That’s one of the home’s many dark corners: Rather than add windows to improve the light, the designer and owner ripped three of them out and put up extra walls. “I want to look at art,” Furlotti says, “not at that yard.” (Her collection includes the blind Mexican artist Manuel Solano’s 2015 neon-and-acrylic sculpture “Sigourney Weaver,” plus a 1970 lithograph from Ed Ruscha’s “Lisp” series.)
Given the client’s eclectic taste, much of the décor had to be bespoke. To run the length of an upstairs hallway outside the bedrooms, the Portland-based Kush Rugs wove a 35-foot-long wool carpet in gradient shades of purple, ranging from lavender to plum. Next to the master bedroom, upholstered in similar hues, a child’s bedroom is decorated in one repeating, perspective-distorting print (a green-and-white rendering of succulent plants, created by the Portland studio Makelike) on the walls, ceiling, curtains, bedspread and bed frame.
The master bedroom, with carpeting, drapes and a bed custom-dyed by Adam Kostiv.
Furlotti shares the place with her 6-year-old daughter, Dylan, and her husband, Adam Kostiv, a multimedia artist. Before joining Nike a few years ago, Kostiv helped design FrightTown, which was once the city’s largest haunted house. “Play is super important to them and to me,” Hess says; indeed, in ways both large and small, the home’s design feels mischievously disorienting. Guests using the downstairs bathroom, for instance, must rely upon an industrial-metal toilet that mimics those found in prisons (it’s actually from the Japanese purveyor Toto). In this chilling, vulnerable moment, they face three walls of reflective glass — a literal fun-house mirror that, Hess hopes, “jolts your understanding of being within a suburban residential context.”
But the most shocking detail is also, paradoxically, one of the subtlest. Back in the living room, there’s a lounge chair with a sledge base by the Spanish collective Lievore Altherr Molina, which Hess bought from Hive, a local dealer of Modernist furniture. Recently, she had it covered in shaggy Tibetan lamb’s wool that was specifically dyed to match the off-white coats of the couple’s bichon-poodles, Fred and Harry. “It’s like a living throne for the dogs,” Hess says. “Not made of the dogs, but one with them.” It’s also a mascot for the house itself: Creative, personal and unapologetically kooky.
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