From tawdry-tired to lively-inviting, a house
on a hill is remade
"We knew going into it that we had a lot of work to do," says Sikes, vice president of North American Finance for Starbucks. "The house hadn't had any sort of upgrading since the '60s."
"And it was the rainy season," says Harrison, who works in information technology for a local insurance company, "which is why we put so much color in it."
Wielding a paint brush was the first phase of this soon-to-be-extreme makeover through 2,200 square feet of living space. "When we moved in, we made the decision we were going to paint every square inch," says Sikes. It was then that they befriended Jan Sewell of Jan Sewell Design. The couple had tracked down Sewell, who helps people set up their houses to sell, after they'd seen a home she had staged during their original house hunt.
"When I met them it was the very first time I'd done any color consultation," says Sewell. "That consultation was the end of our professional relationship and the beginning of a great friendship."
Over the next few years, with the help of old friends and new ones they would make along the way, the homeowners would replace the 1940s furnace and all the plumbing, remodel the kitchen and create a garden oasis in an inaccessible back yard that originally consisted of patches of dried grass. However, what the plot originally lacked in nuance, it made up for with space for several seating areas ideal for entertaining, good screening for privacy and a small natural spring.
"The access to that garden is just terrible," notes landscape designer Anne Janisse of City People's, who created a landscape plan for the large, barren plot. The only way to get to it was up steep steps at the front of the property and around back through a narrow passage. "Matt and Jeff hauled all the materials up there," Janisse says. "The site being daunting and inaccessible didn't matter. They were determined."
From the beginning, their roles were clearly defined. Harrison is "the master project guy," says Sikes, "and I'm more the day-to-day maintenance."
"I focus on structural things and he focuses on the details," Harrison adds.
The distinct fountain and shed at the very top of their garden were designed and installed by Harrison, inspired by the many years he spent living in Italy. However, being true to his Northwest roots, the former Oregonian created the shed from a series of recycled parts. "The doors are recycled from a friend's kitchen remodel in Portland, the sink and cabinet are recycled from another friend's remodel," says Harrison. Their friends get their reward when the two entertain. With all those seating areas and resting spots in the back yard, it has become a favorite spot for them to dine alfresco. "There's probably nothing we enjoy more together than entertaining our friends," says Sikes. "I'm from the South; it's all about having a party."
"It's not the kitchen?" Harrison questions.
"I love that kitchen. I take it back. I never leave the kitchen," says Sikes.
It's quite understandable that, after all the years of hard work, it's hard to choose.
"The place is transformed," Sewell says. "It was a tired, run-down, beaten-up little house when they got it. And they've just made it a really cool place to be."
Robin Fogel Avni is a freelance writer specializing in lifestyle issues and trends affected by technology. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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