Though this Portland condo is technically on the river, it only has one (obstructed) view of the water. “The main issue was the light,” Stewart Horner, owner and principal of Penny Black Interiors, shares. “It is a long, narrow condo with a severe lack of natural light. Everything in the design centered around making it seem bright and light and design-forward.”  

The clients were downsizing from a large home in Dunthorpe, OR, and wanted to be close to Portland’s bustling Pearl District. The property fit the bill when it came to location and price, but everything inside was builder-grade: cherry wood floors, dark cabinetry, and limited lighting. The clients collect art and have a penchant for architecture and design. “And are quite adventurous with their taste,” Horner adds. “They wanted a light, airy feel with modern sensibility and a touch of ‘Wow!’ They entertain a lot and wanted to have some great design features, better lighting, and a relaxed comforting feel.”

Surprisingly, the initial design plan was a Mondrian-influenced space. “But through the process we changed course to what I feel is a better suited style for them and the space,” Horner shares. The first order of business was to replace the floors with a whitened finish engineered oak. “Unable to add ceiling lights due to the building limitations, we opted for a series of wall sconces and replaced all the existing canned lighting with smaller more contemporary LEDs that give a much nicer and brighter light,” he says. The kitchen was stripped down and painted a warm illuminating off-white (Tallow by Farrow and Ball), and the baseboards and trim were replaced with more contemporary scale and profile.

However, the furnishings are where the style really shines. There’s a full suite of custom casework and furniture, designed by Penny Black Interiors. Made with locally sourced white ash and satin finished in Rubio Monocoat stain, the pieces set the tone for the entire space. “The condo is a mid 1990s build and very boxy. We wanted to introduce a more feminine soft edge vibe, so using rounded, arched elements in these built-ins helped us to create that feel,” he explains.

Finally, there’s a dose of Kelly Wearstler glamour in the form of an upholstered Thayer Coggin curved sofa, as well as wallpaper in both the primary bedroom and hallway. “Unusually we used a black based paper,” Horner recalls. “Not only did the color add drama to the space but it actually emphasizes the lighter areas.”

The end result is far from Modrian, but just as artful. Start the slideshow for a closer look.