My Foursquare Dining Room – a place to give thanks

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I sincerely hope you take time to be thankful for those you love, for all you have, and all you are becoming.

Gearing up for a time of thanks at this year’s dining room table, got me thinking about the last few details I am adding to complete my dining room before the end of 2019.  A little over four years ago, the very day the house listing went live, I walked into this lovely 1916 Foursquare.  I wanted to be part of old Portland so badly. I knew this house would be mine in spite of the hot real estate market and seemingly insurmountable odds of being selected by the sellers of the home.  There were multiple bids and one cash offer that accompanied my offer with a letter. I was excited and nervous and threw in every chip I had.  I promised the owners I would restore this house to her glory, and I told them my story. The owners planned to split the lot in the real estate transaction, and after creative financing in a matter of hours I was able to place an offer for both. I vowed I would keep the 1/4 acre original lot intact. I wrote of hosting neighborhood get togethers, client parties, an other social gatherings. I told them I would use the house to educate my design clients about old houses. All of these things are happening today, but looking back I see it started with just my words.

I have been working on projects in my house the last four years.  Outside I have planted well over 200 plants, rebuilt sections of my backyard fence, installed a large brick herringbone patio, built a waterfall and pond, and cosmetically improved the front entry by skimcoating the old concrete and adding paint improvements.  Inside in the same period of time, I have added air conditioning, removed layers of old paint on hardware, window and trim, polished decades of tarnish off of brass fixtures, remodeled my powder bathroom, made over my foyer, updated some appliances, and changed a number of modern day fixtures that didn’t speak to me.  I have done my best to phase appropriate updates while still leaving intact the original features, millwork and hardware that have adorned the home for over a century.  There is still so much I hope to accomplish, but here in this post I will spare you my long list.  Recently I have found myself more relaxed in the phasing. It is surprisingly enjoyable to see it all come together slowly.  Rome wasn’t after all build in a day, was it?  Well this is no Rome perhaps, but this is my personal expression of good bones, livable luxury, and a little artistic Angela flair.

In light of Thanksgiving week and dining with those you love, it seems fun to show you my dining room.  It is almost complete and it has become a favorite room in my home.  We not only have intimate dinners in this space, we multi-use the space for interior design client and vendor presentations, house parties, board meetings, soup neighborhood socials, and even our annual haunted house. These original built ins were no doubt modest in their time, but they are amazing to see intact with their original stain and patina. My family china from Grandma Margaret and Aunt Flossie fit perfectly inside and we use it often. The hand-knotted area rug under the dining table is a large 1970s vintage rug I picked up for a bargain via Craigslist. The dining table I purchased in 2009 when I was barely making minimum wage in my new interior design business.  Like the house it is imperfect from a lot of activities that I remember fondly. I managed to pay for the dining table on clearance with family gift certificates plus a little bit of cash back when I started my business.  (I was broke embarking on this dream to make a living as an interior designer in Portland and I am so thankful hard work and a dream paid off after a few years.)  You may have seen my dining table in the 2009 Street of Dreams Luster of the Pearl showhouse I designed – that year almost 60,000 people walked through the space and the recognition I received changed my business.  The greek key chairs are ridiculously comfortable with hardwood framing, custom upholstery, and the century old eight way hand tied technique – these chairs are from Vanguard Furniture.  My window treatments were custom made locally with fabric, the modern colorful toile fabric from Thibaut.  I swapped out the builder basic chandelier that was in the house for a modern fixture from Arteriors Home.  I love the way it sparkles and juxtapositions with the old features of the dining room.

This is what the dining room looked like the day I walked through the home.Old house dining room

And here she is today.  Not yet complete, but very close.Old House Dining Room

Perhaps my favorite feature added to the space is the custom drapery and roman shade.  After looking at the awkward soffit over the window, I decided to make it disappear with a roman shade.  The draperies close to the ceiling elongate the already tall ceilings and create drama.  The draperies are insulated with an inner lining helping with radiant heat and cold from the windows, and they provide a dramatic visual when closed in the evening.  The fun colors give me so much joy. Custom window treatments make such a difference in the finished result of designed interior, and are worth every penny.

Custom Window Treatments

My classic dining table that seemed so expensive back in 2019, featured at the Northwest Natural Street of Dreams in the Pearl District.


2009 Street of Dreams, Luster of the Pearl District – this is my dining table!

A funny story about the chandelier in the before image. I loathed it.  As I was prioritizing work to be done in my home and saving up funds for a number of projects in the house, I would tell anyone who would listen how much I wanted to replace it.  One day while Jeff and I were eating dinner by candlelight, the glass bowl of the chandelier got too hot and the chandelier shattered and showered over the dining table and onto our plates.  Jeff looked at me with chunks of glass surrounding us and said, “You hated that chandelier anyway.  Let’s go out to dinner now and afterwards you can pick out a new chandelier for the dining room.”  I think I manifested that chandelier’s doom!

Oh and accessories!  My goal was to visually lift up the original woodwork with lighter accessory elements.  I like to use pieces with personal memories, history and stories in my interior design projects.  I don’t mind bringing in new items to supplement a look – and I often do as needed – but I treasure a living space that expresses you and what matters to you.  I live this way in my own home too.  Among my accessories is a heart shaped porcelain container my grandmother gave me when I was 8 years old, a crystal bell from that same Grandmother’s personal collection, a vintage 1969 Jim Beam Blue Jay Decanter (I am a whiskey and bourbon enthusiast), a China Jar from a family member, and a vintage oil lantern from a client.

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My vintage Jim Beam 1969 decanter, also note the grain detail on my original built ins and the original drawer glass hardware.

I was so house poor when I moved in, I kept the dining room wall color for another day.  It has worked okay, but to me it has always been a little off the mark.   I have known all along I wanted to wallpaper the dining room.  Alas the time is near!  Rich royal blue grasscloth wallpaper is to adorn the walls this December – along with a geometric plaster ceiling treatment.  (Ceilings are often overlooked and can make a huge impact.)  I will also be adding a bench to the windows, changing out a piece of artwork, and reconditioning the floor air returns a warm brass. Then this beautiful dining and meeting space is complete for a while – in the context of knowing that someday another person will appreciate this space and make it their own too.  I plan to invest in some professional photography when the space is done, I did my best with these shots with my iPhone.

Wallpaper Blue Grasscloth

Thibaut wallpaper to come this December

A special thanks to my real estate agent extraordinaire Mary Mayther Slac from Vantage Point Properties that encouraged me to dream big, and to my mortgage broker/miracle worker Theresa Springer for having the skill set and knowledge base to work with a self employed small business owner. Most of all thanks to my interior design clients that believe in me and help me fund this work.  I fondly call my home the JJ Mann Foursquare, because of the original builder and his family who loved my home.

If you need help with your home and wish to express yourself in ways that make your heart sing, I am just a phone call away.

Angela Todd Studios For Custom Furnishings

Angela Todd

Owner & Principal Designer

Angela is the principal designer at her boutique interior design firm in Portland, Oregon. She is known for creating memorable backdrops that tell the story of fascinating and intricate lives.

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