1948 Streamline Moderne time capsule house, Portland, Oregon


Gretchen spotted this glorious 1948 time capsule home, which was recently for sale (now sold) in Portland, Oregon. The house was listed by agent Kathryn Madison, these amazing photos — which Kathryn took — were originally featured on her blog Go Beyond the Ordinary. This house is particularly interesting in how it seems to bridge the Streamline Moderne and mid-century ranch eras. On the outside, it’s pretty ranch-looking, although you can see some hints of international streamline style. Inside, it’s a Streamline Moderne wonderland — starting with this incredible kitchen. .  

streamline era ranch housePhoto above courtesy Kathryn Madison. The Frelinghuysen-Morris house, which Matt and I visited this past summer, is classic, pre-war international moderne style. Whoever designed this Portland house — especially the interior — was following that style. What is “Streamline Moderne”? Think: Luxury vintage railcar, with sleek, smooth, rounded edges. Hey — vintage Airstream trailers were Streamline Modern. “Mid-century Modern” as we know it today, on the other hand, has a different look. See the Wikipedia page on Streamline Moderne. Note, it says that Streamline Modern houses were less common that Streamline Moderne commercial buildings…. The real estate listing says the house got some updating 1980, so I’m wondering if the clapboard siding was added then, and covered something more atypically Streamline Moderne – stucco exterior? In any case, the interior is PHENOMENAL!

modern fireplaceLiving room fireplace: Moderne. Like the prewar Heywood-Wakefield lines. Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

1940s modern living roomNote the wrap-around windows… Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

moderne fireplaceHere’s the fireplace in one of the bedrooms. This decorative use of birch plywood paneling, finished with a simple gloss, was something that was promoted in the pre-war period. It was “modern” in the sense that it downplayed ornamentation (in contrast, say, to Victorian frou-frou.) Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

paneling in a mid century homeSimple birch sheet (I presume it’s birch, I could well be wrong) was used throughout the entire room, as you can see in this bedroom. Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

mid century banquette
The banquette, or built-in dinette, in the kitchen. The table base and glass top are new, I believe the listing said. Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

streamline kitchenPick your jaw up off the ground. Like I said: This is like the inside of a private rail car. Notice the masonite (or glass?) panels on the ceiling. The floor has been redone — but impeccably. Notice also, the tile countertops, with contrast bullnose tile edging. I’m thinking all that tile work has been redone… Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

1940s cabinetryThe craftsmanship to accomplish this, back in the day, was amazing. Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

The pantry doors… Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

I’m suspecting that those are 12″ square Carrera glass or Pittsburg Glass tiles on the wall. That was haute design for prewar bathrooms. Doesn’t this house just glow! Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

And in this bedroom, notice that little window. Again… almost like whoever designed this, designed luxury steamships before. It’s akin to a porthole window, another signal of Streamline Moderne… Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

steel windowWhere else on the internet do they get so excited about steel casement windows with fluted glass? Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

mid century front doorOr the inside of old front doors? Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

red orange front door on a mid century homeA welcoming front door in a red-orange….Hey, I’ll call it orange — the Retro Renovation Color of the Year 2011. Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison. Vintage Nutone door bell with…

… integral clock. Sigh. Such simple, perfect beauty. I read an interview with Marilyn vos Savant — you know, the smartest person in the world, or at least thought to be at one point — a few years ago. In Parade Magazine. Something she said really stuck with me. It was in answer to a question along the line, “What is it that you think about?” She said: “Wisdom, and beauty.” I think that is right, I really do: Wisdom, and beauty. Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

The listing said the house has had only two owners, and that they were each very cognizant of how special it is. Indeed. Photo above courtesy Kathryn Madison.

I only found out about this house late last night, and rushed to get these photos up. In the next few days, as I have more time, I will add more information about the house, for posterity. SPECIAL THANKS to listing agent Kathryn Madison for giving me permission to feature these gorgeous photos — which she took, she’s a pro! — and this gorgeous house on the blog… and to keep it here for posterity. It is so very special. Kathryn’s blog: Go Beyond the Ordinary

Meanwhile, here is a link to the real estate listing, where you can see the photos even larger, and read a bit more information about the feature: Tour of Portland Streamline Moderne home / Windermere Real Estate Company.


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  1. Caryn Sobel says

    An interior design friend just posted this morning about a new Poggenpohl kitchen concept that included ceiling and wall integration into the design–just like here, in 1948! I love seeing ideas cycle like this, and how the materials and uses change.

  2. A. W. Richards says

    There are not enough positive adjectives in the English language to describe that house. Quintessential mid century is as close as I can get to describe how much I adore this home, especially the kitchen. Oh my lord, that kitchen… wow. Stainless appliances do not belong in that kitchen (as a side, I don’t think they belong anywhere except for a restaurant kitchen… but especially not THAT kitchen). And that living room fireplace… and the door chime… the door… the paneling… the fluted windows… it’s too much greatness to take in.

  3. says

    What a SPECTACULAR home! I think if we bought that I’d spend the first few days just wandering around in joyful wonder!

    Your comparison of it to a railcar was especially adept, Pam. Looking at the house, I was reminded of 1934’s screwball comedy “Twentieth Century”, which takes place aboard a gorgeous old train. Here…I actually found a nice little article about the train (named the Twentieth Century Limited, it was LUXE); y’all might enjoy it!


    (The movie is very funny, too…)

  4. says

    As the realtor who listed this home, I hope to share a few details regarding which features are original as I have had many, many hours to explore the home and ask questions of the previous owner.
    The kitchen and two upstairs baths have the original masonite on both the walls and ceilings with metal trim. The banquette stand, glass and upholstery are original. In fact the entire kitchen is completely original including the top loading dishwasher, tile countertops, and inlaid linoleum- except for the stove and refrigerator which while vintage may not be the first in the home.
    The condition of the home is impeccable, not only because of the care of the two owners of the home, but probably aided by the lack of children in both households.
    I was told by a finish carpenter that the wood wall paneling is a type of mahogany.
    The home’s finishes were quite ahead of its time for 1948- the hidden screens that pull down over the waffled glass either side of the front door, the wrap around glass windows, privacy glass, the sleek, yet strong lines of the kitchen (yes, it is rather ship like) and fireplace, and the gorgeous use of materials right down to the wood of the Nutone doorbell…
    Reading a few comments, I understand some found my virtual staging to be contrary to the integrity of the home. My attempt was to find a segueway between the hard to find purist-preservationist buyer, and the “Oh my god, I have to re-do the whole kitchen!” buyer.
    As a mid-century home owner and enthusiast, a further goal was to convey my appreciation and excitement about the home by photographing both the large and small details, the kind of details that would draw the attention of a true aficianado. I believe I accomplished this goal with the homes purchasers.
    This home made my heart beat faster the second I saw it- and geekily so- even now when I recall it.
    By the way- I wish you could hear the doorbell chime.
    Kathryn Madison

    • pam kueber says

      oh my gosh, kathryn, thank you much for your clarification. what an incredible house, we understand your “geeky thrill” for sure! please keep in touch and let me know if you have any other mid century gems that come your way! i also will check out your blog – many thanks! pam

  5. gsciencechick says

    Wow, this home is amazing! To the real estate agent, Kathryn, from what I gather MCM is very popular in the Pacific Northwest, correct? I can honestly hope this home retains its incredible character.

    • says

      Yes, Gsciencechick, there is a very solid core of MCM followers in Portland. For the past 4-5 years we’ve had a home tour known as the Street of Eames featuring both modern and vintage homes which has sold out its 5,000 tickets every year in less than an hour. The publishers of Atomic Ranch also live in our (sometimes) fair city.
      Sadly, there are still many who do not realize how special these homes are, and remove the very things that set them apart from a new home.
      From what I understand, the new owners of this home completely “get it” and the home is in safe hands. A great ending.

  6. Joe Felice says

    Love the booth and the clock/doorbell. I think the upholstery on the benches should have been turquoise, to continue the theme from the kitchen. I’ve a plan to install a booth in my dining room when I get rich. . .

  7. Michelle says

    I sure would love to see this house. I treasure streamline moderne. I just love the kitchen dinette area and the bathroom. So wonderful. Let me know if they ever do a tour or show to the public.

  8. Adrian says

    OH. MY. GOD. I just fell in LOVE with that 1948 Streamline kitchen!! That was the most beautifulest kitchen I have ever seen!

    I did check out the real estate listing of the house for bigger photos. I am VERY sad to say that they replaced the old original fridge and stove with brand new stainless steel ones. All I can say is that it totally threw everything off and looks god awful! I sincerely hope the new owners could replace it back to the originals!

    • Bob says

      Rest easy, Adrian. Nothing was changed after all. (Those pics you saw were photoshops). The kitchen remains vintage 1948, even the glass table and the built-in porcelain dishwasher (seen to the right of the sink).

  9. John Bullwinkel says

    I would bet the original counter tops in the kitchen were linoleun with metal edges like (I think) I saw in the bathroom.

  10. Gayla says

    This is so very interesting, My sister in law , an brother in law live right across the street from this house. The Owners came to her Birthday party . She is a singer very good at that , The House is delightful the kitchen sick is the dish washer , the bath is so different when the doors are closed it is complete white . Very awesome house

  11. Jennifer says

    I love love love the kitchen! In the real estate listing the rendering of what the kitchen could look like was awful. Stainless steel appliances? Yuk!

  12. Michelle Basart says

    Beautiful Home. Wish I could have seen a tour of it.
    Its nice to know there is a streamline modern home in portland.
    Wish there were more buildings. I saw a few old theatre streamline moderne facade buildings in seaside and the PDX airport car rental area has streamline modern decor. If I won the lottery I would have one built with the daughter of the man who built the pan pacific auditorium. I hear she is an interier designer.

  13. Michelle Basart says

    The daughter or grandaughter of one of the two Walter Wurdeman and Welton Becket or possibly Charles F Plummer.

  14. says

    Hi Pam,
    Do you know how to do that amazing piping around the edge of the linoleum?
    Is it just painted on? I have a very similar streamline moderne house to the one pictured. My house has lots of curves and a built in booth. I need a new floor so I’m going back to the original linoleum floor. I’d like to do piping, but I can’t figure out how to do it when it’s not a square room.
    There’s a picture of my kitchen on the website.

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