It wasn't her plan, but Portland, OR native Meg Christensen found her 1904 dream-come-true home smack in the middle of the pandemic house-buying frenzy. Meg gives us all the details about settling in and honoring the home's original character while making it her own: see how she’s incorporated fresh, modern touches throughout with a love of lush, french blue, secondhand finds, and sustainable picks.
P.P.S: Medley's team is partly based in Portland, OR, too. Hi, Portland!
Q: Hi, Meg! Could you give us an introduction? (Tell us a bit about you, your background, your family?)
Of course! I’ve lived in Portland since I was 3 years old. Now, I’m a naturopathic physician by day, focusing on the gut microbiome. I’ve also been a part-time Interior Design and Architectural Drafting student at Portland Community College for the last year and a half, finally fulfilling my life-long love of home design. I want people to know how big an impact the materials and furnishings in our homes have on our health, and what we can do about it, so I founded my company, Interior Medicine, last year. I love supporting clients in designing their homes around their health concerns and using the same knowledge to design my own. I live at home with my husband Paul. We met in naturopathic medical school and got married on Mt. Hood three years ago. We both love to work on our house, spend time with friends and family, go camping, and travel all over the world.
Q: What’s a typical day for you look like?
I wake up early to drink a cup of coffee in the breakfast nook, play the Wordle, and read the news. I love a quiet, slow start to the day. I bring my second cup of coffee upstairs to my office where I do some homework—it’s best in the summer when the sun is streaming in, but even in the dark winter, I find AutoCAD so satisfying, I still look forward to doing my classwork. My regular work day starts at 9:00, and I see patients either from my home office via telemedicine visits, or I bike into work in SE Portland to see them in the clinic. At the end of the day, I’ll see clients for Interior Medicine, and after that, it’s strictly fun time! I’m very committed to this part of the day. Paul and I will walk to a bar to get a beer and play cribbage, or he’ll cook for us. A couple times a week I'll go to a Pilates class, or out for a bike ride and a margarita with girlfriends.
Q: Tell us about your home. How long have you been there, and how long have you been in Portland?
Our home was built in 1904, and we bought it in May 2021, on its 117th birthday. There are built-in bookshelves and funny little closets everywhere. The kitchen and bathrooms have been updated, thank goodness, but otherwise, all of the old details have been preserved! The walls are made of horsehair plaster and lathe, the wooden doors swell when the weather changes, and everything is a little bit tilted. I appreciate a super-sleek, modern house, but ultimately, my heart prefers old, quirky homes, so this was a very natural choice. We bought it in the height of the pandemic home-buying frenzy, which was not the plan—but close friends of the family were selling when we were ready to buy, so we did it all off-market without a realtor. We feel lucky everyday to be here.
Q: What was your approach when you started designing your home? Did anything change from your original vision for the space?
Hahaha, my very first idea when we moved in was to decorate so that when guests came in, they would sloooooowly realize it wasn’t actually 1904. This was partially inspired by our FrameTV, which really does trick people. We have it set to an olde time landscape painting and when people come into the house they just think it’s a boring old painting. Toward the end of the evening somebody inevitably yells, “THAT’S A TV!?” and they make us turn it on to prove it. One of the other first things we bought was a wool rug with a floral pattern on it for the dining room. It looks pretty and classic from afar, but as you get closer, you see the flowers are actually in a pixelated pattern. Not classic at all! Got you! OK, I can say with 100% certainty no one has ever been tricked into thinking it was 1904 when they walked in, and then slowly realized it wasn’t, but I still do love the idea of enjoying the home as an experience.
Aside from my initial, totally batty, decoration idea—our design approach is to honor the age and original character of the home with high-quality furniture and fixtures, and leave some room for fun, modern details we can switch out with ease. Now that we have lived here for a year, including through the heat dome (116 degrees in Portland!), our design choices have evolved toward being sustainable and climate-proof. For example, next up is a heat pump and a good-looking induction range. Both are more eco-friendly than their traditional counterparts, and because they don’t rely on combustibles, create healthier air for us living inside when things get extremely hot (or cold! or smoky!) outside again.
Q: How would you describe your design aesthetic, and how do you cultivate it?
My design aesthetic has a natural, timeless foundation, with sprinkles of eccentricity. It's taken me a lifetime of learning patience before buying things! When I was younger I'd grab something just because I thought it was cute at the moment. Now I pause and consider it in the context of what will look good in 20 years, what is natural and healthy to have in our space, and how it fits into the aesthetic of the entire home. I can do this most of the time; I still leave a little room for quirky impulse buys.
Q: How are you liking your Mota Bumper Sectional? What drew you to it?
We love it! The first thing we noticed when it arrived was how heavy each cushion was, in the same satisfying way a heavy little present feels before you open it. They look and feel so high quality. We were drawn to the white color to keep our house feeling open and airy, and I wanted a GOTS-certified fabric, so it was an easy choice. I’ve officially claimed the chaise lounge part of the couch, and spend every evening on it.
Q: What made you choose Medley furniture for your home?
We’re big fans of wool for its thermoregulating and moisture control properties, so we wanted natural latex foam and wool cushions. We also wanted an extra large couch to accommodate guests and fit perfectly in our space, so we knew it had to be customizable. We went back and forth on sizing with Medley a lot, and when the designer was so patient and kind with us, we knew we had found a good brand.
Q: Do you have a favorite room in the house, and if, so, what makes it your favorite?
Our breakfast nook in our kitchen! The prior owners were so creative and did such a great job building this. I never thought I needed a breakfast nook, but the day we looked at the house, I learned I was very wrong. It has huge windows, so it’s bright in the mornings, and totally private—our kitchen faces the backyard, which is lined with trees. I can feel totally comfortable staring slack-jawed into the distance over coffee.
Q: How does this room reflect you/your family/hobbies?
We have friends and family over for dinner a lot. Paul cooks, and I provide ambience, which is just a nice way of saying, I don’t cook.
People gravitate toward the nook whenever they come over during the meal prep process— easy access to the drinks in the fridge and to chatting with Paul. In terms of my hobbies, I sewed bench cushions for the nook using organic cotton fabric, and kapok fiber as stuffing, in line with my conviction to use natural materials as much as possible at home. They look cute, and are indeed natural, but they are a little lumpy, hahaha. It was my first attempt at making cushions, so I’m still proud, and now I have a good idea of how to improve on them.
Q: Any favorite places to shop for your home in Portland?
Yes! Most of our furniture comes from vintage and resale stores—old things are about as eco-friendly as you can get, add character, and are generally healthier than having to off-gas a new piece of furniture, for example. Urbanite and Old Portland Hardware & Architectural are our go-tos right now. Some of my favorite decorations come from Re-Claim It, which is a store that rescues beautiful old items from going to the dump, cleans them up, and sells them. I got an incredible piano stool with glass feet there that I use as a plant stand, and a squiggle-shaped knick knack holder for the wall that I love. And, I can’t resist Woonwinkel for occasional decorations. They curate home goods that make me so happy I feel like I need a portable fainting couch whenever I go in.
Q: Name a favorite texture and color in the house for us!
Favorite texture: linen! Favorite color: French blue! I can’t get enough of either.
Q: How about a favorite object?
It’s got to be the little analog clock on our TV stand that I found at a vintage store in Estonia. My dad and I traveled to all three Baltic countries together in 2010, and the day we found this clock was so much fun. We were visiting Narva, a small town snuggled up next to the border of Russia, to see an old castle. Before we left, we poked our fingers through the fence into Russia, and were spotted by a Russian guard who yelled furiously at us. We were terrified, but then the guard started cracking up. He was being silly, and after we realized it, we started laughing too. It was an unexpected moment of connection and humor. Long story short, it’s important to me to fill the house with meaningful objects that have stories. Similarly, another favorite object is the end table that Paul’s great grandpa made. Its front left leg flips up on a hinge per his wife’s design request, so that she could easily sweep under it.
Q: What’s a silly memory you’ve made in the house?
A: We hosted an Olympics party for our good friend’s 40th birthday, and all of the events were funny and based on her favorite things. I’ll just say that the last event before the closing ceremonies was called "Chip Rage." We laughed so much.
Q: How about a very favorite memory in the house?
Collectively, the first visits by close friends when we moved in are my favorite memories so far. It was this bright spot of a few weeks in the middle of the pandemic: we were floating with excitement for our new house, but also for our friends—around that same time, everyone seemed to get the promotion they wanted, or a pregnancy, or had a big birthday celebration. It felt like a little parade of happiness coming through every few days.
Q: Any recent projects in your home you'd like to share?
A: We had to replace our downstairs bathroom’s exhaust fan recently, so did a mini bathroom makeover prioritizing wellness. Bathrooms are small rooms that have an outsize impact on your health—so we installed an Aquasana water filter in our shower to decrease our exposure to VOCs, chose an exhaust fan with an increased air flow rate to improve air quality, and got a Dorai bath stone made of diatomaceous earth to reduce mold and mildew growth. We added a fresh coat of zero-VOC paint, brought some plants in, and replaced the dark blinds with a light-filtering shade. It feels really good!
Q: What's next for your home?
A: Oh gosh, so many things. We really just decorated and made it livable over our first year, and now it’s time to tackle the big design stuff. We’re going to remodel both bathrooms, install heat pumps and solar panels, get a new stove, build a Murphy bed in our guest room, put a mini sink in our bar, and make the second story—which includes a room that acts as a home gym and a room that acts as my home office—more photogenic. Obviously, this will take some time. I can’t wait!
Q: If you could sum up the feeling of your home in a few words, which would you choose?
A: Our house has really good vibes! I feel like we’re friends with it. When I’m home, I feel intrigued, and very comfortable.
Thanks so much for the interview, Meg!
*Edited for brevity