A Timeless NW Tudor

We spoke with Andy Barlow, Head of Interior Design for Thesis Studio Architecture, on how he maintained the original character of a home while making it more livable for a modern family.

Written by Sarah Lyon
Photography by Christopher Dibble



Located in the historic Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood of Portland, OR, this 1937 Tudor-style abode was in need of both restoration and modernization. The young family calling this home gave Portland-based Thesis Studio Architecture a brief focused on opening up the main floor spaces, updating the kitchen with a more usable layout, and refreshing outdated finishes.

How did you honor the historical integrity of this home while also modernizing it and making it livable for the 21st century?

This was such an important part of the entire renovation. In the kitchen we wanted all the perks of a modern home, but in a style that looked like it could have been original to the 1937 build. With custom full-inset cabinetry and historically-minded hardware, the exterior of the cabinets achieve that, but internally the cabinets hide appliances and feature tons of custom storage solutions.

Throughout the rest of the main space we made sure to salvage the original leaded-glass windows and mahogany casework as much as we could, and any new casework or moldings were done with an eye for historical and original detailing.

Where did you use Ann Sacks tile in this project, and how did you know the tile you selected would be such a strong fit for the space?

We used Ann Sacks tile in both the kitchen and living room on this project. For the kitchen, we wanted something neutral and classic, but also something that brought some interest and texture. With the house being Tudor Revival in style, the Swiss Cross tile seemed like the perfect fit for everything we were after. Similarly, for the living room, our clients really liked the idea of natural stone or marble, and the Hive tile brings such a classic yet interesting pattern to the mix.

What are some key factors to keep in mind when selecting tile for the living room? What about in the kitchen?

For the living room we like to keep things a bit more neutral – this is a space that you’re more likely to change over time (new furniture, rugs, wall colors, etc), so a neutral tile allows you the flexibility to work with any number of changes made to the decor.

For a kitchen it’s all about thinking “longevity” because, unlike a living room, it’s more difficult to just change things up over time without another major remodel. So, we tend to approach kitchen tile with a few things in mind – 'What are the overall architectural/style influences of the house?  Is the tile timeless enough to look good in 5, 10, 25 years? Will the tile be easy to clean and maintain?' It’s definitely a balancing act between aesthetics and practicality.

Why did neutral tile stand out to you and what makes it so versatile?

When we’re talking about things that are literally nailed or glued down in a home, going neutral is actually a pretty strategic choice. For this project, it was all about the interconnectedness of the newly opened space – with the kitchen much more open to the living spaces and vice versa, we chose neutral tile so that the built-in spaces created great backdrops without overpowering each other.

That said, neutral tile can lead to a number of vastly different outcomes, which is why we love it. For many, neutral tile leads to a neutral space – calming, timeless, classic. And yet, creating a neutral shell can still lead to an extremely fun and colorful space for the homeowner who collects art, ceramics, plants, etc, as the colorful objects are then allowed to take center stage.

The tile was made in Ann Sacks' Portland factory - what other local or Portland inspired touches did you add to this space?

This is one of the reasons we love Portland, right? There is such an emphasis on locally crafted items, and we really wanted to embrace that in this project. Like the tile, virtually everything we touched in the project was crafted here in Portland; all hardware and most of the lighting from our friends at Rejuvenation, cabinets and butcherblock counters from the local Precision Cabinets shop, and even a lot of the decorative items came from local shops such as Schoolhouse and Mantel.

What are some of your favorite elements of the completed space?

The kitchen tile for one! We’d been waiting for the perfect project to come along to use the Swiss Cross tile, so we were thrilled when the homeowners loved it as much as us!

After that, the newly utilized nook off the kitchen is high on the list. This was already a beautiful original feature of the house with its leaded-glass bay window, but unfortunately the space on the inside was awkwardly closed off and was best served as overflow pantry and a location for the fridge. Thanks to some new engineering from our colleagues at Grummel Engineering and steel beams installed by the great carpenters from Hammer and Hand, we were able to open up the interior walls and allow it to flow more seamlessly into the kitchen, which then allowed us to reimagine the utility of this space. Now the nook is everyone’s favorite spot – a place to plan recipes or do homework, grab a cup of coffee from the new coffee bar, or to just sit and look out over the neighborhood!

December 10, 2021

Also in Project Profiles

A Luxe Oklahoma

Sees Design shares how they created a ground-up build with immense elegance.

A Family Retreat

Designer Marianne Jones transforms a Michigan home on the Rouge River into a getaway oasis.

A Light-Filled Lakehouse

Inside a stunning family vacation home by Annie Downing that highlights lake living.