about the renovation of our new north Portland Church into our future home!

Archive for August 2009

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Today my trusty steed (aka. stupid sledgehammer) squashed my right index finger, with the most wretchedly painful blow.. I underestimated my own strength methinks, and sent the hammer directly THROUGH the wall, and with it went my poor, innocent finger. Ow.

At least I have some lovely progress pics to show for it 😉

Before the fall of the wall:


After the fall of the great wall (almost)


Not totally down yet… I got a little spooked about the ceiling caving in on me.. decided it best to wait till I have witnesses.  Plus I had to stop and get some ice for my little pointer.


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August 26, 2009 at 4:34 am

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Anyone have a roofing torch I can borrow?

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Just heard about a new resource at my disposal; THE NORTH PORTLAND TOOL LIBRARY

perhaps I can get a roofing torch here, and have a go blasting at the ceramic tiles covering 1/3 of the space.  If I can loosten and remove them, I’d have more natural concrete surface area, and not have to install some other type of flooring overlay in that area….  This is the next step in my ongoing floor-challenge.

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August 23, 2009 at 7:59 pm

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Lately I’ve been thinking about how to discourage tagging and graffiti, which ichocolate bldg2s a bit of an issue in the neighborhood. I’m trying to consider this when deciding on the final design of the exterior.  Taka recommended this Hardi Select Cedarmill siding , which arrives primed and we can paint whatever color we want.  I’d like to use the Metro chocolate brown color, and achieve something like this at right: (it’s actually the AIA building in the pearl)

I’d like to go with a prevailing dark color, with a strip-like planter box along the front from which tall native grasses would sprout.  I’d like to also train plants up a trellis to cover much of the large exposed wall.  Maybe throw up some randomly selected “boards” of various natural shades, in an attempt to solve the tagging problem by having the ability to immediately cover tags as they happen strip by strip in a random way….

I like the look of this as a recurring theme throughout the exterior and interior….. I’m thinking of how to incorporate this random-mosaic wood feel in either the fence, interior walls, kitchen cupboards or all three.

IMG_1392 Anxiously awaiting our Pre-app with the city where we will apply for an appeal to a building code which requires separately independent structural walls for each unit. This is also where we get to make sure with city planners that our flag-lot land division plan will be approved.

SO, this appointment is Sept 2nd, and pivotal for the project.  Wish us luck!

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August 21, 2009 at 1:03 am

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Today Eli and I went to the Street Of Dreams tour through the Pearl district… checked out a bunch of fancy 2 million dollar condos and got super excited and inspired.

Hands down, the favorite :937 Bedford


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Really beautiful furniture staging.. interesting interior design ideas and color combos, but for the most part fairly conservative and not a lot of risk taking.  Way too much Pergo flooring.  It *was* really awesome to see all the state of the art appliances and engineering.. the concrete rectangular hot-tub.. the doorless shower room, the big slider glass doors and computerized ovens that can cook a turkey in 45 minutes… not to mention the amazing, incredible, stunning sunset views and Portland skyline.

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August 20, 2009 at 7:07 am

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Today I had a 12X6 dumpster delivered in the morning and filled the thing to the brim in two hours. We are also down to just two pews, after a couple of craigslist posts and a lot of hassle (thank you Chris and Pete for all your heavy lifting!!!) Most of them were picked up by a guy who was opening up a community center in Vancouver, which means we get to write them off as a donation since they are a non-profit.  Perfection!

I tried to demo the stage after that but discovered it’s covering a giant 2 1/2 ft high slab of raised concrete.  Looks like I now have to incorporate a stage into the final design of my place now whether I like it or not!

This was Eli’s original idea for the stage area…

Tamara's Unit 8-13-09

I love the exposed trusses, and the giant old growth slice of wood stretching across the top, and the steps leading up to the loft bedroom.  This was to be surrounding the kitchen but we may have to rearrange things a bit now that we have that slab with which to deal.  I guess it could still could work, just now elevated a bit.

tomorrow.. more demolition.. yeehaw!!!!!!!!

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August 18, 2009 at 2:05 am

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Welcome to the Church of Tam!

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And so begins the crazy, insane adventure of the reinvention of my new home.  First things first: I’m so incredibly lucky and blessed with the amazing people in my life who are helping make this dream become a reality. Thank you, friends, family, cohorts and coworkers for all your support and advice. I am starting this blog so that all of you can not only see the creative evolution of this beast of a project, but also witness the slow progression of my insanity, and hopefully cut me some slack as I slowly lose my mind 🙂

First, a little backstory.

For years I’ve wanted to buy a unique building and renovate it as my home.  I’ve collected books on conversions, scoured websites of similar projects, watched the extreme homes stories on HGTV, and awaited with eager anticipation the monthly arrival of my Dwell magazine.

While vacationing with friends and on a hike along the Napali coast in Hawaii last spring, My friend Eli said out of the blue: “Tam, lets buy a warehouse!”  as if it made perfect sense, as if it weren’t wrought with difficulty… I think my response was an incredulous… “um, OK!”  Though it seemed like a pipe-dream at the time, I don’t think either of us doubted the sincerity or the capabilities of the other to actually make it happen.  We continued discussing the possibility that day and agreed to get started on the hunt for buildings as soon as we returned back to Portland.  We started off by checking out warehouses, commercial properties and other mixed use types, pre-existing with non-residential purposes.  These visits were generally discouraging explorations, though fun and very educational. We learned a ton during this process;  about the difficulties of getting around zoning (and the extremely high costs involved with both the purchase and the conversion of such commercial/industrial buildings) and gradually we started to realize we needed to narrow our focus a bit to unusual buildings that were already zoned residential.

Williams front NW

Eli happened to be riding his bike up Williams avenue in North Portland one day, and spotted a FOR SALE sign out front.  We went to see it as soon as we could schedule it.  It was a small Baptist church in the heart of a community already rich with history and was so filled with promise.  It is a long white, wood and concrete rectangle, about 3,000 SF, with a pitched roof, a long driveway up the side and a small yard in the back. The meeting hall portion at the front of the church has wonderful high ceilings, and a natural concrete floor under the carpet.  The back half (added 20 years after it’s original creation in 1958) unfortunately sits 4 feet higher than the front, and it’s lower ceilings conceal a truss structure (that we recently learned is impossible to modify without removing entirely and costing a bundle).  It also unfortunately has a linoleum floor glued directly onto the concrete, which would be a daunting task to remove, so Eli plans to figure out some other alternative flooring option. There are kitchen cupboards, a countertop and a steel sink, (which I may remove and re-install in my jewelry work-studio down the road). This back room also has a wood-burning stove, (which Eli is excited to upgrade and use as his primary heat source in the winter).

williams front SW

Otherwise, it was a relatively empty shell, and will require minimal demolition. There are three bathrooms, (one with a shower) and plenty of natural light, the reinforced concrete throughout is not only a safely and structural thing of beauty but also makes it easy to keep it comfortably temperate indoors.

It sits right on a major bicycle superhighway and serves as an artery between the inner east side/downtown and North Portland neighborhoods.  There are a lot of adorable new developments and revitalization projects popping up nearby, including several projects coordinated by the design/build company that Eli works for, Sakura Urban Concepts.



In fact, a six-plex of loft-townhomes recently done by Sakura happens to be two doors down from the church, on the corner of Williams and Wygant.  Taka Nakagawa is the chief designer and owner, and agreed to help us with our project.  He is underway with ideas for the design and construction, and Eli is a whiz on this CAD program called “sketchup” which gives a detailed analysis in three dimensions.  It’s a great way to convey an idea visually and a sketch can be continually changed and refined down to the most minute of details.4828 N Williams_front

We agreed on some of the more important aspects of this project including existence within a central location, growth among a vital community, and the creation of a unique, versatile space that utilizes redevelopment methods which support a sustainable lifestyle.   Our goal in essentially repurposing the building with an intelligent re-design, utilizing a less wasteful use of resources and cost-effective methods in having a minimal impact on it’s community and the environment.  Frequent trips to the Rebuilding center, a local resource for houseparts and fixtures, are a must.  Considerations including water collection tanks for our toilet flushing, solar panels and  eco-friendly and recycled materials would be made.  Non toxic, low VOC or metro recycled paints are preferred.  Additional insulation would be added wherever possible to cut down on heat loss.  Eli and Rachael planned to build a greenhouse off of the backyard and an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) for additional work-space off of their back unit. They want to irrigate and enjoy the fruits of gardening.  I’d had dreams of using my front unit for a variety of creative uses, ranging from yoga to film screenings to craft nights.  In this way I hope to invigorate our home with a sense of community and plan to invite artists, performers, teachers and thinkers to interact and utilize it as a flexible and creative space.

Here are some early “before” images of when it was in use as a Church:

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SO, closing on the property was August 4th, and we plan to have the land legally divided into two different properties with construction completed for basic liveability within 9 months.  By March of 2010, we hope to be ready to throw the housewarming party!!!  In the meantime.. does anybody need a church pew? We have lots!!!

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August 17, 2009 at 5:17 am

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