Blog Stories Goldilocks and the "Just Right" Mid-Century Mod

Goldilocks and the “Just Right” Mid-Century Mod

By Alyssa Starelli, August 1, 2018

Once upon a time, many many years ago, when I was yet a young thing — before my joints creaked and my hair grayed (like back in 2014) — I met Eric and Karena in front of a mid-century modern house. It wasn’t the RIGHT house, but it was a nice one.  It cemented our working relationship and started our friendship. We went to cool shows, we saw cool houses.. it was alright!

A few months later I was able to hook them up with a pocket listing (essentially, a friend told me their home was available to my clients if I ever had someone who’d be interested) of the most astounding mid-century in deep East PDX (that’s my opinion but it’s widely shared). It had vaulted, beamed ceilings, a rad fireplace, a stellar pool, a spiral staircase, and  plenty of room for the sanctuary of lazy Bassett hounds (K & E’s preferred breed of dog).  But there was a caveat: the sellers had to find a house of ‘comparable coolness’ in a better school district closer in to the city. Quite the feat for anybody, but a bigger feat for people trading in the ‘best house’ ever!

So Karena and Eric patiently waited, and waited, and when the sellers bailed out of the deal for lack of finding something as-good, we commenced shopping.  We shopped for several years, always chasing a ghost of “The House that Could Have Been“.  As my hair grayed and my knees began to creak (not really, but felt like it) we continued to see a house this month, another house that, maybe a few all at once.. But they all were just NOT RIGHT. Goldilocks WASN’T eating porridge in that dining room!

So we persevered. We kept the dream alive that they would indeed find the dream home — one with a vaulted beamed ceiling, fabulous fireplace, swanky swimming pool, room for hounds to roam, and cool paneling.  And in 2017, they did.

It’d been on the market for a month or two, but the pics weren’t particularly representative — the kitchens (yes, two) needed some love and it was deep into Happy Valley.  I’d certainly brushed over it assuming it would be a resounding “NO”.  But they decided to hit an open house, and in person, the house WOWED!  It had everything on the list:  Fabulously high vaulted ceilings with an array of  central beams and cross beams in both kitchen/dining and the living room which were separated by a huge roman brick open-bottom two-sided fireplace, with built-in rotisserie grill. The kitchen had a dutch door, original metal cabinetry, an island and a lot of potential!   The master suite had it’s own deck, (even the garage had a deck), and there was also a spiral stair case down to the AMAZING pool! The house was full of cool paneling, and offered myriad rooms for offices and dens, guest rooms and hair salons!  There was an entire second home in the basement, complete with knotty pine, roman brick fireplace, and jalousie windows, and french doors, all of which opened up to the pool.

BUT, what’s more:

Standing in either the living room, dining room, or kitchen and most of the bedrooms of either story of the home,  or from either of the lawns, the hot tub house, or even bobbing in the pool you could see an EXPANSIVE VIEW that from some angles included Mt. St. Helens!!! This was something the deep east dream home did not offer! Goldilocks says this one is “Just Right”.

BUT THERE WAS A CAVEAT.. Of course there was!  These sellers wanted to partition the lot to create a flag lot below, prior to close.  Sounds easy enough right?? (wait for it).

Karena and Eric waited and worried through eight (8) painful months of fruitless updates and frustrating responses from the city of Happy Valley, hands tied, as the sellers muddled though on everyone’s behalf.  The partitioning of this particular lot turned out to be an untenable mess and a very expensive and time-wasting proposition. After much persuasion and fact finding on our part (and perhaps some relief on theirs) the Sellers agreed that it was simply not worth the cost, nor especially the further wait (we were OVER IT) and they should give up and sell the property as a whole for a reasonable price.

So in July of 2018,  4 years and 9 months and many gray hairs later,  we CLOSED on that house and swam in that pool, drank champagne and celebrated the painful art of PERSEVERANCE!!  [and then we checked out what that creepy hidden sealed (with duct tape no less) passage way in the basement was, pics below].

So CONGRATS to my good friends Karena and Eric. It has truly been an adventure with you! I can’t wait to see what you do with your dream home, and I look forward to watching movies from the pool, playing mini-putt putt on the lawns, and growing even older watching that view with the two you!
Sincerely,  Alyssa

Ps. sorry I didn’t get pics of the pool or the view, next visit!

Alyssa Starelli


A Portland native, Alyssa started her real estate career in the chaotic market of 2005, and quickly realized she reveled in matching particular clients with their perfect home, no matter how unusual. She then began specializing in mid-century properties - both Modern and Modest. More recently, she has included what she calls "Period-Perfect" homes to her repertoire. Her goal in this is to seek out those hard-to-find, unremodeled original homes of all eras. When I started in real estate, I realized there was a market for ranch homes, from Mid-Century Modern to the more modest Daylight Ranch, but few realtors willing to service it. I started highlighting these 'Picks of the Week' on my website, introducing enthusiasts to the full gamut of midcentury houses of Portland. In 2006, I founded the Mid-Century Modern League in order to educate the public about the importance of preserving these gems. Today I continue to focus on Mid-Mod, but have added vintage, mostly unremodeled houses of earlier eras, which I call 'Period-Perfect', because they have interest to clients and are under-serviced too. Frankly, I enjoy seeking out any unusual or original elements a client might be interested in, it's a challenge to rise to." As Founder of the Mid-century Modern League, Alyssa is considered an authority in the local mid-century architecture scene, and is especially proud to include the Editors of Atomic Ranch Magazine in her past-client list. Often quoted in news and radio, she has been able to bring additional interest to her business, listings, and client's homes - many of which have been featured in magazines such as Atomic Ranch, Oregon Home, The Oregonian and also included on several local home tours. With a background in marketing, and an eye for the unique, Alyssa really enjoys buying and selling properties whose interesting features may be overlooked by other realtors, even (or especially) if those features aren't mentioned in the listing. As a hobby, Alyssa has issued herself a challenge to walk every residential street of Portland proper and document the best architecture specimens of each neighborhood. There are about 3500 square miles of Portland, and it's a big feat. By the time she finishes, she will have seen every house in Portland with her own eyes! You can follow her walks on her blog Portland-by-Foot. When off duty, you can find Alyssa at estate sales, honky tonks, her friend's cattle ranch, or seeking out ghost towns, roadtripping to the Oregon high-desert. A music fanatic and semi-retired booker/manager, Alyssa is heavily immersed in the western swing, old-school country, and rockabilly music scene, and you'll often find her out at shows, dancing, maybe even sharing her favorites on the radio. Alyssa Starelli 503-888-1362
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