Recognizing the Four Square home
You’ll know it’s an Old Portland home when it looks like a Craftsman Bungalow, but has a second story. In the rest of the country, these houses would be classified as Craftsman Foursquare, or simply considered oversized Bungalows. Exterior features are its cubical shape, a hipped roof and front roof dormer, front porch (ranging from wraparounds to simple stoops) and windows usually grouped in pairs. Inside you’ll usually find four bedrooms and heavy, square woodwork.
Restoring the Old Portland home
To retain and add value to this home style, you’ll want to do the following:
Upgrade the roof, electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems, then concentrate on cosmetics.
Repair or replace any damaged or missing moldings.
Repair any chipped or discolored plaster on the ceilings or walls.
Re-glaze and repaint exterior windows.
Replace any newer fixtures with period pieces. Don’t make the mistake of polishing or replacing the dark brass in these homes. That patina is what gives it its historical value.
If you’re going to replace the windows (a good idea for energy efficiency), check for companies that will build new ones to match the existing windows. Replacement doors also can be built to match the originals.
If the woodwork has already been painted, consider stripping and staining it to bring back the home’s original charm. In the bedrooms, the woodwork can be painted a light color.
Refinish or restore the floors, which should be wood, tile or stone.
Retain original fireplace materials: stone or brick with wide wood molding on the sides and a mantel above. Fireplaces also may have decorative tile around the edges.
Picking your colors
The Old Portland home’s palette is muted: quiet greens (think sage), creams (often muted), reds and golds (think mustard or orange-hued yellow). Play off the colors found in natural wood, stone, terra cotta and brick.
Decorating your Old Portland home
These homes should look like they were designed after the manner of honest craft traditions.
You can start with cozy amber-hued lanterns hanging from the ceiling, or sconces on the porch or hallway walls. Simple hanging globe fixtures were also de rigueur in this period.
Use iron and copper blacksmithing for pot racks and firewood holders, and iron or hand-hammered copper for fixtures.
Try your hand at stenciled decorations on walls.
Bring in Prairie-style lamps with leaded glass panels, art glass shades and patinaed brass bases.
Place a beveled glass mirror or countryside-mural art over the fireplace mantel, and Craftsman lights on either side of the mantel.
Display candles in hand-hammered copper candlesticks.
Turn a bedroom into a library, complete with dark woods and lots of built-in bookshelves. (The library was the typical hideaway for the “man” of the house.)
Furniture of the period was usually mahogany with mortise-and-tenon and peg construction. Tables and desks sometimes had inlaid tiles or green marble tops.