Nothing indicates a family gathering in progress like the jumble of shoes by the front door. That pile has long been a staple of life on Myrna Angell’s family farm in West Linn. Early on, the 60 acres bought in 1948 produced hay and an assortment of livestock. “But it was never a full-time farm,” Angell said. “My dad liked to say the best crop it ever raised was four kids.” Although the property has since downsized to 10 acres, it has proved to be the nexus for Angell’s kin over the years. You’d be hard-pressed to find an aunt or uncle who hadn’t taken up residence in one of its two houses at some point. “My grandmother lived here with my great-grandfather and numerous other family members at different times,” Angell said. In 1980, she and her husband, Jerry, moved back to raise their three children.
Although the original 20×30 footprint of the Angells’ farmhouse had received piecemeal additions over the years, the interior could get tight. “You opened the door and there was the [dining] table. Then the pile of shoes. Then coats would go on chairs—and that was all before you got 3 feet,” Angell said. The kitchen was a tiny “hallway,” the single shower located in the basement, and ceiling heights stopped at 6.5 feet in some rooms. The layout wasn’t practical for the couple to age in place or host their family, which now includes eight grandchildren. In 2014, they tapped the team at Richard Brown Architects for a complete rebuild.
The elegant new farmhouse suits the storied family site. A wide and welcoming front porch feeds into a gracious center hall complete with a large closet and a bluish-charcoal floor that suggests slate, but is actually an easier-to-maintain tile. “Obviously the house is fairly traditional in some ways,” said Hope Telford, an associate at Richard Brown. “But we wanted to open it up and play with the forms a little bit.”
In the open-concept living area, lofty coffered ceilings inset with beadboard and oak floors read traditional, while 8-foot-tall windows maximize light and tweak conventional proportions. The dining table seats a group easily, and a cozy breakfast alcove is wrapped in large windows overlooking the property’s mist-wreathed treeline. Tongue-and-groove siding covers one wall and continues to the entry, to enclose the staircase up to the second floor. “We wanted some punctuation to the center of the house and a connection between the entry and living room,” Telford said. The “lap and gap” siding looks modern but offers another playful reference to timeworn farmhouses.
Today, the Angells’ home is filled with family reminders, from the knotty alder cabinetry crafted by Jerry, to an antique pendant light from Myrna’s mother, to a 1966 picture of the former house tucked into the entry mirror. During large family gatherings, the shoe pile perseveres as children drop muddy boots after long days spent exploring the chicken pen or visiting the horses. “We have family get-togethers every two years, including friends and anybody that ever lived here or stayed here.” Angell said. “Everybody likes to come back here.”