Homeowner Kursteen Salter Price spent twelve years of ripping out flooring, tearing down walls and converting three separate units of a former Portland, Oregon factory into a single family home. She delved into every aspect of the renovation process, from welding window dressings to handcrafting wallpaper. Price transformed this 2,400 square foot, three bedroom, two bathroom loft into one spacious, cohesive home with a Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi interiors can be described as muted, dimly lit and shadowy, giving the rooms an enveloping, womb-like feeling with natural materials that are vulnerable to weathering, warping, shrinking, cracking and peeling. Uncluttered yet not overtly austere, wabi-sabi rooms are, above all, hospitable and comfortable.
As a former factory, there were no load bearing walls to worry about in the renovation process. She exposed concrete and brick walls, a concrete floor and wooden ceiling beams. She would spend days scrubbing paint off the floor, then sealing it with polyurethane. Unhappy with the finished product, the polyurethane was taken off and replaced with a wax finish. This is how she progressed, one DIY project at a time.
Price discovered most of her furnishings and materials at neighborhood vintage and salvaged-goods stores. “The more dents, the better,” she says. “It gives them character.”
The loft is a top-floor corner unit and enjoys sunlight on two of the four sides. When Price split the open space into bedrooms, bathrooms, study spaces and a kitchen, she prioritized natural light. “I wanted the inner spaces to have as much light as possible but also keep privacy,” she says. She achieved this through porous barriers such as EcoResin walls. The panels are made in Canada and have natural materials like grasses and twigs embedded in the resin.
The kitchen’s red walls showcase Price’s practice with Venetian plaster. “The first time it looked great, but within a few days it started falling off the wall,” she says. “Then I paid more attention to ratios.”
The dining area features a handmade table created by a friend who did much of the home’s woodwork. For the ironwork Price took on the task herself, including making an early version of the handrail leading to the deck. “I kept failing a sculptural welding class,” she says. “It was a great way to use the equipment.”
Burlap feed bags work as wallpaper in this sitting area. Price salvaged them from a nearby dairy farm that was planning to burn the bags. To secure the bags to the wall, she used simple wallpaper paste.
At night Moroccan lamps project soft light onto the ceiling. Price made the custom cabinets under the windows from wood salvaged from a local high school. The gym floor at the school flooded, and they scrapped the wood. Price repurposed it, painted it with milk paint and used it for her fireplace mantel and storage.
For one sitting area, Price enclosed the space with windows and salvaged wood from an old barn.
Since the space was initially three separate units, there were two spare kitchens in the loft after Price tore out the walls. She converted them to study spaces and now, instead of extraneous cooktops, reading nooks dot the home. Price’s family didn’t install a television, but they have an iPad, and “maybe that’s worse,” she confides.
In the most industrial bedroom of the house, steel diamond plates are set as flooring and run up one wall. The whole concept for the bed began with some vintage wheels that Price found. She wanted to design an elevated bed with them, so when a friend told her about an abandoned mill selling old, wide-plank sugar pine, an idea struck. She bought some of the wood and designed a bed to incorporate the distinct wheels and wood, and her friend did the woodworking and welding to complete the design.
The central bathroom features a traditional Japanese cedar soaking tub. The walls are a natural black pebble, the floors are cedar, and a barn door, made from salvaged wood, closes the space for privacy.
Each bedroom is on an elevated platform, and access doors under the room open to a storage space. For this door Price took two square steel plates and placed them on rollers. They separate for entry to the crawl space.
A copper wall creates texture over a custom sink. The sink came from a wool factory, where it once collected clippings from the sheep. Price added a custom basin to the basket and two wood panels along the top.
Black pebbles cover the walls of a steam shower, which seals by way of a sliding resin door. The custom resin panels preserve twigs and leaves and continue the natural motif in the bathroom.
Another bathroom features the same black pebbles and a semiprivate wall of dry vines between the sink and toilet. The stone sink “was meant to be a birdbath or something,” Price says. She had a custom concrete base made to elevate and give new purpose to the bowl.
After spending twelve years creating this unique loft space, Price and her family have decided to sell the loft. They purchased a home just a couple of miles away, an old Tudor that Price will be renovating. The family has changing needs with two kids who have grown older, the new home will provide them with a yard and an area for a garden. She said it was very sad to leave her handiwork behind but she is excited by the prospects the new home will bring.
Photos: KuDa Photography
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