Begin Again

A Pearl condo owner transitions from suburban living and takes on an ambitious remodel, with a trusty canine companion by her side

The color scheme wasn’t planned this way, but it complements Trevor. He’s a plus-size Labradoodle whose shaggy coat lends what interior designers call “texture” to Beth Markwell’s freshly remodeled condo in the Elizabeth Lofts, at NW 9th and Flanders.

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Markwell adopted Trevor, who’s now about 77 in human years, when friends could no longer care for him, six months after she’d moved to the Pearl in 2008. “I’m getting up there, but he’s even older than me,” says Markwell, an impeccable and energetic 70-something who volunteers for the Assistance League of Portland. “We clothe 3,000 kids,” she says matter-of-factly.

“When I moved, I got rid of almost everything. I knew I’d be changing my lifestyle—and I decided to fully embrace the transition.”

Her move to the Pearl wasn’t hasty. She first sold a big home with a giant garden. “It was ridiculous to maintain,” she says. After considering her options, she thought, I’m going to go downtown, spend some time, walk around, and get the feel of it. She initially rented a Pearl apartment for about 18 months and grew to appreciate what the neighborhood offers: she could live on one level and access mass transit easily. “I don’t want to be stuck in the suburbs at 80, unable to drive. I can live here until they come haul me away to the old folks’ home,” she says, wryly glancing around her.

Markwell then purchased the one-bedroom-plus-den, 1,176-square-foot condominium on the seventh floor of the Elizabeth Lofts, which she’s resided comfortably in since.

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In 2015, she decided on a major renovation—she tapped the expertise of interior designer Anita Sande (pictured above), of Spectacular Design (347 NW 9th Ave, 503-505-9274), which opened last summer on the Elizabeth’s ground floor. The firm’s striking showroom is a shimmer of blues and inlaid silver metallic tiles. “I took down seven interior walls,” Sande says, standing in her studio hung with high-gloss photos of Portland by Pearl photographer Guy Bodin.

The energetic designer explains that figuring out what a client wants takes a bit of mind-reading. “I’m good at tuning in and helping people articulate that. It’s always subjective, but color choice was very important in Beth’s case, since she already had all of her furnishings. The focus of the redesign was on the finishes.”

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Sande oversaw a flurry of contractors, permits, and meetings right up until the day Markwell moved back into her home on New Year’s Eve, following several months during which she encamped in a different apartment while workers completed the renovation. “I told them I’d be moving back in on December 31 and that they could work around me if they had to,” says Markwell.

Now happily back in her smartly refurbished digs, she’s thrilled with the results. White-quartz countertops replaced the original black granite. “I love them. It brightens things up,” says Markwell, who put the materials through rigorous red wine and balsamic vinegar tests.

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Together, Sande and her client chose Chocolate Brown from Miller Paint’s Historic Collection as the loft’s main color. “Anita knows a very good painter—really an artisan,” says Markwell. “He worked for years for Ralph Lauren in New York. He wouldn’t allow the other contractors to touch or move anything to protect his paint.” Sande had her painter apply the rich hue to all of the doors, trim, and cabinets—even the exposed aluminum ceiling duct.

All of the kitchen hardware was replaced, as were the bathtub, shower, and toilet in the completely revamped bathroom. Sande bought these major fixtures from Chown Hardware and purchased many additional pieces from other Pearl businesses, including Portland Closet Company, Pearl Ace Hardware, and Storables.

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Tile played a big part in the transformation. “We took the tile up higher than is typical in a bathroom—it’s from s’Tile and Pental,” says Sande. “We also did a tile kitchen backsplash and new tile for the utility room floors.”

“It’s absolutely beautiful. It has a whitewash that gives off a warm cast—you can really see texture in these new floors.”

She recommended a hand-scraped white oak for the rest of the condo’s new flooring, which she sourced from Area Floors. “It’s absolutely beautiful,” she adds. “It has a whitewash that gives off a warm cast—you can really see texture in these new floors.”

Best thing about urban living? “I don’t have to give up my independence,” says Markwell. “I can walk to the grocery store—I have Powell’s, I have the Gerding Theater. I buy tickets for the Broadway and Pops series.”

In the face of both planned and unplanned challenges, Markwell and furry friend Trevor have made the most of living in their beautifully redesigned loft, in one of the nation’s most dynamic urban neighborhoods. “When I moved, I got rid of almost everything,” she says. “I knew I’d be changing my lifestyle—and I decided to fully embrace the transition.” – Michaela Bancud | Photography by Aubrie LeGault

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