Emily Katz and Adam Porterfield don’t just create home envy amongst neighbors and their many Airbnb guests; they’ve also inspired a pretty massive internet following of interior design fans all over the world. Step inside their gorgeous, “wabi-sabi” Portland home (or, really, just look at the photos) and you’ll see exactly why. They make a great creative team. Together, they’ve turned their home makeover projects into an ever-evolving creative canvas. It always feels fresh, unexpected, and completely them. As Emily put it, “Our house is its own living expression. It’s a project that will never be done… we love it that way.”
We sat down with Emily and Adam to discuss all things home design, personal style, and how family has shaped their creative careers.
You’ve created quite a following thanks to your Modern Macrame creations. Can we ask how you got into macramé in the first place?
Emily: You know, I didn’t actually set out to learn it. It kind of found me. I was at an age where I wanted to have a relationship with my mom again. She left when I was young and I was raised by my dad. Adam and I went to the East Coast to visit her, and I knew she used to make these plant hangers in the ‘70s so she could afford to buy a guitar. I thought that was so cool — such a cool story. I was interested in learning how to make them since we had so many plants in our house and, as a way to bond, I asked her to teach me. I’ll never forget it: We were in her kitchen, she was teaching me how to make them, Adam was there playing the guitar. My sisters were making cookies. It’s a perfect memory.
I hung those planters in our guest bathroom to remind me of my mom. But I didn’t actually continue to make them. I kind of set that aside until some months later, these Japanese magazine editors came to do a feature on our house and were so excited about the plant hangers. They had to know where they could get them. I told them the story about my mom and they were like, “That’s great…. but where do we get them?” So I figured I would teach them. And it all spiraled from there into a full-time passion.
What are some of your other favorite pieces in your home that tell a story?
Adam: Well, the house itself was built in 1906. I’ve been here since 2008 and Emily moved in in 2012. It’s this old Craftsman that we gutted down to the bones and then reshaped on the interior. We rebuilt the house and the whole thing feels whimsical in design.
How do you describe your style?
Adam: I’d say it’s New Bohemian? Wabi-sabi? Emily has an amazing collection of beautiful Kilim rugs….
Emily: Modern Bohemian. We have a growing, always-changing collection of beautiful old things — textiles, furniture, and decor that we collect on travels or find from friends who make beautiful things. Everything has personality and history. Actually, the only thing we have in the house that is plastic is…. The Vitamix.
People really seem to freak out about the light fixtures. We made them together from driftwood. I had an idea to do it and we made it together. But everything else feels simple – clean. Adam really put a lot of thought into the bones of the house and how it would flow and feel inviting with an open floor plan.
And before you remodeled the home, did you have experience in construction?
Adam: I had a very light background in construction from a few finishing projects. But mostly I knew nothing. It’s really been a deep and long learning process. We’re both really crafty and learn things easily, so a lot of the touches came naturally to us. But we also learned the importance of delegating projects that we don’t know anything about. (Laughs)
So if this house is an ever-evolving project, what comes next?
Emily: My projects are always down to the decor. I’m always looking at it and thinking, “What’s the next iteration of the space?” The bedrooms are always changing. We just got these amazing new sheets from Parachute. Right now, one of the main projects we are thinking about is the front porch. It’s been a storage place for pots and plants that are half alive. Now we’re just figuring out what the perfect situation would be for some epic hangouts out there.
Adam: For me, it’s the backyard. We overhauled it, laid mulch down, and now it’s this full blank slate. So I’m excited about what will happen back there. Maybe a little art studio?
Obviously, there is so much meaning to everything in your home. But you also travel a lot. Can you tell us what the idea of “home” means to you?
Adam: We both feel like home should be your favorite place. Emily in particular has been doing so much traveling the past couple years, so coming home has become a treat.
Emily: Traveling is exciting, of course. But we joke that the best part of traveling is, like, 40% having it on the horizon, then 20% actually being on the trip. The other 40% is coming home and being so happy to walk in that door to a clean house — one that smells like you, and feels like you. It’s not about the things in the home, as much as it is that feeling. And our bed is basically the most amazing.
What’s been one of your favorite experiences of hosting on Airbnb?
Emily: We’ve met so many super fun international travelers, but we had one guest from Paris that emailed us beforehand saying, “I’m coming to Portland, and I’m a chef, and I’d like to stay for three months.” We were just getting started as hosts during the winter months, but we went with it and we’re so glad we did because it was the best experience. She integrated immediately into our friends group and cooked meals for us all of the time. She was just this exceptional person to get to know. We have lots of stories like that.
Is there anything special you do for your guests?
Emily: Adam makes these beautiful topographical maps of Mount Hood. We also screenprint shirts and dishtowels to give to all of our guests, so they get a beautiful handmade souvenir to go home with. We think of it as a thank-you gift to them for choosing us, and also a way for to always remember Portland.
You have a guest who’s only in Portland for a day. Where do you send them?
Adam: Oh man, that’s a can of worms. It really depends on the guest. We like to custom-tailor our answers depending on what we’re into. But on the shortlist, Ned Ludd is close by, and led by the Luddite movement. Locally sourced, amazing food. Jason, the chef, is amazing, and they have great beer, great wine, and they just happen to be three blocks away.
Emily: Our favorite date night spot is Angel Face. It’s such a special place. I happen to love that the wallpaper is handprinted, and just everything in there—the food and the decor— is so thoughtful and delicious. And I’m in love with the marble horseshoe-shaped bar.
Adam: Of course, you’re in Portland. So, coffee. We send people to Barista a lot. It’s walking distance from us and has amazing coffee. They rotate three different roasters there from all over the world, curated to what is happening at the moment in craft coffee. It’s not my daily coffee stop, but you go there to be impressed.
Color us all kinds of impressed.
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Photography Credit: Michael J Spear