The Milford Residence

The restoration of a Saul Zaik gem

mid century modern Northwest Regional style saul zaik
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Above: The restored Saul Zaik House (the Milford Residence). Photo: Lincoln Barber

When renovating and restoring a Modernist / Mid Century Modern home quite often designers and architects will wash everything in white (or any neutral) paint, plop down an Eames lounger in front of the fireplace, and call it job done. Too often the character – and even charm – of the original home is stripped away in the name of ‘upgrading’. There are even (perhaps too many) television shows documenting the process of people buying a MCM home and transforming it from something interesting to magazine article bland in the course of one toe-curling hour. It’s these style of renovations that begs the question, ‘Why did you buy a Mid Century Modern home if you didn’t want one?”

However, in fairness, some things do need upgrading in the renovation process. Unless you like paying five times as much for electricity for the stove and fridge you may want to consider getting newer, more efficient models. Single-glazed windows may have been the architect’s vision in 1955 but he’s not paying for the heating so new, insulating windows? Yes, a good thing. There are many upgrades that can make a MCM gem more livable (not to mention affordable) that can be done without wiping away the charm and essential style of the original home. One such home is the Saul Zaik House (the Milford Residence) in Portland, Oregon.

mid century modern Northwest Regional style saul zaik

The restored Saul Zaik House. Photo: Lincoln Barber

Designed by Saul Zaik (who’s still alive and working in his 80’s) in 1956 the home is a classic example of the Northwest Regional Style, a local variation of the International Style, popular in the Pacific Northwest from the 1940’s into the 1960’s. However, over the years the house had suffered some ill-considered renovations and extension. When it was purchased by the current owners a few years ago their intent for the house was to renovate – as well as restore – the Zaik-designed home. Hiring the firm of Jessica Helgerson, with senior designer Emily Knudsen, the house was transformed into a contemporary home that’s still very much a product – even testament – to its time.

mid century modern Northwest Regional style saul zaik

The restored Saul Zaik House (Milford Residence) is every bit the MCM gem it was designed to be but it’s also a livable and modern family home. Photo: Grant Harder

mid century modern Northwest Regional style saul zaik

By maintaining original features like built in storage and shelving the Saul Zaik House (Milford residence) retains the original feel of the home and preserves the architects vision. Photo: Grant Harder

In the words of the designer

This project was a thorough remodel of a 1950’s house by prominent Portland architect Saul Zaik. Though the house had some beautiful features, most notably a sunken living room with expansive corner windows, the house had been poorly remodeled over the years. A later expansion had added on three bedrooms with aluminum windows and flat ceilings, which did not match the details and style of the original house. We thoroughly reworked the interior floor plan, relocating the master bedroom and bathroom to the rear of the house, creating a mudroom, office, and laundry room, changing the proportions of a family room that had been expanded and was out of scale with the other rooms, upgrading the windows throughout, and vaulting the ceilings in the addition. In our material choices, and in all the details for the project, we took a careful cue from the best of the original house. Our mantra for the project was “What would Saul do?” We studied the ways the windows and doors were set into walls, the window proportions, which wood species had been used where… and strove to follow that set of rules Our hope is that the house is remodeled once and for all, and that it can now live happily ever after.

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mid century modern Northwest Regional style saul zaik

Floor plan of the restored Saul Zaik House. Photo:

Still Working today a recent video about architect Saul Zaik


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