From our earliest recorded history, stories have been an important part of being human. From ancient gatherings around the fire in cave dwellings to listening to Uncle Jim’s oft-heard humorous tales or reading bedtime stories to our children, storytelling has been used for thousands of years to create connections, build shared meaning, teach important lessons and pass down traditions, beliefs and folklore. In his article “The Art of Immersion: Why Do We Tell Stories?” Frank Rose explains: “Anthropologists tell us that storytelling is central to human existence. That it’s common to every known culture. That it involves a symbiotic exchange between teller and listener – an exchange we learn to negotiate in infancy. . . Stories are recognizable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning. We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others.”
We understand the role of stories in our personal lives, but how does this come into play when remodeling a home? One’s home is deeply personal; it’s where we spend most of our time, engaging with friends and family around the dinner table, sharing holiday traditions and building memories. It’s our refuge from the ups and downs of life that we all inevitably experience. No matter who we are or what our position in life, we all want our homes to be warm, inviting, comforting spaces where we feel at ease and can be ourselves. This sense of comfort and belonging is why the phrase “feeling at home” carries so much weight. Thus, the stories that come into play when remodeling a home – encompassing personality, history, family, friends, interests, and needs — must be considered in the process.
Sometimes the inspiration for ARCIFORM’s work comes from a well-known story itself, as seen in this 1902 Victorian in Sellwood. Included in the extensive renovation was a dormer addition based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Intended as a reading area for the family, this magical nook includes a loft overlooking the main stairwell, a custom boat ladder and railing, and most interestingly, a submarine-hatch-like opening to the rooftop deck.
Another of ARCIFORM’s projects with a story to tell is the Barnes Mansion, built in 1913 and on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was known as the “haunted house” in Beverly Cleary’s popular Ramona Quimby children’s books. In a This Old House article, owner Anna Quarum says this isn’t a surprise because “in the early 1970s, the mansion was painted battleship gray and was very scary-looking. Kids were afraid of it because the owners played a pipe organ that shook the whole neighborhood!”
No longer a scary, gloomy gray, the Barnes Mansion has been beautifully renovated, with the ARCIFORM team handling an extensive remodel of the kitchen, which included new windows and doors designed to match the home’s original elements. The kitchen design was inspired by French bakeries and included a custom-built island with zinc-lined flour bins.
Making meaning and forging real human connections is part of ARCIFORM’s process when working with clients. At the heart of their business is the belief that these stories and their clients matter, a value that is demonstrated clearly in ARCIFORM’s “Inspired by the Story” video. In their phased remodel of the Hoyt-Pack house, which was built in 1909, ARCIFORM showcased their client’s flair and eclectic style. Homeowner Kerri Hoyt-Pack says, “The goal was to really respect and honor the character and history of the house, but be able to take it into the future,” and explains the value of being able to share her ideas in collaboration with principal designer and co-owner, Anne De Wolf. Anne also values this collaborative process and getting to know her clients in a personal way that is well beyond just a normal working relationship.
Through building these close relationships, Anne and her team at ARCIFORM learn about the stories that turn each person’s house into a home they adore. Anne says, “We love when our clients love what we’ve done for them. We don’t shoot for like — that’s a pretty low bar. We aim for love.“