Spare, sparkling holiday decor: Dressing an iconic Washington Park mansion (photos)

Like postcard photographers a century ago, tourists today pause in front of a butter-colored mansion at the northeast entrance of Portland’s Washington Park to snap a memento. They focus on the orderly red clay tile roof, graceful white balustrades above the triple-arched entrance portico and the wide, wood front doors with ornate grillwork over glass.

This stately Mediterranean-style residence with Tuscan columns stands out from the other grand old buildings that line Southwest Park Place. The 1926 house was designed by one of Portland’s most respected architects for a wealthy scrap-metal dealer who had the thick foundation reinforced with leftover World War I rifle barrels and cannons.

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Go inside and you’ll discover more to the story. Amid the mahogany woodwork and hand-painted murals, you’ll see so many finely crafted features that you’ll understand the reason the owners decorate for the holidays with the sparest of traditional touches.

While others might be tempted to overwhelm with holiday garland, the drape-less, tall windows in the conservatory bare a simple grapevine wreath.

An intricate, tin nativity from Germany has the living room fireplace mantel all to itself. Even the dramatic dining room has been carefully curated: Wedding china and fresh greenery from the garden are illuminated by the home’s original, crystal-and-ironwork chandelier.

With so much rich architectural detail and history, the owners elect to bring in the feel of the season with natural and local materials that accent adornments that are visible year round.

To passersby, this house may look like a curious throwback, a survivor of an era when automobiles parked under a porte cochere and pianists performed in parlors. But to the owners, this is home. And the holidays mean displaying meaningful objects.


Like so many people before them, the owners first happened upon the house. A decade ago, they were looking for a place to accommodate multiple generations under one roof, with rooms for privacy and spaces for being together and having friends and neighbors over.

Since they enjoy hosting events to support causes and organizations, they wanted a place where they could entertain inside and outside. They also needed an elevator; here the original one has corners enhanced with gold leaf and Greek key pattern.

The one-third acre offered even more: Room to roam for old Max, a German Shepard that retired from police work.

As perfect as the home was, at that time, it was not for sale.  A mutual connection, however, brought the parties together and an offer was accepted.

Jacob and Edith Barde’s 1926 mansion was the family’s perfect fit.

The property was once part of pioneer Amos King’s vast holdings. Long after King’s Hill lots were planned out, this one was purchased by Jacob “Jack” Barde, an entrepreneur who grew up in Portland at the turn of the 20th-century when the city was booming.

Barde hired respected architect Carl L. Linde, best known for luxury multi-family housing, to design his trophy house. Linde chose a popular style of the Roaring 20s, a Mediterranean with influences from France, Italy and Spain and Art Deco flourishes.

At the time, Barde was the president of the Barde Wire Rope Co. and the Pacific Steel Warehouse Co. in Portland as well as the Idaho Pacific Steel Warehouse Co. in Boise and the Moore Steel Service Co. with offices in Eugene, Roseburg and Medford.

His specialty: Liquidation of war surplus equipment.

After Barde died, his widow, Edith, held on to the property until 1976, according to historic records.

Despite new families moving in with different needs and style ideas, the house retained many original features, from hand-carved Honduran mahogany doors to hand-painted ceilings. Rare Portoro black marble surrounds the living room fireplace.

Due to the mansion’s significance and preserved condition, the Jacob and Edith Barde Residence was accepted as a contributing structure that helped earn the King’s Hill Historic District listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Unfortunately, the kitchen endured remodels. Changes in the 1950s and 1970s made the busiest room in the house closed off and barely functional.

The current owners worked with Adjunct Designs to update and expand the kitchen. Now, it’s the family’s favorite place to gather. Two islands topped by absolute black granite are used to prepare meals or as informal dining space or for party buffets.

Here, they will prepare holiday foods that reflect the family’s wide-reaching background: From local salmon and New England mashed rutabagas to Texas tamales and Korean barbecue ribs. Guests often arrive with dishes from their own family traditions, creating a flavorful, world-wide smorgasbord.

At the long dining room table, they can seat 30 people for a festive meal or a few friends for an intimate holiday lunch. Although the dining room has a few hints at the holiday — candles, greenery and a sliver urn that holds winter blooms — every inch of the dining table is embellished.

An antique, silver-and-gold Japanese Obi glimmers on top of a dupioni silk table covering. Family porcelain and crystal blend with midcentury Dorothy Thorpe glassware, a wedding gift to one of the owner’s parents.


As people who participated in last year’s Ainsworth Holiday Home Tour saw, the mansion is sprawling, but individual rooms, encased in irreplaceable woodwork, feel warm and comfortable. Fir floors flow to arched entrances and natural light enters through multi-paned windows.

Working on a tight budget, the owners brought in family furnishings and added in affordable pieces from thrift stores and gifts from friends who were downsizing.

The Wilton carpet in the main hall has followed the owners from home to home. The colors perfectly match those in the painted cornice, leading them to jest that it might have been fated for them to live here.

Portraits of the owners’ relatives and period artwork they have been collecting for years share wall space with vintage paintings of strangers purchased at second-hand shops.

They believe quality items that are currently unfashionable can make a tasteful statement if placed in the right room.

The experts at Adjunct Designs, who remodeled the kitchen, returned to decorate for the holidays using flowers and foliage found on the property or growing in the area.

The front door greenery is a cluster of pine and fir branches, rhododendrons, field berries and red leaved bamboo from the yard.

The wreath on the balustrade above the entrance portico and a smaller version on the wrought-iron stair railing were made with locally grown noble fir and cedar.

The 10-foot-tall Christmas tree at the base of the sweeping staircase is decorated with hydrangea, astilbe and silver snowflakes. A center table in the entry hall has an arrangement with dark green Magnolia grandiflora leaves and red viburnum stems that continue the red, green, silver and gold holiday theme.

A table in the living room has white rhododendron blooms, silver astilbe, hydrangea, twigs and branches.

Before you leave, notice the original wrought-iron chandeliers throughout the house. They are also discreetly dressed for the holidays with a spring of holly and berries.

–Janet Eastman | 503-799-8739
[email protected]


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