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Zillowing Out

A $730,000 House To Ring In The Golden Age Of House Parties

an art deco house rendered in artistic overexposed style
Chris Thompson/Defector

Everyone has been saying the same thing for a year now. The conversations loop on top of each other like spaghetti. It would feel like deja vu if it weren’t so mundane. For a year, everyone has wanted to talk about the quarantine, the virus, how badly we all want it to end. It’s always true that among people who think similarly, the conversations have threads that are identical, but this was uncanny. It was boring. Now, the conversations are starting to open up. People are beginning to do things again. They are traveling. They are seeing their families. They are acquiring gossip. But there are some new conversational loops cementing themselves in place with the reemergence of society. Because we are all experiencing the reopening together, the shared statement is: THE ROARING TWENTIES ARE BACK, BABY.

It is not an overstatement to say that most of the conversations I have had in the last month have featured this statement in some form or another. What they mean, of course, is The Great Gatsby. They mean parties. They mean sipping champagne out of coupe glasses, and diving into a pool while wearing a sequined dress, and cigarette holders. They mean a reopening that dazzles, that glimmers like eyeshadow on a woman you’ve never met. They mean mirrored tables and dollar bills rolled. They mean it’s time to rage. [Ed. note: Kelsey is apparently The Teens.]

When I think about the Roaring Twenties, I don’t think about bars. No one does. Bars didn’t exist in the Roaring Twenties. Bars were illegal. It was Prohibition. Booze was contraband. And so in our collective popular culture memory of the Roaring Twenties, we don’t think about being in a restaurant or being in a bar, or being at a concert. We think about being in a house. We think about lounging on a sofa and drinking out of a real glass and yelling over music loud enough that eventually everyone just gives up to dance. Maybe the Roaring Twenties are back, sure, but what’s definitely back is THE AGE OF THE HOUSE PARTY.

While I am personally sick to death of my home, I am a psyched to be in other people’s homes. I miss my friends’ friends. I miss their stuff. I miss seeing a little framed ticket in someone’s office and returning to the party to unleash hell by asking about it. I miss someone opening their eyes a little too big to tell me that there is a keg in the backyard. I miss the way music sounds through the bathroom door. All of this is to say that I don’t think these are interesting things to miss. Many people miss them. And the house party is about to have a comeback. I don’t want to be in a bar with strangers yet. But I do want to do karaoke in a crowded room.

This week’s house was emailed to me by a member of the Zillowing Out Portland Bureau. Cory Hoppmann, an architect and Defector reader, emailed me a house with the commentary, “We have a, um, property of sorts here.” And reader, I have never clicked faster.

Cory’s house find is absolutely perfect to ring in our new golden era of house parties. Not only is it full of visual delights, it’s in what I know to be a good Portland neighborhood because I went there one time with my sister and we had like 40 oysters and three martinis each and walked around pointing at all the houses we wanted. It is also perfect for our Roaring Twenties theme because despite being built in 1989, it is built in the Art Deco style? “I’m constantly looking at my own neighborhood because I’m nosy, and curious to see what other people are doing. Zillow for me is way better than Pinterest, especially if a Matterport is attached,” Cory told me. Which, same, except I don’t have a house I’m renovating and looking for inspiration for. I’m just nosy.

Let’s dive into this delight, shall we?

So on the outside, we have a classic Art Deco facade. It looks like stucco in a nice pale yellow with some gray pillars and tall skinny windows. All of this has the effect of drawing your eye up toward the sky, which is very nice and makes this building seem like it should be much taller than it is. There is a little awning that extends over the large front door. Because of this it kind of looks like a bank to me, but it would be nice to stand under there if it were raining and you needed to open your umbrella. The delight of the front of the house, though, is the glass bricks. Every time I see them I think of the excellent Molly Lambert article on glass bricks. In it she says they “are most closely associated with the decadence of 1980s architecture, which channeled the elegance and streamlined surfaces of Art Deco—an ’80s callback to the retro future imagined in the ’20s,” which seems to be, uh, exactly what we are dealing with here.

Screenshot: Zillow

Before we go inside, let’s mosey around the front. Whoever owned this house previously built a little deck onto the sidewalk with some steps up and painted it dark gray. This is very cute. At first, I thought it would need to be destroyed because I thought it was blocking the sidewalk (which is a shithead thing to do and very bad for anyone with mobility issues). But what seems to actually be happening is that there is a whole separate sidewalk and gate system that wraps around this house I guess to keep your plants safe? I’m not sure what the purpose of it is, but aesthetically it is kind of nice to have that bright yellow border and purple wall on one side.

We open the door and OH BABY are we in a space. The carpet is teal and pink palm fronds. The walls are Playboy bunny pink with black accents. There is a sofa that looks like it should be adorned with ashtrays, and a mural of a surrealist cityscape. In a strange stage space to the left where it seems like maybe someone could do some kind of performance, there is a white chaise. This area has black curtains and tin panels behind it. No inch of wall is safe. There are track lights on the ceiling pointed toward the stage, and sunlights behind that. There are scalloped wall fixtures attached in various places. There is a sliding door to an outside patio that is so different in aesthetic it seems like another mural.

Screenshot: Zillow

This, my friends, my comrades, is a place to fucking party. Look at how there isn’t enough seating. That’s key to a party! Look how the stage is already here for placing yourself on. Look how to the side there is a fireplace but also a lot of flat surfaces without too much stuff on them. That’s important for being able to set down your drink while you hug your friends. Above the front door there is a vaulted sky light with some glowing thing in it. Imagine walking into this house at night, the way it would glow from the street and you would come in by this sink(?) and there would be someone on stage you’ve never seen in your life singing karaoke very much out of their range. Take a seat on the carpeted steps. Laugh your ass off. There is even a little bar with an ashtray facing the front door. This is where I would sit so I could observe who was coming and going.

Screenshot: Zillow

Or even better, follow the hostess into the kitchen. Everyone is all about open-plan everything now, which (as you know by now) I abhor. This is an insane way to remedy that problem. Just behind the bar up the half-story of stairs by the door is a big entryway. We go through this, and bang, we are in the kitchen. Above the sink is a one-way mirror(???) or maybe just semi-reflective glass where we could see out into the party while we drank some water from the sink so we don’t get too hungover.

We see a lot of boring kitchens in this column; a lot of passable, dull spaces with no character. No, sir. Here we have a sensory overload. We’ve got cabinets in teal! With a pattern! With glass windows so we can see what’s inside! We’ve got counters that are not boring white granite, and an island with a cutting board built into it. We have windows outside and a long table extending from it. This is where our pals will be. We can talk to the host while she opens another bottle of god knows what. There is also a lounge area in the kitchen. You could cook here, sure, but it seems like a much better place for pouring drinks.

Screenshot: Zillow

Around this curved wall filled with glass bricks(!) we have a little sunroom study. I do like that as this is theoretically a place of work, the design is a little calmer so as not to overwhelm you. The light fixture above the desk is fancy and shaped like a paper fortune teller. There are many windows and lots of light. To be honest, it is hard for me to imagine anyone working in here. What this room scans as to me is the gossip room. This is the room where some girl drags another girl by the elbow around the curved wall, the two of them laughing, and you hear a shriek from the other side followed by an “Oh my god!” This is the false privacy space all good parties offer. Plus we could type some little funny jokes on the typewriter for our hosts.

Up the stairs by the kitchen is a U-shaped balcony room that looks down onto the entry way of the house and has a little seating area. The carpet here is the same, and the walls are still bubblegum pink with teal accents. There are ceiling fans up here so I imagine it’s a little cooler, but this also seems like the space you walk into and immediately realize is a group of people cooler than you.

Over here somewhere, maybe up the stairs, there is a bedroom. It’s fairly uninteresting except for the built in chest of drawers and shelves that surround the tiered top fireplace all of which sit on top of green fluffy carpet! That step up is above purple fluffy carpet! Behind the door, and up the step onto the black-and-white tile there is a clawfoot tub. I love a clawfoot tub, but it’s pretty important to note that this one sits in front of two floor-to-ceiling windows that face the hallway and the staircase, so I recommend averting your eyes when you walk this way during the party unless you wanna see some stuff. You probably do.

Screenshot: Zillow

The order of photos in this listing makes it very difficult for me to get a good read on where everything is in relation to everything else. The description says you could rent part of this house out as an Airbnb (immoral), but it’s unclear which rooms are separate from the main house and which aren’t. Oh well, let’s move on and go up some stairs with a door that locks at the bottom of them and a sign that marks them “private.” Seems like a space we should go.

Here we are and things are … weird as hell. There’s a daybed in a bedroom with blue carpet and identical blue walls and a floor that (based on the door frame) seems to be slightly sloped. The ceiling is wood? This daybed faces an area with a couch and a rug on some tile floor. That couch faces a very large walk-in shower with a curtain that opens all the way around it. I will not be commenting further on this.

Screenshot: Zillow

This room has a door outside. A completely normal room to require your guests to walk through in order to get to the ROOF DECK! Roof decks to me, are a magical luxury, because I love to be outside, and I love to be high enough to look at the lights at night, even if they are just other people’s houses. Upsettingly, no one has bothered to decorate the roof deck to match the rest of the house, or even give it the same kind of reckless vibe it deserves. Instead, we will have to imagine that out here there would be a DJ and also a dance floor and also a full wet bar.

Also on this floor, we have a fairly normal-looking bedroom. The trip in here is dark wood and stepped to match the design of the front of the house around the windows. That’s cute. I like it. There is a small private balcony off of this room with a sliding door. But what is that? It’s like a little ladder. A cross between a ladder and some steps? It is steps. It goes even higher to the tippy top of the house. My guess is that this ladder goes to the roof deck we were just on, which means that the sunroof above the bed is essentially a window in the floor of our party space. This party is wild.

Screenshot: Zillow

The house is photographed in the daytime, but just imagine it at night. Imagine all of these windows, windows everywhere, shining bright while the houses around them sleep, flashing colorful beams onto the sidewalk out front, vibrating a little with the music. The neighbors aren’t mad, they’re here. Over there. The ones with the drinks.

Is your head spinning a little bit, like mine is? There aren’t any photographs of toilets? I’m all turned around. It’s about time we call it a night. All the surfaces for drinks are about to serve a new purpose, and it’s our first big party back. Let’s go home.

This week’s house was listed on Zillow for nine days at $729,000 before it an offer was made on it by some ole chap. If you bought this house, please send me an invite to the rager. I am a very good party guest.