Embedded in the bucolic charms of rural life and the many comforts of 21st century living, interior designer Jessica Helgerson and her family of four show us how a modern American farmhouse can blend the best of both worlds. Pitched roofs, exposed beams, picket stairs and an abundance of natural materials are all hallmarks of a classic farmhouse, but for Jessica’s country home, it’s the eclectic, bowerbird penchant for layering that ensures this rural retreat’s uniqueness.
“Our home shares a lot of design DNA with vernacular houses in New England from the 18th and 19th centuries,” Jessica says. As seen in the living room, the interior material palette blends traditional with vintage creating a lived-in aesthetic.
Earning its title as the ‘Wild Goose Farmhouse’ for its location nestled close to the Columbia River on a five-acre block outside of Portland, Oregon on Sauvie Island, the estate was chosen by Jessica and her husband, architect Yianni Doulis, for its outlook, evocative of her European roots. “My mom was French, and I grew up spending summers with my French grandparents in the country,” Jessica says. “When we moved to Portland, I fell in love with Sauvie Island because of the small scale of the agriculture which felt very much like the French countryside with its small fields and hedgerows.”
The island, which is roughly the size of Manhattan, is home to just a thousand inhabitants, and is zoned as an agricultural and nature reserve. The couple visited frequently from Portland until this one-of-a-kind property with its ‘little house’ came up for sale. “The little house was well sited and had good bones, so we kept the footprint but renovated the rest,” Jessica explains. While the couple never intended to live there full time, the whole family enjoyed their weekend stays so much that they decided to make it permanent.
Inspired by an old-worldly European farmhouse, Jessica’s kitchen features open shelving, handmade white subway tiles and an oversized classic ceramic butler sink. The piece de resistance is the Lacanche Cluny Classic freestanding oven.
After living in the tiny house for four years, Jessica and Yianni embarked on redesigning the second house on the property; deciding to start fresh with an entirely new structure. While the tiny house evolved into a stand-alone guest quarters, Yianni and Jessica collaborated on the design of the main house which took the form of a classic American homestead.
Occupying 2,400 square feet, the communal areas of the main home are all located on the ground floor, while the second floor includes three bedrooms with a large attic above. “Our home shares a lot of design DNA with vernacular houses in New England from the 18th and 19th centuries,” Jessica says of the architecture. Grounding and authentic, Jessica’s interior material palette blends traditional with vintage creating a lived-in aesthetic.
Floral wallpaper sets the tone in the dining space, underscored by the dark polished-concrete floors, vintage chandelier and painted white beams.
The greenhouse has a romantic appeal featuring a zellige tabletop with a vintage cast-iron base. “I love our little greenhouse off the kitchen. We put a daybed out there recently, and laying on it among the tangles of jasmine, passion vine, lemon verbena is a pretty magical feeling,” Jessica says.
Dark polished-concrete floors, deep stained ash shelves, panelling and vintage sourced lighting is matched with local, handmade tiles and painted white beams. This is punctuated by accents of colour and print, created by the couple’s collection of books, plants, artwork and treasured furniture pieces. “I love collecting things over time, whether they’ve been given to us by someone we love, or buying them somewhere special that we will remember,” Jessica says.
Drawing on her visionary interior experience towards crafting light-filled, time-honoured spaces of refuge, Jessica’s home is a distillation of her own creative world as well as the unique island location. “Wild Goose Farmhouse is a landing place for all the plants, paintings, pets and most importantly people that I love. I enjoy having a full house, I don’t mind a bit of chaos and I love it to feel really lived in and deeply inhabited,” Jessica explains.
This rural homestead is both liveable and honest, capturing all the principles of a slower-paced life and crafting a home akin to a richly layered canvas. It embodies an ‘old soul inside a new body’ – making it the perfect antidote to modern family life.