I live in Portland, Oregon, but I like to travel. Here I am appreciating the excellent diner design at the Oregon Trail Motel & Restaurant in Baker City, Oregon. I recommend the short stack, and promise I don’t usually wear sunglasses indoors.
Hi, I’m Melissa
I am a freelance writer who has primarily focused on Pacific Northwest design and architecture since I got my first intern job in Portland in 2008. My work has appeared in print and online in national and regional publications.
I cover a wide range of design stories on a variety of topics: from DIY home remodels, to the most recent successes in green building. I've interviewed hundreds of architects and interior designers for their expert knowledge, delved into what inspires makers and craftspeople, and toured many personal homes, in order to better tell the compelling stories behind the beautiful pictures.
As for credentials, I have a totally and completely useful Master of Arts in English from Portland State University, and studied documentary fieldwork at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, for which I moved to a tiny apartment at the top of an 1800s row house in Portland, Maine in a blizzard. (Thanks, Dad — I knew we’d be able to get that mattress up those stairs.)
Feel free to read my work in these places:
Starting in 2021, I’ve been covering the Portland real estate market and digging into our local home styles and architectural history in a weekly digital column called “Property Watch” for Portland Monthly.
Since 2017, I’ve been with Dwell, where I write all kinds of things and specialize in “Before & After” profiles.
Since 2012, I’ve been a regular contributing writer for the design department at Statehood Media, including 1859: Oregon's Magazine and 1889: Washington’s Magazine, which you can find on newsstands all over the Pacific Northwest — in five states, to be exact.
And if you’re in the mood for some home improvement, check out my How-To and expert’s advice articles written for the Handbook series in (the now-defunct) Curbed.
My passion is for explaining the value of design to a general audience via good storytelling.
A longer story about why I do my work:
I am now based in Portland, Oregon, where my husband and I have been rehabbing a little 1907 fixer on top of an extinct volcano for nearly a decade. When we first walked through it, the house felt like a footnote to the many, many lives that must have passed through it. The evidence of their fleeting occupancy was everywhere. It started with the wood floors that had been improperly installed. Swollen in the summer heat, the front door couldn’t clear past them to open all the way. None of the woodwork was original. Every window had trim from a different era and style. The dining room wainscot, upon closer inspection, was cardboard. By the time we completed our tour that day standing on the rickety back porch — we would discover years later that the support posts had been stuck in the dirt with no concrete footers — I was 100 percent sold.
As a first-time homebuyer, I did what I often do when I feel overwhelmed and don’t know what to do next: research. I read every design book and magazine that I could get my hands on. Years of back issues of House Beautiful, Dwell, Fine Homebuilding, and Domino (the original, bought on Ebay). Everything from Mark Hampton’s On Decorating to Billy Baldwin Decorates to The Perfectly Imperfect Home, to whatever was on the current newsstand. The Pattern Language became my preferred bedtime reading — it’s a life-changing book, one of my all-time top five, and I have a Master’s in Lit. Then it was the Not-So Big House by Sarah Susanka, and compilations of old floorplans from Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman magazine.
Next came my questions. Lucky for me, as I’ve grown in my writing career, I’ve gotten to interview hundreds of designers and architects and homeowners, and then applied everything I’ve learned to our own little home. When not painting the living room for the fifth time, or finding out some new surprise in our 100-year-old walls, it’s been a blast. And it means I really believe that thoughtful design improves quality of life, which is the purpose that guides much of my writing.
A few years ago, I read this quote in a renovation profile in Elle Decor: “A house can be a vessel for change. To envision how it will shape your life and then to live the way you’d hoped – it’s kind of profound.” When we talk about our homes – beyond its location or sale price, its fixtures and finishes – we’re really talking about the lives inside them. Let’s stay curious.