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NW Contemporary Style Homes in Portland: Embracing Nature and Simplicity

Image: NW Contemporary Style Home When it comes to the diverse residential real estate in Portland, you'll find a range of home styles that cater to different tastes and preferences. One style that has gained...

nw contemporary home style Image: NW Contemporary Style Home

When it comes to the diverse residential real estate in Portland, you'll find a range of home styles that cater to different tastes and preferences. One style that has gained popularity in this vibrant city is the NW Contemporary, also known as NW Modern.

The NW Contemporary style of architecture traces its roots back to the International style, which emerged in the 1920s and 1930s. Curated by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock, curators of the Museum of Modern Art, this style was heavily influenced by minimalist design, the International design movement, and Japanese architecture. American architect Frank Lloyd Wright added his unique touch to the style, emphasizing function over form.

Characterized by its simplicity and elegance, NW Contemporary style homes harmonize with nature and blend seamlessly with their surroundings. The predominant use of unpainted wood allows these homes to harmonize with the natural environment. The architectural lines of these homes often complement the vegetation on their lots, creating a visually pleasing aesthetic.

Image 914 SW WESTWOOD DR Image 1885 S GREENWOOD RD Image 290 NW 95TH AVE

These homes often feature low-pitched and flat roofs with overhanging eaves, minimal decoration, and a unique blend of materials such as stone, brick, wood, glass, and steel. The result is an architectural masterpiece that exudes character and charm.


NW Contemporary style homes also excel in providing exceptional outdoor living spaces, allowing residents to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Whether it's a sunny day or a rainy winter, these homes offer superb areas for relaxation and connection with nature.

Image 2737 NW 81ST PL Image 290 NW 95TH AVE Image 1885 S GREENWOOD RD

Step inside an NW Contemporary style home, and you'll find the same natural elements seamlessly integrated into the interior. Unpainted wood, stone, and metal continue to dominate, creating a sense of harmony and balance. These homes often feature spacious, asymmetrical floor plans with exposed beams, high ceilings, and an abundance of natural light.


Large floor-to-ceiling windows, another hallmark of NW Contemporary style, blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor living. These expansive windows create the illusion of living in nature itself, flooding the interiors with ample natural light. Frank Lloyd Wright's influence is evident here, as these massive glass walls eliminate the need for traditional artwork to adorn the walls.


Unlike traditional revivalist styles that focus on ornate details and sentimentality, NW Contemporary style homes embrace minimalist innovation and functionality. The emphasis is on creating spaces that enhance the connection between nature and the inhabitants, providing a serene and soothing environment.

The Origin and Legacy of NW Contemporary Style Homes

The NW Contemporary style gained popularity in the Pacific Northwest thanks to architects like Paul Thiry in Seattle and John Yeon in Oregon, who commonly employed this style in residential buildings.

The roots of this architectural movement can be traced back to Louis Sullivan, who designed some of the first buildings in the NW Contemporary style for the 1893 Chicago World Fair. The style gained further recognition after Philip Johnson featured it in an exhibit in 1932, with Frank Lloyd Wright championing it and bringing it into the mainstream.

While modern architecture officially began in the early 1900s and spanned over six decades, NW Contemporary style homes experienced their heyday in Portland between 1935 and 1960.

Discovering NW Contemporary Style Homes in Portland

Most NW Contemporary style homes in Portland can be found on the west side of the river in the SW and NW quadrants of the city. However, one noteworthy home designed by John Yeon is located in N Portland.

Image John Yeon Speculative House—3922 N Lombard St

This historic home, built in 1939, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Yeon's design for this house featured external plywood with separate ventilation louvers, with fixed pane glass placed between vertical mullions. This innovative design and the entire series of houses earned him recognition as one of the pioneers of the NW regional style.

Another notable NW Contemporary style home is the Aubrey R. Watzek House, situated on SW Skyline Blvd in Portland. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2011, this house is now part of the University of Oregon's John Yeon Center for Architecture.

Image Aubrey R. Watzek House—1061 SW Skyline Blvd

Perched on a hill, this property offers breathtaking views of Mt. Hood and the surrounding landscape. The entrance to the house is understated, leading to a courtyard with a garden space and a small pool. Inside, a narrow hallway reveals the rest of the interior, providing an intimate and captivating experience for visitors.

The Aubrey R. Watzek House served as the home of lumber magnate Aubrey Watzek from its completion in 1937 until his passing in 1973. Yeon purchased the house after Watzek's death and eventually sold it to the University of Oregon. The house is now open for events, meetings, and tours, allowing visitors to appreciate the genius of NW Contemporary style firsthand.

Embrace the NW Contemporary Style in Portland

If the NW Contemporary style resonates with your aesthetic preferences, you're in luck. Portland, particularly the NW and SW areas, offers a wide selection of homes that embody this architectural style. Connect with our top 1% buyer's agents at 503-773-0000 to find the perfect home that aligns with your vision. If you're looking to sell, our top 1% seller's agents will provide the best service in the current market. Give us a call at 503-714-1111 or chat with our website's friendly bot. We look forward to helping you navigate the world of NW Contemporary style homes in Portland!