Touring the Majestic Mid-Mod Kaen House

Virtually hanging off a cliff, with a nearly 180 degree view of the mighty Willamette, St. Helens, Mt. Adams and the adorable Oregon City, the Kaen House built in 1958 is a mid-century masterpiece rivaling any other.

I was graciously invited to take a private tour of the home by the new owners, Kirsten Sandberg and Nick Leonard.  They are hearty mid-century enthusiasts and so every delightful space-age nook and cranny was shown to me, from low-voltage light switches, to natural gas floor lamp hook ups, to kitchen cabinet lazy-susans,  even the dual drop-down ultra-fast heating stove tops, and let’s not forget the ELEVATOR! “Ding ding, going up!”

The property is believed to have once been a viewpoint turn-around that Edward Kaen, newspaper mogul petitioned the city to purchase and build upon, thereby creating the arguably “best-view” property in Oregon City.

The “Period-Perfect™” quality of this time-capsule home is really jaw dropping. Nearly every finish, from the cork flooring to the blonde pickled beams and paneling, to the Franciscan Starburst tiling in the kitchen, is original and in quite good condition for the age.

The kitchen is really awe-inspiring, a true cook’s dream with two flair ovens, two drop-down stoves, and a freestanding oven with three overhead vent systems. I have no doubt the Kaen’s boiled up many a cocktail weenie to keep their party-goers well-fed. The kitchen also has an unusual rounded double sink which makes paring tasks a cinch, and if those space age options didn’t keep the party flowing, the mirrored wet-sink bar in the dining area would.

Speaking of marital harmony, the end of the living room can be sectioned off by accordian sliders and makes for either a perfect library or office, or a Hers bedroom. It opens to the HERS portion of a “jack and jill” bath with a peachy toilet, sink, a luxurious bath tub that has HK (Helen Kaen) inscribed on the faucet knobs. (HOW POSH!).  The HIS side of the bathroom features toilet, sink,  a roomy box shower, myriad cubbies, and a large built-in chest of drawers and shelves hidden behind another sliding screen.  This side of the bathroom opens into the HIS master bedroom, a roomy vaulted affair that might lead to marital bliss in the ilk of “snore-less” nights.  No matter how you use them, no one can complain about having their own personal space and undisturbed time in front of the bathroom mirror.  I think the Kaen’s knew what they were doing!

What’s more is that on the top floor there’s a tiny room with a full metal kitchen that makes for a nice getaway. Rumor has it that Mr. Kaen worked on his “Train Collection” up there. It’s pretty small for a large hobby like that, but “working” might also have meant “resting his eyes, smoking cigars, or catching up on periodicals”. Let’s give a man his cave.

Lastly, on the bottom floor with the garage/carport, is the coolest Mother-in-Law/Accessory Dwelling Unit I’ve likely ever seen. They jokingly offered it to me as a rental and I SERIOUSLY considered it.  With it’s own slate patio and view North, some seriously rad breeze block railings, the cutest original kitchen and bath, and a truly dreamy closet, plus one of the most fantastic fireplace walls I’ve ever seen with built-in seating. If it ever  becomes an Air-B-N-B it will be highly coveted digs.

I’m sure I’m missing something, there were so many fabulous pieces to see. Hopefully my pretty shoddy photography will share something I may have missed.

A HUGE Thank you to the Sandberg-Leonards for finding me and inviting me to see their amazing home. Thank you for the stories and the detail, and letting me squeal with unbridled excitement. I really enjoyed my tour.  You are the perfect stewards for this masterpiece, and it’s truly lucky to have you.

Photos are in ‘as taken’ order for the most part. Enjoy!



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With help from Ryan Ott