This Designer Wants You to Throw Out Your Plans and Embrace Happy Accidents Instead

Photo credit: Christopher Dibble

Photo credit: Christopher Dibble

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In his new book, Portland, Oregon-based designer Max Humphrey celebrates his love of “modern Americana” decorating, showing how the traditional look can speak to and elevate a variety of personal styles in all sorts of settings, from the countryside to city centers and everything in between. Each of Humphrey’s projects is a unique ode to this approach. This home is no exception: When a family of seven came to Humphrey with a build forever home in Bend, Oregon, where ski resorts, lakes, and hiking trails through the Cascade mountains abound, it was a match made in heaven.

Both the designer and his clients share a love for locally sourced and crafted items; embrace happy accidents, fun, and creativity over a plan; never take themselves too seriously, and always have a strong point of view—just to name a few commonalities. The family consists of two parents and five young grown adult children, and it’s clear the house is geared for family entertaining, with tons of bedrooms and gathering space for everyone. Keep reading for all the contemporary Americana inspiration, and to see how Humphrey brings all the modern elements of Americana design to life in one home.


Photo credit: Christopher Dibble

Photo credit: Christopher Dibble

The faux animal busts in the entryway are by an Idaho-based artist that Humphrey has long admired, Faraway Lovely. They’re known for these foam taxidermy deer busts with found or vintage horns that strike the perfect cheeky yet artful tone. “We started with the idea to get one and then we were like, why don’t we do three, then why don’t we do five, one for each kid, and make it a whole thing,” Humphrey recalls. So, he and the artist worked together to select the different Pendelton (a Portland heritage brand) fabrics to customize them. “I wanted people to walk in and see this wow moment right off the bat,” says Humphrey. “I like big design statements in general—people talk about how design is in the details but to me, it’s the big thing that hits you on the head when you walk into the room.”

Living Room



“They’re long-time Oregonians,” Humphrey says of his clients, “and they’re all about using local materials and companies, business, and builders. So that was a big part of their design process,” and is also something he prioritizes as a designer. In the living room, this is most obvious and impressive in the statement fireplace. The natural stone was sourced from a stone yard right in Bend and introduces so much depth and character to lofty open space.

Natural exposed materials are a huge staple in most of Humphrey’s projects and should be catered to the specific location, he says. “I wouldn’t use stone like this in a New York City apartment because it’s such an earthy material,” he explains. Like stone, brick “is something that can go really traditional or really modern, or even super preppy applications, and then there’s really industrial red brick vibes.”

Another objective that drove much of the process was “designing around the way people really live,” Humphrey says. For example, “putting the TV in the best spot, even if it’s over the fireplace, is great because that’s how they actually use the room.”


Photo credit: Christopher Dibble

Photo credit: Christopher Dibble

Humphrey opted for white oak wood in the kitchen. “We wanted to see the graining and didn’t want it to be too red—there’s a fine line between too rustic and too sleek,” he says. In the same vein of decorating a room based upon your actual lifestyle habits, the kitchen doesn’t have any doors. In fact, it only features open cabinets and drawers because his client knew exactly how she would use the space. In their very first meeting, Humphrey recalls, the client said she “wanted a KitchenAid mixer to be on a lift and [her] Le Creuset pots directly across from the range in an open shelf”. A good reminder to prioritize knowing yourself and how you will actually live in and use a space instead of only thinking about what it looks like!

Bar and Wine Cellar

“I don’t overthink it,” Humphrey says of his design approach in general, adding, “it goes because I say it goes and because the client loves it.” As far as the bar and wine cellar hangout space, “I drew an elevation of the bar so we sort of knew what it would look like but we filled in the materials. The glass tile was a late addition. I tend to notice as I look that they really flow,” says Humphrey.

Humphrey takes a similarly improvisational approach with color: “I don’t like to think of color schemes in a concrete way and never have a tray of swatches, for example,” he says. “It just it organically work itself out and a lot of the colors are textile-based.”

In this area, the horseshoe pendant served as an anchor piece. “I asked my client what her family was into and she said ‘riding,'” he recalls. “I’m into modern cowboy vibes, which was fun, but then I came to realize later she meant bike riding”—oops! But no worries, the designer assuages: “She still loved it.”

“I like to just get stuff we love and then we sort of sort it out,” he muses. “Sometimes when you overthink it, you fumble it.”


Photo credit: Christopher Dibble

Photo credit: Christopher Dibble

As you may have noticed, the main bedroom is a slight departure from the supersaturated and eclectic layering in the shared common areas throughout the house. “They’ve got like five twenty-year-old kids, so you may as well give them a relaxing space to go to,” Humphrey jokes. On the other hand, he doesn’t like bedrooms to be totally neutral and specifically noted that he feels like sleeping in an all-white box can even feel institutional and sterile. But using interesting layers and textures to bring depth to the neutrals with a few colorful accents introduced via bedding and focusing on a beautiful view can be a great way to strike that balance.


Humphrey wanted all of the bathrooms to incorporate color, and not just via throw pillows. “It’s really easy to get a bunch of funky throw pillows,” he notes, but it’s much braver to take chances on more permanent features. “I like to go for it with other things too, like tile,” he says. “A lot of clients wimp out on stuff like that when I present the kooky idea,” but this time they actually encouraged Humphrey to have fun and take chances on things like the bathroom tiles.

Mudroom and Laundry

Considering the location of the home and Humphrey’s clients’ active lifestyle, a hard-working mudroom and adjacent laundry room were essential. “They generally park in the garage and then go through the mudroom and either hang their coats or toss their dirty clothes in the washer dryer are directly across,” he shares.

Since the key functions for these rooms were storage and organization, Humphrey made sure everyone has a place to throw their coats and boots. And though you may think of a mudroom as a purely functional, sort of hidden space, he actually makes a case for designing them as their own rooms. “The trend with new build mudrooms is that they’re not pass-through spaces,” Humphrey says.

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