Most of us, regardless of where we live, carry inside our minds what the writer Deborah Levy calls “unreal estate”: an image of home to which we continually add detail and context—a fern-draped porch here, a nearby creek there. It may not be grand, or even appealing to others, but it’s the place where we can finally become the person we most want to be. Because homes aren’t just structures we inhabit, but tangible extensions of ourselves. We add and subtract, we rethink and repaint, we save our money with future overhauls in mind. Our spaces are rarely finished because we are rarely finished.
But along the way, our homes take on our personalities, our ideals, and our desires. What we value is reflected in where we live and with whom, but also in what surrounds us—the elements, tangible and otherwise, that transform a space into a sanctuary.
For the third annual edition of Nester, Willamette Week’s home magazine, we wanted to showcase Portlanders whose identities, values, vocations, and experiences shape how they live. Some had passions that informed their living spaces from the start; others found new, often unexpected ones along the way. All of them have styles that are completely their own, and many of them took on the work of enhancements and renovations themselves. What they all share— besides the graciousness to open their homes to a group of nosy strangers—is a comfort with themselves that’s visible within four walls and a roof, but is by no means confined to that space.
This issue, of course, is also about inspiring your own interior identity, whether it’s in a current home or in the unreal estate of your future. To that end, we explored the places Portlanders go to discover and define their style. From the abundant aisles of the city’s many antique malls to shops that fore- ground the vibrant work of local makers, these pages highlight a characteristically Portland desire to reuse, repurpose, and renew. And if you didn’t already know that doing it yourself doesn’t have to mean doing it alone, we’re happy to point you toward some places to learn home improvement skills, decorative craft, and more.
Creating a home is a process that requires defining what you need, what you love, what you can live without—what, in short, makes you feel like the best version of yourself. I hope this year’s Nester can help inform that process. Your living space may never feel finished (I know mine doesn’t), but with each choice and each change, it becomes more of what you know to be home.
Nester is Willamette Week’s annual home magazine. It is free and can be found all over Portland beginning Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. Find your free copy at one of the locations noted here, before they all get picked up! Or, order one through our store.