Is Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Actually Better? 2 Interior Designers Weigh In

Wallpaper, if you haven’t noticed, is having a moment (see herehere, and here, for example). And why not? Patterned paper can transform the entire vibe of your space, whether you add a single statement wall or deck out an entire room. These days, you also have options: You could go with traditional wallpaper—or you could try the new kid on the block, peel-and-stick wallpaper. It’s touted for being cheaper, easier to install (and remove), and just a bit trendier than its traditional counterpart.

We won’t beat around the bush—any type of wallpaper requires an investment of time and money, but is peel-and-stick the right choice for you? Read on for expert advice from interior designers who weigh the pros and cons.

The Pros and Cons of Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

Industrial golden pendant light and black furniture in a dark living room interior with floral wallpaper and a gray couch
Wallpaper is having a moment—and for good reason.

(Getty Images)

Pro: Peel-and-stick wallpaper (usually) costs less.

As a general rule, traditional wallpaper is usually going to cost more than peel-and-stick, although, of course, it depends on what you buy. A double roll of this woodland-themed wallpaper, which covers just over 50 square feet, is on the low end at $39. On the other hand, this floral print from House of Hackney costs $325 for a single roll. On average, you’re looking at around $4 per square foot. Peel-and-stick options tend to cost a bit less, from around $1 per square foot for this dreamy, watercolor-like paper to $5 per square foot for this hand-drawn version from artist Keely Shaw for Chasing Paper.

Keep in mind that in either case, you may also need to buy some tools or hire someone to install it, which can add to the total cost (more on that below).

Con: Peel-and-stick wallpaper offers fewer choices.

According to Atlanta-based interior designer Selena Lewis of Selena Lewis Designs, not only is traditional more durable than most peel-and-stick options, you also have a lot more choices when it comes to design. That said, peel-and-stick wallpaper has been gaining momentum, with brands like Flavor PaperChasing Paper, and Spoon Flower offering options for both traditional and peel-and-stick.

Elegant luxury living room with gray sofa and decoration on hardwood floor in front of pale blue wooden panel wall background with copy space. 3D rendered image.
Modern wallpaper offerings come in styles ranging from understated and minimalist to bold, geometric patterns.

(Getty Images)

Pro: Peel-and-stick wallpaper is slightly easier to install.

Bad news: Neither standard wallpaper nor peel-and-stick are especially easy to install. Traditional wallcoverings can get really laborious, requiring plenty of prep (think spreading adhesive all over the walls before you trim the paper down to size and install it). Depending on your level of DIY experience, you may prefer to rely on a pro for this (better to get it right the first time).

Peel-and-stick is often touted as an easier option, and many people feel comfortable installing it on their own, but you’ll need to be pretty good at DIY (and pretty patient) to make it work. “Peel and stick is difficult to install as you have no margin to move the paper around, and the bubbles can reappear weeks and months later, requiring maintenance,” says Lewis.

Con: Peel-and-stick wallpaper could damage your walls.

If you live in a rental or you just want to add a less-permanent statement to your space, peel-and-stick wallpaper may seem like a better option because it’s technically removable. Beware, though: Interior designer Moriah Frantz says peel-and-stick often damages people’s walls when they remove it. So be sure to loop in your landlord if you’re considering adding wallpaper to your space.

On the other hand, traditional wallpaper is easier to remove than you think. “In today’s world of wallpaper, most are strippable, meaning they peel right off the wall with a little water,” says Lewis. “Walls end up clean and most of the time with minimal damage, if any at all.”

The bottom line

If you’re new to wallpaper and looking for an option that’s less of an investment, peel-and-stick is a more affordable way to try out this comeback trend. But don’t be surprised if it’s not as easy to install as its name implies, and, if you’re renting, make sure to test a sample out on your walls to see how easily it comes off.


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Most designers, when they graduate from interior design school, spend some time working under a senior designer on their first professional projects. Not Isaac Musket. Upon finishing his work at Portland Community College, he joined design/build firm C&K Custom Remodeling, jumping into his role as lead designer with his first remodel.

“It was completely surreal for me,” says Musket.

While still in school, Musket experimented often with bold color, with the understanding that much of what he would work on afterward — or at least what he thought he’d work on — would be neutral or white kitchens. But he found in this client a perfect partner, who came to the project with elements she knew she wanted: green countertops, terra cotta on the floor and an artistic use of tile. The two bonded over their shared love of watching hand-painted tile videos on Instagram and their affinity for bold choices.

“Most people would think: ‘I could never … ’ But with this client, she is always thinking: “Well, yes, I can.”

The first stage of the large-scale renovation — for a gallerist who had worked for decades in New York City before returning to Oregon — encompassed the kitchen and dining nook, with a bathroom on the horizon. Musket mixed more traditional wood cabinets with showstopping finishes like quartzite countertops and hand-painted tile from Southern Oregon company Kibak. A whimsical tropical wallpaper paired with grass cloth turns the nook into an unexpected moment without overpowering the room.

Six months out of school, Musket has a full project finished, as well as an emerging sense of who he is as a designer who finds a magic mix in historic and contemporary styles. And he has helped build out the entire design side of the company he has worked for, which previously only used outside designers for its projects.

“It honestly feels so amazing and unexpected,” Musket says.


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For Tina Skouras, an interior designer and former fashion editor, every home is a canvas waiting to reveal the character of the homeowner. But the challenge took on a new twist for her in the Pacific Northwest, where more color often equals more joy.

“An abundance of color can really improve your mood here,” Skouras says. “Rooms can be an organic extension of the homeowner’s interests, travels and personal expression — in all their colorful glory.”

Skouras is more than up to the task. After moving to Portland to raise her two children following a career as a features editor for Vanity Fair, she began her design venture by shaping her new home — transforming the historic property into a showcase of her colorful, layered style.


Skouras grew up under the wing of her mother, Patti Skouras, interior designer to California’s elite. After managing her mother’s antiques and decorative furnishings store on Melrose Avenue, the younger Skouras ventured into television, working behind the scenes on David Lynch’s iconic show, Twin Peaks. When the show wrapped, she relocated to New York. Starting with a stint at the world-renowned Gagosian Gallery, Skouras segued to Vanity Fair, producing Hollywood and celebrity features, eventually moving to their fashion department. But interior design was in her blood.

“There’s not a big leap between fashion and interiors,” Skouras says. “Everything that’s happening in fashion, art and interior design informs each other.”

Transitioning to Portland to raise a family, Skouras went back into business with her mother, designing homes up and down the West Coast — in a range of styles from California contemporary to Italian villa-inspired. The design duo’s eclectic but timeless visual voice comes to full, vibrant life on the canvas of Skouras’ own Portland Heights home.

Skouras’ colorful take on classical French interiors draws from the golden years of Hollywood glamour, mixed with rich hues that wouldn’t be out of place on the Versace catwalk. Timeless, quality vintage and new pieces are mixed and layered with texture and pattern in a saturated palette.

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“I still love fashion, and my work with fabrics, upholstery and furniture is an expression of that,” Skouras says. “One of the most fabulous aspects of high fashion is how extravagant, layered and detailed it can be. The most minimalist-appearing garment can be the most detailed and specific in its construction. That is an edict I bring to how I create interiors.”

For her own home, Skouras let vibrant Chinese rugs be her muse to set the palette of each room. The chocolate walls of the sitting room ground the space in an unexpected neutral backdrop that’s the opposite of boring. The deeper color provides a contrast to the ornate moldings, giving them extra visual pop. The rug’s colors — a sea of turquoise embellished with gold, purple and fuchsia florals — provide a wide range from which to choose complementary accessories. A custom turquoise chandelier — the creation of Skouras’ sister, Marjorie, an interior and furniture designer in her own right — adds drama and another pop of color. Skouras balances all this color with other careful choices, like black and white photography to bring interest and richness without competing with the rest of the room.

Understanding color theory and complementary color combinations is vital to pulling off a layered and varied approach to interior design, Skouras says. The designer gave scrupulous attention to room to room transitions, and spaces where more than one room can be in eyesight at the same time. Even objects of decor can move from room-to-room without looking out of place. It’s a philosophy Skouras inherited from her mother, who believes you should be able to pick up something from one room, move it to another room and have it work seamlessly.

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“Our homes are a work in progress — a living, evolving place that evolves as we evolve,” Skouras says. “Even wild and colorful choices can be made with a holistic approach.”

Embracing color, Skouras says, means starting slow and building up. She recommends beginning with the wall color to set the tone for a room without making a huge investment. From there, she says, work up through accessories and objets d’art. Layering rooms with complementary colors, textures and periods expresses personality and originality while remaining warm and inviting.

Skouras enjoyed applying her ideas about light, color and landscape to her new space. It’s an approach she applies to all of her projects — choosing colors that both reflect and complement the natural light of a space and the landscape that surrounds it. She’s currently designing a home in the California desert that riffs on shades of aqua, a cooling antidote to the sunbaked view of sand and stone.

“I feel so much at home in interior design,” says Skouras.

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A Personal Palette

Tina Skouras’ tips for decorating with color

  1. Timelessness. Stick with a timeless design that won’t date itself in 10 years regardless of color.
  2. Wonder walls. The least expensive and most straightforward thing to change is wall paint color.
  3. Embrace play. Experiment on one room in your home before going all-in.
  4. Get inspired. If you feel uncertain with how to proceed, there are endless online resources to see how others are using color and what combinations inspire you.
  5. Love the layers. Start with throw pillows and build up from there, adding accessories with color.
  6. Follow nature. Look outdoors for your inspiration; it contains endless color combinations that never look wrong.
  7. Start small. A little bit of color goes a long way.
  8. Work with your stuff. If you’re a collector of things, those collections can inspire a whole room.

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Faced with an influx of homeless neighbors, a Southeast Portland neighborhood association got creative.

ON A CHILLY DECEMBER DAY THREE YEARS AGO, I made the radical decision to get to know my houseless neighbors. This was at the height of the pandemic, when a homeless camp had formed around Sunnyside Environmental School, and members of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association decided to introduce ourselves.

We sought professional help: Raven Drake, a manager with Street Roots, joined us one morning to say hello by “knocking” on folks’ tents: you say “knock-knock!” and identify yourself, and announce what gifts you come bearing—in our case, cold-weather gear and clementines. A handful of campers joined us near the school’s play area, and we slowly formed a circle on the blacktop to ask what they needed most.

Their answers? More than anything, they wanted showers, prepaid laundromat cards, and clean clothes.

We decided then to provide access to basic hygiene services that the City of Portland wasn’t delivering in our community. One neighbor volunteered to be the “trash coordinator,” which required calling the city to demand regular trash service. I took on hygiene: the Groves Church offered us use of its showers twice weekly at the Sunnyside Community House (formerly the historic Sunnyside United Methodist Church), as long as we always had two volunteers on site and required masks.

I shamelessly asked neighbors, friends, and work colleagues to volunteer. Our program attracted people like S., who brought his radio to the shower and sang at top volume along with Led Zeppelin. There was J., whose bar had shuttered during the pandemic, and who sent me texts saying, “I appreciate you and what you’re doing. Thank you.” And R., a young and aimless coffee connoisseur caring for a schizophrenic former girlfriend, who made us pour-over coffee with local beans he’d bought with food stamps.

Before I knew it, I was coleading the Sunnyside Shower Project, which is now a 38-person volunteer program providing access to showers, bathrooms, and clothing three days a week, serving around 100 locals per year with 18 shower slots per week. To be sure, we had challenges, requiring us to develop incident protocols. Some houseless folks—not necessarily our regulars—broke church windows when told they couldn’t camp on the front steps. One regular wandered into other parts of the church and stole a wireless speaker from the basement, which we replaced. Another harassed several tenants and was banned from the building.

But these were exceptions. My greatest joy has been befriending the regulars, like Mark McCarthy, a gregarious man in his early 60s and 17-year veteran of living on the streets. He successfully kicked a meth habit, and lived in doorways rather than camps as a way to stay away from drugs. A volunteer eventually connected him to a case manager at Northwest Pilot Project, and he has since gained housing and is starting to address long-ignored health issues. Another regular, Marshall L., also found housing via Northwest Pilot Project and helps others by connecting them to us for showers and additional services.

In fact, many of these people I write about are now off the streets—in part because of the human connections they made with volunteers at the Shower Project. Should it be a great surprise that chatting with someone week in and week out might build trust, and that they might ask us to help them find stability?

What’s astonished me and other volunteers is how this simple act of helping our unhoused neighbors access basic hygiene services—which our city and county should have figured out how to offer by now—has forged community. At a time when many people post surveillance videos of houseless residents on Nextdoor, we are laughing with our neighbors’ jokes, commiserating with their bad news, and offering trail mix and tea. While other Portlanders may perceive them as scary, I actually feel safer in my neighborhood because I know most of our houseless neighbors on a first-name basis.

These relationships are two-way streets. A neighbor named Kris regularly brought us bouquets of wildflowers when she came to shower. One regular fixed my bike, and would not accept cash as payment, so I baked him chocolate chip cookies. Mark has brought me lovely “ground scores”—from cloisonné earrings to a muffin tin.

We’ve expanded, figuring out policies and procedures, designing flyers, organizing Narcan trainings, and running needs assessments for our guests. We’ve paid one of our unhoused visitors a small stipend for his site manager work, thanks to a grant from Southeast Uplift. I tell you this not to brag but to demonstrate that neighborhood associations don’t need to be bastions of privilege and not-in-my-backyard policies. They can be places of activism and radical social change. Or at the very least, sources of practical solutions to the very real challenges of living outside.

I used to walk past houseless people on the street, feeling incapable of helping, let alone engaging. Now, when I jog at Laurelhurst Park or pop into the Belmont library, I say hello to the people I know, sometimes even stopping for a chat. Our unhoused neighbors are just that: our neighbors.


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Intisar Abioto on curating the Black Artists of Oregon exhibition at the Portland Art Museum.

Black Artists of Oregon is a newly opened exhibition at the Portland Art Museum curated by Intisar Abioto. Grace Kook-Anderson, the Museum’s Curator of Northwest Art, talked with Abioto about the process of bringing the exhibition to life, its importance for Black representation and power in the Portland Art Museum and beyond. Excerpted from the Summer 2023 issue of Portal (the Museum’s members magazine).

Grace Kook-Anderson: Intisar, can you talk about your approach to this exhibition as an interdisciplinary artist—explorer, researcher, performer, curator, writer, photographer, dancer?

Intisar Abioto: As a dancer and movement artist, I find creative possibilities in who is in the room. Black Artists of Oregon will show works by about 65 Black artists across eras and generations. The gathering of these artists’ works, the artists, artists’ families, and the communities in which they move and live in the Museum feels like the greater creative act, even more so than the exhibition itself. There’s a timeline here, a continuum of efforts and dreams to be sensed, that’s catalytic. The creative act will be what we all make of the moment. What will come of this?

What compelled you to begin research on Oregon’s elder Black artists, and what has learning about these artists meant for you?

In 2018, I’d been living here in Portland for eight years and realized that I didn’t have an understanding of the Black artists who’d lived here in generations and eras before me. With support from Oregon Humanities’ Emerging Journalists, Community Stories Fellowship, I began research through oral history interviews with Black artists and elders Adriene Cruz, Bobby Fouther, Isaka Shamsud-Din, and others; archival research; and building a collection as part of the research. Understanding the efforts of Black arts elders and forebears reveals strong foundations laid, intergenerational power, and legacy. It has strengthened my purpose as an artist, tasking me with understanding and enacting success not as a soloist, but as an intergenerational collaborator.

You’ve been very thoughtful in thinking about the individuals in this exhibition and the intergenerational exchange of artists. Why is this important to you?

It’s important that we are able to understand, feel, and benefit from our efforts as Black artists in this region, across generations. There’s much in Oregon’s history of Black exclusion that would erase us, tell the story as if we were never here. As attacks on truthful tellings of Black history take place nationally, we know Black art history is Black history. Black art history is not only a tool of education but a tool to affirm and support Black life and living today. An intergenerational telling—connecting younger artists with Black arts elders and ancestors—is vital. No one generation holds the story. We all must be engaged.

What do you want this exhibition to mean for Black representation and power at PAM and beyond? How does that ripple out to collections and programs?

I see this exhibition as a strong planting. As a dancer, I’m concerned with and excited by who is in the room. This exhibition is a gathering of dreams, perspectives, wisdoms, and also vital questionings. We know representation is not enough. We know that power is in choice and authorship. In inviting these artists into this space through this exhibition—in revealing our presence—my goal is also to leave the reins with them. It is to reveal Black artists’, curators’, and Oregon’s Black communities’ authorship in art history and thus in what’s to come at PAM and other regional institutions.

Can you share with us some details about artists who are important anchors in the exhibition?

Two artists who are anchors are Thelma Johnson Streat (1911–1959) and Charlotte Lewis (1934–1999). Both were born elsewhere but moved to Portland as young children. Both became artist educators who worked with children. Thelma Johnson Streat, a painter, dancer, and folklorist, was purposeful about teaching young people about acceptance and diversity through her work, ultimately opening schools in Hawaii and British Columbia. Charlotte Lewis, a painter and textile artist, was also an art teacher at the acclaimed Black Educational Center in Northeast Portland. These foundational Black women artists are given prominent places in the exhibition. Their lives and works still have much to teach us.



Wednesday – Sunday 10 a.m – 5 p.m.

Free admission for kids aged 17 and under


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From hiking and running to bird-watching and picnicking, we’ve got a trail for you.

Lower Macleay Trail along Balch Creek

WHETHER YOU’RE AN EXPERIENCED HIKER or just want to walk near some trees, Forest Park is the place to go. We took the guesswork out of it, by hiking every inch of the hikes worth taking, and mapping ’em on our high-res Forest Park Map.

Our picks for:
Best Views (Hard, 3.5 miles)
A Good Workout (Hard, 3 miles)
First Time Hiking (Easy, 1.7 miles)
Tree Hugging (Hard, 6 miles)
Solitude (Moderate, 4 miles)
Post-Work Running (Moderate, 3 miles)
Picnicking (Easy, 2 miles)
Bird-Watching (Easy, 2 miles)

1. Best Views: Ridge Trail

Savor an unforgettable glimpse of one of Portland’s most photogenic bridges at the bottom of the Ridge Trail. The narrow path drops nearly 1,000 vertical feet from Firelane 7, near Skyline Boulevard, amid a quiet, seldom-visited section of the park. Just past Leif Erikson, pause to rest on a rough-hewn bench carved from a log, then exit the woods above Highway 30. Here maple and ninebark limbs frame a close-up portrait of the sea-green arches of the St. Johns Bridge towering over the Willamette. —Brian Barker

SUGGESTED ROUTE: Turn into the parking area at the end of NW Springville Road off of Skyline Boulevard, then follow Firelane 7 and turn left down the Ridge Trail. Return the same way. (Hard, 3.5 miles out-and-back)

2. A Good Workout: Tolinda Trail to Waterline

The Tolinda Trail takes its name from the site of a former Camp Fire Girls camp in the park. But make no mistake: this is one tough cookie of a hike. In less than a mile, the route vaults nearly 400 feet up to Leif Erikson. Temper first-degree thigh burns by enjoying bright blazes of fireweed, numerous lilies, and a welcome shot of solitude. To earn a merit badge for pluck, proceed up the Waterline Trail, a steep, often muddy route that ascends along a ridge to a water tower set in a sunny meadow atop Skyline Boulevard. —BB

SUGGESTED ROUTE: From NW Germantown Road, take Tolinda Trail. Go left at Leif Erikson and then right, up Waterline Trail. Return the same way. (Hard, 3 miles out-and-back)

3. First Time Hiking: Lower MacLeay to Stone House

Set in a lush canyon alongside the cool waters of Balch Creek, the largest stream in Forest Park, Lower Macleay Trail is an explosion of licorice ferns, leafy salal bushes, moss-jacketed hemlocks, and some of the most impressive fir specimens in the park, including Portland’s most gasp-inducing heritage tree, a 242-foot, jade-crowned giant—the country’s tallest fir within a city. For more color, scope out the creek’s population of native cutthroat trout. Then explore the “Stone House,” the remains of a Works Progress Administration–era structure, built in 1936. Its lichen-coated walls make a killer fort for an afternoon. —BB

SUGGESTED ROUTE: From NW Upshur Street follow Lower Macleay Trail for almost one mile. (Easy, 1.7 miles out-and-back)

4. Tree Hugging: Maple Trail Loop

Little-known fact: nearly three-quarters of the forest of Forest Park is bigleaf maples and red alders—not Douglas firs. Nowhere is this deciduous umbrella more delightful than along the aptly named Maple Trail. In fall, groves of bigleaf maples here rain down piles of crimson-and-gold leaves. But the Maple Trail hikes well in the dog days of summer, too. The 2.6-mile section between lower Saltzman Road and the Wildwood Trail bisects densely wooded canyons peppered with hemlocks and firs, and fords the shimmery waters of Saltzman Creek. —BB

SUGGESTED ROUTE: From Saltzman Road off of Highway 30, turn left up Maple Trail. Pass Maple Tie Trail and turn right on Wildwood Trail. Descend Koenig Trail and return via Maple Trail. (Hard, 6-mile lollipop loop)

5. Solitude: Firelane 15-Wildwood Loop

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A trail through Forest Park

In 2023, solitude is a relative term for Forest Park. But in this far northwest corner, you can still hike a full 30 minutes without seeing a soul. Start on Firelane 15’s high ridgeline entrance off Skyline, with hazy views of the Willamette peeking through a powerline corridor and the stunted peak of St. Helens beyond. Drop down to gurgling Miller Creek, up through thick, mossy old-growth, and pop back on the Wildwood’s narrow, serpentine trail. Don’t miss the path to secluded Kielhorn Meadow, a grassy knoll where you might peep an elk grazing if you’re quiet. —Benjamin Tepler

SUGGESTED ROUTE: From NW Skyline Boulevard, follow Firelane 15, cross over the Wildwood Trail, and turn up Firelane 12 to BPA Road. Go right on BPA Road. Turn right on Wildwood Trail. Return via Firelane 15. A signed path to Kielhorn is roughly 0.6 miles past the Skyline entrance. (Moderate, 4-mile lollipop loop)

6. Post-Work Running: Dogwood Loop

For a post-workday jaunt, it’s tough to beat this easy loop just off NW 53rd, a 15-minute drive from downtown. After the small parking area, keep left up the narrow Dogwood Trail, and then fork right to stay on Dogwood. The path levels out under a canopy of Doug fir and bigleaf maples—peek between the trees for views of the Willamette and the industrial riverfront below. In spring, keep your eyes open for yellow woodland violets and trilliums galore, while summer means candy flowers, fairy bells, and false Solomon’s seal. —Rebecca Jacobsen

SUGGESTED ROUTE: From NW 53rd Drive, take Dogwood Trail. Turn left on Leif Erikson and go left up Alder Trail. Turn left on Wildwood Trail. Return via Keil Trail. (Moderate, 3-mile loop)

Wildwood Trail

7. Picnicking: Nature-Wildwood Loop

Dreaming of a woodland picnic? Stuff your wicker basket and follow flat, wide Firelane 1 to two sets of mossy picnic tables. Walk off that charcuterie and Champagne by following the serene Nature Trail down to a leafy gully and across a footbridge over Rocking Chair Creek, eventually returning via the Wildwood Trail to Firelane 1. —RJ

SUGGESTED ROUTE: Turn off NW 53rd Drive onto Forest Lane, where you’ll find a few parking spots at the gate to Firelane 1. Take Firelane 1 to the picnic tables. Go past the junction with the Wildwood Trail, staying straight to take the Nature Trail. Take a left fork back to the Wildwood and a right on Firelane 1 to return. (Easy, 2-mile lollipop loop)

8. Bird-Watching: Audubon Society Loop

Keep a field guide handy inside the Audubon Society’s 150-acre reserve set just off of NW Cornell Road. More than 40 species of birds, including warblers, grosbeaks, and sparrows, have been recorded here. Bird-happy crowds typically head north from the parking area to the Pittock Bird Sanctuary. Here, an easy mile-long loop trail meanders along Balch Creek and encircles a pond scattered with lily pads. But the Founders Trail in the 34-acre Uhtoff Sanctuary is especially noteworthy. Nicknamed “Pileated Woodpecker Alley,” it’s packed with abundant snags, a siren’s song to North America’s largest woodpecker. Still skunked on sightings? Tour the on-site Wildlife Care Center, home to Audubon’s fleet of educational birds, including falcons and owls. —BB

SUGGESTED ROUTE: Take Founders Trail to North Collins Trail loop and return the way you came. (Easy, 2-mile lollipop loop)


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What is universal design? This home design trend is one that can accommodate any homeowner, regardless of their personal needs.

One year all-white is all the rage; the next, it’s all about shadowy tones. Home design trends come and go (remember Hollywood Regency?), but one that by definition is meant for the long haul is universal design.

What is universal design, you ask? In a nutshell, it’s a home that’s set up to be accessible to anyone, regardless of difficulties with mobility or vision. This means it’s easier to navigate for the elderly or people with disabilities.

Also known as inclusive design, barrier-free design, design-for-all, and lifespan design, this concept was introduced in the 1950s and got a big push in the 1970s with the burgeoning disability rights movement. In 1992, the Americans with Disabilities Act required that all public buildings be reasonably renovated to accommodate people with disabilities (e.g., ramps and larger entryways for wheelchairs). And as the baby boomers start to enter their golden years, they’ve begun embracing the idea of universal design in residential homes, too.

What Is Universal Design? A Home That Can Accommodate Anyone

What is universal design?

Probably the biggest misconception about universal design is that it’s “hospital-like.”

“Typically you’d never know a space is created with universal design in mind, but when done right it should function and look great,” explains Patricia Davis Brown, an interior designer and National Kitchen & Bath Association insider.

Universal design options can be easy fixes (like installing lever-style handles on doors and faucets that are easier to operate) or full-on renovations (like lowering the kitchen counter height or making it adjustable). Here are some other basic features common in universal design homes:

  • Single-level floor plans: This is for people in wheelchairs, people with impaired vision, or the elderly who might slip or fall on stairs.
  • Curbless showers with grab bars: A curbless shower makes it easier to get in and out, regardless of whether or not you use a wheelchair. And since anyone can slip in the shower, Karen Betz of Elite Kitchen & Bath recommends installing grab bars in the bathroom for all ages.
  • Wider entryways, hallways, and clearances: These are to accommodate wheelchairs. Spaces such as the kitchen or dining room should especially be considered. As the natural gathering places of the house, they should have plenty of space for everyone to mingle comfortably.
  • Multilevel countertops: These can accommodate young children as well as those who use a wheelchair. This goes mostly for kitchen countertops, so anyone can help prepare a meal.
  • Drawers, storage, and appliances at a comfortable height: These might accommodate someone in a wheelchair or with other disabilities. “Properly positioned appliances will help avoid deep bending and reaching that might be physically demanding,” Betz says.
  • Proper lighting throughout the house: “Expanded lighting throughout the house increases visibility and safety for family and guests, especially children and baby boomers,” explains Betz. You might want to look into smart home lighting systems where lights turn on automatically when you enter a room.

Who should incorporate universal design?

Owners who consider their current home to be their forever home should consider making some universal design upgrades that will allow them to manage once mobility becomes more challenging. But even younger homeowners may consider adding some aspects of universal design if an elderly or disabled family member moves in.

And if you anticipate selling your home, Brown says, “It is smart to consider universal design when building a new home or renovating, which works well for resale in the future.”


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We all have our own vision of how we’ll one day retire, from whiling away our days with our grandkids to hitting the pickleball courts every morning, to joining the Rolling Stones on tour (because they will never, ever go away). One dream, however, is common to three-quarters of older adults: They want to stay in their current home. For the rest of their lives.

The problem with that idea is that many of today’s homes aren’t equipped to handle the needs of aging Americans.

However, a movement is growing to make homes livable for people of all ages, and age-related disabilities. The idea is to make the homes more accessible and inhabitable as the years turn into decades—but to do so early on and relatively unobtrusively. Newer homes are likely to have such features already, and contractors are increasingly helping retrofit older homes with them, too.

While it’s easy to put off thinking about aging in place, it’s better to start considering this possibility as early as possible.

“What you don’t want to do is have to start remodeling while you’re trying to figure out how to recover after a health incident,” says Aging in Place Institute founder Louis Tenenbaum.

Whether you’re shopping for your “forever home” or thinking about how to renovate your current property into one, you’ll probably need a home with these features in order to successfully stay put.

Want a ‘Forever Home’ Where You Can Age in Place? These 6 Renovations Will Help

1. A no-step entry

Harsh reality intrusion No. 1: At some point before the end of your days—perhaps long before—a wheelchair may become a necessity to get around. So, you’ll want at least one entrance into your home that doesn’t require going up steps. If the door has just a few steps and there’s enough lawn space, contractors can work with the slope of the yard to install a ramp to the entryway. And they can be designed in ways that don’t scream “geriatric” to everyone who sets foot in your place.

2. A slip-proof bath and shower

Harsh reality intrusion No. 2: Slips and falls in the bathroom are a major source of injury for the elderly. So you’ll want to outfit this place with grab bars to avoid accidents. If the prospect makes you feel like you’re already living in a nursing home, know that many of today’s grab bars could easily pass for ornamental pieces, or double as towel racks or toilet paper dispensers, as long as they’re properly anchored.

In fact, many universal design elements allow for functionality without sacrificing the look and feel of the space.

“It can be absolutely beautiful,” says Tammy Kaplan, an interior designer and certified aging-in-place specialist with AIP Designs in Scotch Plains, NJ. “The bathrooms that we do look like spas.”

3. An accessible bedroom and bathroom

Three-quarters of homes offer one-floor living. If your home doesn’t, it may be possible to convert an existing living or dining room downstairs into a bedroom, especially if there’s a full bath already on the first floor.

You can also make a first-floor addition, or continue using your second floor if you install an elevator or chairlift. Though pricey, such renovations could beat the cost of moving to a new house.

4. A prep-friendly kitchen

If cooking for family members is your passion, you’ll want to make sure your kitchen still suits your golden years. What that looks like: multiple-height counters, reachable storage and a microwave, and drawer dishwashers that don’t require bending over. All of these things can make food prep as easy as ever as you age.

5. The latest tech

The internet of things and explosion of smart home gadgets are a boon to the elderly, because it means you can lock your doors, adjust the temperature, and turn off the lights from your phone or tablet without even having to stand up. Plus, the latest home security systems can offer added peace of mind, especially if you live alone.

“Technology is one of the great enablers that’s going to allow us to stay safe and connected to other people in our homes,” says Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch.

6. Tiny tweaks

Once you’ve got the large, costly renovations covered, there are a number of smaller projects that can also make a big difference as you age. And many might be things you’d never thought of, like the following:

  • Wider doorways for easier wheelchair access, ideally to 36 inches
  • Replace regular doorknobs with lever handles, which are easier to open
  • Key-less entries with a combination code so you don’t have to fumble for your keys
  • “Comfort-height” toilets, which are 2 to 3 inches higher than usual, which entail less bending before you sit (Bonus: You can add a bidet.)
  • Pull-out cabinets or drawers with pull-out shelves, which allow you to put objects within easier reach
  • Hard-surface floors or low-pile carpet, which are ideal for wheelchairs
  • More lighting, which means less squinting


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How can first-time homebuyers save money when mortgage rates are at 20-year highs and home prices are rising again?

There’s no doubt that buying a home today is expensive. Mortgage rates are above 7%, home prices have begun climbing again, and bidding wars are back.

But for first-time buyers who are determined to become homeowners, there are a few ways to cut costs and lower mortgage payments. Some require a bit of creative thinking; others may take some perseverance.

Below are 10 tips to save money when purchasing a home in today’s crazily expensive market.

On the House: 10 Ways To Save Money on Buying a Home Today

1. Improve your credit score and pay down old debt

Paying off old debt might not seem like a way to save money, but hear me out. Lenders are less worried about borrowers defaulting on their loans if they have a proven track record of paying off their debt on time.

So borrowers with higher credit scores can usually snag lower mortgage rates and fewer fees on their loans.

This is where the savings can add up. Upfront fees on a loan can total thousands of dollars at closing—and higher mortgage rates have the potential to add tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a 30-year loan.

Plus, those with less debt can often qualify for larger loans.

2. Shop around for a mortgage

Make lenders compete for your business. Many buyers think they’re stuck with the lender that wrote them their loan pre-approval letter. Or they believe all lenders charge the same amount. That’s simply not true.

You can save tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan by making lenders compete over your business. With fewer borrowers seeking loans due to the higher mortgage rates, lenders may be more amenable to giving you a break.

And if you get a better offer from one lender but would prefer to use another, you can always see if your mortgage company of choice will match the better offer. This is how I snagged a lower mortgage rate, without buying points, and had fees waived when I bought a home two years ago.

3. Consider a FHA loan

Federal Housing Administration loans have long been popular with first-time buyers who can’t make large down payments. Borrowers can put down as little as 3.5% of the purchase price of their home with these loans. Plus, they can often get lower mortgage rates than those making a 20% down payment with a conventional loan.

However, there are a few downsides to this loan. Borrowers typically have to pay private mortgage insurance on their loans every month until they reach 20% equity in their home.

In addition, homes purchased with these loans must go through a thorough inspection and may require the seller to make repairs before the loan is approved. There are also limits on how much buyers can borrow. Plus, borrowers typically must have at least a 580 credit score to qualify for putting just 3.5% down.

4. Snag a VA or USDA loan

You can buy a home with 0% down—if you can qualify for one of these loans.

Activity-duty military personnel, veterans, their spouses, and those purchasing homes in rural areas can often qualify for a Veterans Affairs or U.S. Department of Agriculture mortgage where buyers don’t have to put anything down.

Bonus: These loans often come with lower mortgage rates, and VA loans typically don’t require private mortgage insurance.

5. Choose a 15-year mortgage

Choosing a 15-year mortgage can save you quite a bit of money over the long term, but buyers should anticipate higher monthly payments over the short term.

Mortgage rates are generally much lower on these loans than for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. You also pay the home off in half of the time. But since you’re paying it off earlier, your monthly payments can be much larger.

6. Buy mortgage points

Purchasing mortgage points from your lender can cost you more upfront when you take out a loan. But it can lower your mortgage payments permanently, saving you quite a bit of money each month.

Typically, points are sold in 0.25% increments. They generally cost about 1% of the full amount of the mortgage. So to bring your mortgage rate down by a quarter of a percentage, you would pay $4,500 on a $450,000 loan.

Make sure you plan on staying in your home for a while before purchasing points. It might not make much financial sense if you plan to sell in just a few years.

7. Shop for new construction

Look beyond the sticker price when considering buying new construction. Even if the purchase price is higher than a similarly sized home on the resale market, buyers might wind up with lower monthly mortgage payments than if they had purchased an older residence.

Many builders are buying mortgage rates down either permanently or through temporary 3-2-1 or 2-1 buy-downs. The larger, national builders often have lending arms that make it easier to provide those mortgage savings to buyers. Even smaller builders might offer similar incentives to attract buyers.

In addition, new construction isn’t as costly as many buyers believe. Many of the larger builders today are striving to put up smaller, more affordable homes. That’s helped to narrow the gap in prices.

In July, there was only a $30,000 difference between the median price of a typical new home, at $436,700, and an existing one, at $406,700, according to government and National Association of Realtors® data.

8. Seek out down payment assistance programs

This is one of my favorite tips because everyone loves free money! There are more than 2,000 down payment assistance programs available across the country for all first-time and even repeat buyers who qualify.

These programs provide assistance to buyers based on their annual incomes, professions, military service, racial backgrounds, disabilities, and where they are looking for homes, among other qualifications.

(Buyers can see what they might be eligible for here.)

9. Look at the homes that no one wants

Most buyers want a cute, turnkey home with a nicely landscaped yard. But they might be missing the potential of an attractively priced fixer-upper or a home that’s been sitting on the market for a while with a discounted price tag.

Homes become stigmatized in the minds of some buyers if they’re on the market for long periods or if deals fall through. But that might not be the fault of the seller or indicate something wrong with the property. It might be the buyer who was under contract couldn’t secure financing or changed their plans.

Other homes may not seem attractive in photos or in person, but they might just need a coat of paint and some minor cosmetic work to clean up nicely. And with all that money you’re saving on the purchase price, you might be able to turn these properties into some really special homes.

Just be sure to hire a home inspector and have a chat with a remodeler before you put in an offer so you understand the scale of the work that’s needed and how much it’s going to cost you.

10. Negotiate with sellers

Even in today’s competitive market, buyers can attempt to negotiate with sellers. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Now, this probably won’t work for well-priced homes oozing curb appeal in the most desirable neighborhoods. But sellers of homes that have been sitting on the market for a while, homes that need some work, or homes in less desirable locations mightº be willing to make a deal.

Some common things today’s buyers are asking for are for sellers to contribute to their closing costs, make pricey repairs, and temporarily buy down their mortgage rates for the first two or three years of their mortgage.


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Tomorrow Theater main theaterWorld-Class artists bring the curtain up on new multimedia theater on November 3

Tickets on sale October 16 at noon PDT

The Portland Art Museum’s film and new media center, PAM CUT // Center for an Untold Tomorrow, is thrilled to announce the opening of the Tomorrow Theater, a new space devoted to expanding what constitutes cinema, art, and multimedia storytelling. The 250-seat Tomorrow Theater will open its doors to the public on November 3, 2023, with programming designed to inspire and surprise audiences and artists no longer content to be contained to a single medium, label, or art form.

The opening week, featuring legendary artist David Byrne, will give audiences a taste of what to expect from PAM CUT’s new venue in the heart of Southeast Portland, at 3530 SE Division St. On November 3, Byrne will take over the Tomorrow Theater with an interactive and live presentation of Reasons to be Cheerful, in a special Portland-themed edition. Founded by Byrne, Reasons to be Cheerful is a nonprofit online magazine, which aims to inspire curiosity about how the world can be better and to encourage us to be part of that change.

Byrne’s take-over will launch the theater’s signature series, Carte Blanche, where world-class artists and creative polymaths are given free rein to activate the theater in bold and interdisciplinary ways. Future Carte Blanche guests will include Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter, who will join in January 2024.

Black and white photo of David Byrne and a full color photo of Ruth Carter

Carte Blanche Programmers David Byrne and Ruth E. Carter

“We are beyond thrilled to open the Tomorrow Theater, and to introduce audiences to all of the wild and wondrous things that storytelling can be,” says Amy Dotson, Director of PAM CUT and Curator of Film and New Media at the Portland Art Museum. “We’re excited for artists to show off the capabilities of the theater and demonstrate what’s possible. Like the creatives it will support, the Tomorrow Theater is a real shape-shifter. It’s simultaneously a cinema, a performance space, an experimentation hall, and a community gathering place, to feed those who are culturally curious and uncontainable!”

Amy Dotson in the Tomorrow Theater

Amy Dotson in the Tomorrow Theater

The Tomorrow Theater

The Tomorrow Theater is rooted in nearly a century of Portland movie-going history, starting with its origin as a vaudeville theater. The theater embodies PAM CUT’s mission to advance media arts in all its forms, embracing programming that defies neat categorization, sprawling across different crafts and mediums. The theater’s signature series, featuring curation by guest artists, partners, and creatives, will combine film, dance, comedy, sports, music, XR, performance, and so much more. When audiences walk into the theater, they will never quite know what Tomorrow brings.

The timing of the Tomorrow Theater opening aligns with the Portland Art Museum’s Rothko Pavilion expansion and renovation project. While the Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium is offline, the Tomorrow Theatre ensures a wide range of programs and events are still available to Museum, PAM CUT, and general audiences interested in the intersection of art, storytelling and media arts.

Andee Hess and Makrai Crecelius, of Portland-based and female-owned interior design studio Osmose, redesigned and renovated the theater from its most recent iteration as an X-rated cinema, with characteristic humor and imagination. The space nods to its past, with an eye toward the future.

Images of Tomorrow Theater entryway and concessions area

Interior details of the Tomorrow Theater


For full programming details, to purchase tickets and the latest news, visit

November: Unorthodox

Programming for November unfolds around the theme Unorthodox, which celebrates artists pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo. Programs and events include a live activation of David Byrne’s Reasons to be Cheerfulwith screenings of Spike Lee’s American UtopiaContemporary Color, with a performance by Cascadia Winterguard, and Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense, with a performance by PHAME; the inaugural FAM JAM, introducing an immersive screening of Laika’s Missing Link; a week of Unorthodox Docs, including a Documentary Now! mini- fest; the launch of futurist Lance Weiler’s Prototype series; a celebration of multi-talented national treasure Dolly Parton on the eve of her new album, Rockstar—plus sneak peeks galore including Mister OrganFinding Groovopolis, Sundance 2023 feature gem Bad Press, and so much more!

December: Cultural Snackery

December offers a smorgasbord of fun and pop-culture joy, with a rare screening and performance of The Shining Back and Forth, a 10th Anniversary re-examining of Short Term 12 with special guests, a deep dive into the genius of Paul Reubens, and The Future of Film is Female series, curated by Caryn Coleman, showcasing the new work of groundbreaking women filmmakers.

January: Shift/Happens

PAM CUT starts the new year with a focus on the innovations and innovators shifting the way we tell stories. Programs and events include Carte Blanche: Ruth E. Carter, featuring a live conversation with the Oscar-winning costume designer and celebration of her artistry (to coincide with Africa Fashion at the Portland Art Museum); Smart Phone Orchestra, an interactive storytelling experience that makes use of individual smartphones to create a single, monumental work of music and live storytelling; a special Portland edition of Podcast, but Outside and a John Waters double-feature and costume night!

Coming Soon: 

Partner programming begins in February 2024 with Venice BiennaleIndieCadeBlackstar ProjectsSpring/BreakThe Numberz FM, and Izhonny. A variety of local and national media artists, curators and innovators will also lend their eclectic talents and tastes to Tomorrow.

Tomorrow Theater ongoing Signature Series: 

Audiences can look forward to experiences that fall into a wildly fun range of Tomorrow Theater signature series. They include:

  • Art House Cinema—Make art based on the movies, series, and performances you love.
  • Carte Blanche—Your favorite artists and polymaths are given free rein to do what they want to do and share something new.
  • The Intersection—Modern-day vaudevillian mashups of cinematic experiences that include performance, new media, participatory arts, technology, music, and audio storytelling.
  • Fam Jam—Cinematic fun for the whole family, including coloring pages, dance breaks, and maybe even a kazoo!
  • The Great Escape—Incredible, transporting new work from all over the world.
  • Game-o-rama—Join us for e-gaming and live commentary board game matches, TV trivia to game shows, and even world-building, scavenger hunts, contests, and quests.
  • Night of 1000….—Hours upon hours of interactive programming, screenings, and performances in tribute to an iconic actor, singer, performer, or director.
  • Now. Here. This—Featuring one-night-only live podcasts and broadcasts, audio storytelling performances, and spoken word for an eye (and ear) opening experience.
  • Now>>Then—Ahead of its time? Right on time? An abomination of its time? You decide. We’re looking back to look forward.
  • Special Guest Stars—Takeover nights by artists, curators, and partners.
  • Sneak Peeks—First run films, previews of new series, podcasts, games, or test-driving new cinema tech before your neighbors do.
  • Social Cinema—You’re coming to see and be seen. Featuring more than a little razzle dazzle for a fully immersive cinematic experience, this includes costume nights, dance lessons, and visual enhancements that make the night shine.
  • Tour Stop—When bands, artists, and performers come to town, they stop by to share the art and films that inspire them.
  • The Blind Date—It’s date night with a twist, where no one knows what the night holds. Clues and instructions will be given at ticket purchase but full details will not be revealed until entry.
  • Unorthodox Docs—Nonfiction arts that play with the boundaries of form, function, style, and story, with cosplay too!

Tomorrow Theater Sponsors & Partners include: National Endowment for the Arts, Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission, Ritz Family Foundation, Anish Savjani, Travel Portland, Mary and Don Blair, and The Lamb Baldwin Foundation.


For this and more great information, please visit the Portland Art Museum