How Portlander Max Humphrey Creates Color-Happy, Boldly Patterned Rooms

Posted on 01/31/2018

Animal prints vying with geometric patterns. Gingham curtains lit by a Chinese lantern. Canary yellow lamps on a sleek black cabinet. The clients of Max Humphrey, a Portland interior designer, need to be “ready for some happiness,” as he puts it. His general strategy of bold color accents and layered, competing patterns gives a little playful jolt to the Pacific Northwest’s traditional preference for chilled-out earth tones.

Even so, he’s recognizably regional.

“Somebody called me Pacific Northwest Americana the other day,” he says—both true and slightly ironic, since Humphrey’s work draws on a hodgepodge background and a biography chopped between both coasts, culminating in an intentional adoption of Portland design culture. In a time of mass movement in our direction, that may make him a perfect “local” designer for right now.

In past lives, Max Humphrey worked in television production, played bass in a touring punk band called the Adored, and worked his way up, with no experience or qualifications, from entry level to partner at an LA-based interior design firm.

Now he runs his own interior design business in Portland. What brought him here? “The gold rush? Manifest Destiny? Westward expansion?” he jokes.

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From left: Humphrey in his adopted (and adapted) Portland habitat; a Humphrey design in a historic art deco LA apartment, with wallpaper from Anthropologie; a Southeast apartment, with a photograph by Seattle’s Paul Edmondson and lamp by Schoolhouse Electric

In fact, he was driven by that historically powerful motivator: a desire to leave Los Angeles. His first move was to make contact with all the Portland designers he admired and ask to take them out for coffee. “I knew I would have a learning curve, and I didn’t want to assert myself as an Angeleno in Portland—there’s a sensitivity about that,” he says, perceptively. “I wanted to get to know the city.” Those e-mails yielded meetings with the likes of Casework’s Casey Keasler and Bright DesignLab’s Leela Brightenburg and Alissa Pulcrano, among others. “The first thing you find out is how humble Portland designers are,” he notes.

He built up his clientele through word of mouth. He describes much of his work here as “high-end residential interior design,” though he’s also done commercial work and styling work, most visibly in the City Home stores in the Pearl and the Central Eastside Industrial District. His growing stack of press clippings includes Architectural Digest, Dwell, and the Wall Street JournalSunset invited him to speak at its annual conference in Sonoma.

“It’s hard to mix old and new and have it look right,” says Kim Pelett of City Home. “Most people do one or the other. Max will have a contemporary sofa with an antique sign straight out of a 1940s carnival.”

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From top: a tableau created to showcase Pendleton’s collaboration with the fabric brand Sunbrella; the Southeast Portland location of City Home (the Rexall sign has since moved to the shop’s new Pearl District location)

Before rising professionally in California, Humphrey grew up in New Hampshire. In Portland he channels his various roots into the sensibilities of his adopted home. “One thing that I really looked forward to is bringing some color here, some layers and some pattern,” he says. “Portland is very respectful. People feel like you need to respect the landscape a lot, and I agree, but you can also bend the rules a little bit and shake things up.”

“I’ve found that my clients in Portland, especially, are very collaborative,” he continues. “They want to be involved. They want to know where stuff is coming from, and go shopping and be a part of it. It’s not just a turn-over-the-key thing, where they go to St. Tropez for six months and come back to have it all done with candles burning.”

Residential design—his clients have included executives at the likes of Nike and Intel—has been his calling card to date. But he aspires to take his hybridized style further, in directions very much inspired by his city.  “I’d love to design for the Timbers. Maybe they need one of their locker rooms redesigned?” he wonders. “I’d love to design a coffee shop. This is the place for it. I’m designing a dentist’s office in LA right now, and the reception will look like a coffee shop, because this may be my only chance.”

Pearl District Retail Roundup

Posted on 01/29/2018

Rock, Paper, Scissors

This article has been extracted from The Pearl Magazine.



Our favorite gifts related to earthly elements—marble, mica, gemstones, salt, minerals, and even a couple of nods to rock ’n’ roll.

1  Curate carries arresting picture frames fringed with polished geode slices. // 2 You can also pick up these simply elegant light- and dark-marble bowls and delicate twig-inspired spoons at Curate. They’re perfect for serving salt, pepper, or any of the dozens of other herbs and flavorings sold at Penzeys Spices. // 3  Basic Space Gallery carries these artful earrings by local jewelry designer Laura Black. // 4  We love stylish Anne Bocci Boutique and Gallery for both fashion and art. Both elements come together in Bocci’s stunning jewelry, such as this sterling silver drusy–and–white-topaz bracelet. // 5  Enso Float offers fabulously soothing sessions in state-of-the-art float tanks—they also sell sensual mineral-bath salts from Roots & Crowns.

6 & 7  The music lover in your life can rock out anywhere with this violet-hued BeoPlay A1 Bluetooth speaker from Bang & Olufsen, perhaps while reading an iconic book on the subject from Powell’s. // 8  Among the spectacular custom creations at Alchemy Jeweler, we love this Ray Griffiths 18K yellow-gold crownwork pendant with radiant diamonds and chrysoprase. // 9  In keeping with Room & Board’s focus on sustainability, these natty coasters are made from marble remnants from tables and counters. // 10, 11 & 12  Vosges Burnt Caramel–and–Black Salt chocolates from Whole Foods and Napa Valley Obsidian Ridge cabernet sauvignon from Thelonious Wines pair perfectly together. Serve them with fine cheeses on this marble board from Pearl Hardware. // 13 & 14  Echo Natural Beauty uses micas, minerals, rock dust, and other earthly ingredients in its makeup, such as Axiology lipstick and Lily Lolo eye palettes. // 15  Brighten up your desk or breakfast nook with this dandy little stone planter from Altitude. 


A selection of stylish “paper” presents, including crafty wares and artful items fashioned from linen and wood.

1  Organic sticks from Pelindaba Lavender can be used to add flavor to grilled scallops or refreshing fragrance to your living room. // 2  Set the table stylishly with whimsical peacock napkins from French Quarter Linens. // 3  That’s no ordinary squished Greek Coffee Cup—it’s actually a cleverly designed change purse, available at Pearl Hardware, which provides an offbeat way to save up for a rainy day. // 4 Oblation Papers & Press earns our love for these romantic, handmade playing cards. // 5  It’s hard to think of an item that fits more perfectly with our “paper gifts” theme than a gorgeous book from Powell’s on the art of making paper flowers.

6  These ceramic fortune cookies from SITTE Modern, complete with colorful containers modeled after Chinese food takeout boxes, set an optimistic tone for the new year. // 7 & 8  Stock up on handsome sketchbooks and elegant letterpress calendars at Oblation Papers & Press, your source for all things paper. // 9  Blick Art Materials stocks beautiful papers of all weights and sizes. // 10  We’re quite sure the jet-setters in your life will enjoy a trip with you to someplace warm and sunny this winter. Let the expert staff at Willamette International Travel plan your big adventure. // 11  One thoughtful way to let the recipients of your gifts know they’re special is by affixing a handcrafted tag from Oblation Papers & Press. // 12  These fanciful cards were drawn by talented painter and poet Cher Odum and are available at J. Pepin Art Gallery, which also carries many larger works by this talented artist and many others.


The “scissors” theme for these pages got us thinking more sharply about tools, gadgets, and other edgy accouterments.

1  That fragrant bouquet of roses you’re planning to give your love on Valentine’s Day will last longer if you include a pair of floral shears from Sammy’s Flowers. // 2  We appreciate Blick Art Materials, where even everyday items—like this stapler—are so attractively designed that they’re gift-worthy. // 3  The Alima Eyelash Curler from Echo Natural Beauty keeps lashes long and lush all winter long. // 4  A stunning way to open a hoppy seasonal ale, this hand-forged stainless steel bottle opener from SITTE Modern has eye-catching brass details. // 5  Your two-wheeling friends and family members will greatly appreciate this fold-up multitool from Western Bikeworks. It’s the perfect gadget for cyclists to get out of just about any bind.

6  This stunning Alaskan king salmon fillet knife sold at Filson is handcrafted by a renowned Seattle blade maker and fitted with a spalted alder wood handle. // 7  Pearl Hardware sells this colorful wine stopper and doodads to help your friends keep track of their vino.  // 8  You can learn everything you need to know about making a gorgeous Japanese sword in this manual from Powell’s. It also looks simply stunning on a coffee table. // 9  No, this curious tool from Storables isn’t some newfangled kitchen whisk. Far more pleasurable, it’s a head massager. // 10, 11 & 12  Gadget alert: You’ll find handsome scissors at Oblation Papers & Press, fuzzy paperclips at Blick Art Materials, and elegant corkscrews at SITTE Modern. // 13  You can help fulfill that New Year’s resolution of pedaling faster and farther by tracking your progress with a Garmin Fenix 5S Sapphire GPS watch from Western Bikeworks. 

Photography by Scott Rounds | Styling by Kira Corbin