Diane Plesset: A Lifelong Interest in Architecture — And Helping People

I’ve had a lifelong interest in architecture. It started in my childhood in Northeast Portland and continues today. My parents taught me the importance of helping others. I’ve helped hundreds of homeowners with their remodeling and building projects in the 39 years since forming D. P. Design. During that time, I advocated for ethical practices and honesty.

I’m still an advocate, but the role has grown exponentially since I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in April 2023. The diagnosis has changed my life completely. After careful consideration and multiple discussions with my oncologist and my husband, I’ve decided to retire from active design of building and remodeling projects. It was a difficult decision, but it opened up an entirely new and exciting world where I can help people one-on-one on a limited basis with my creative ideas.  I also intend to expand my writing to include articles about creative solutions and advocacy. You can see more about this on my new website, dianeplesset.com

What particular problems do you have regarding your home building or remodeling?  I care about helping you on a limited consultation basis. You’re unique, and you have unique needs. My 39 years of experience, combined with compassion and creativity, will help you solve individual problems you have.  Listening to you actively and paying attention to your needs is the key to helping you. Honest communication is the most important aspect of our working relationship.

At our first meeting, we knew Diane was the person who would help us make our dream come true. She listened to us and in a short time produced a plan that made it easy to visualize the end result. Her professional and detailed plans were key to making sure our entire project team knew what to do.” (Jerry and Paula L., Hillsboro)

A Lifelong Interest in Architecture Begins

Interest in architecture -- Kennedy SchoolWere you a “latchkey kid?” I was, too. I loved going to downtown Portland on the bus. The architecture was awesome! Meier & Frank, the Courthouse and all the banks, and the Main Library where I spent many afternoons. These buildings inspired me to write a term paper about the order of Greek columns at Kennedy School. It’s now a well-known hotel, theater, restaurant, and bar, part of the McMenamin chain.

My mother, a single parent, raised during the Depression, wanted me to be a secretary or a teacher. She rejected anything “artsy.” I reluctantly became a legal secretary, then a court reporter.

Did a demanding career dilute my enduring enthusiasm for architecture?

Absolutely not!  I spent many hours on weekends exploring Portland neighborhoods. Many mansions had Greek-inspired columns. Some homes had a lot of ornamentation. But why did so many homes have stout tapered columns on large square pedestals and a huge porch? The columns didn’t conform to the Greek Order.

 Architectural Interest Becomes Enthusiasm and Love — 1970s To 2000:

Lifelong interest in architecture - San FranciscoMy interest in architecture flourished when I moved to San Francisco in the 1970s. The architecture was a conglomerate of different styles! It was fun to ride and walk around different neighborhoods. I referred to a pocket architectural guide and learned about the different periods of architecture.

The guide taught me about the homes in Portland. I learned that homes with unusual tapered columns were inspired by the Arts and Crafts style built in the late 19th-century

Enthusiasm for architecture inspired me to go back to college. I earned three degrees: interior design, kitchen and bath design, and lighting design. This fulfilled my profound interest in architecture and laid the path I was on until April 2023. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my husband, Jay.

One of my instructors was an avid fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. I fell in love with and studied Mr. Wright’s work! My dream was to own a home that looked and felt like it. Mr. Wright designed it. A life-changing miracle happened when I flew to Portland to help my mother recover from surgery. Coming full circle, I discovered the only Frank Lloyd Wright home in Oregon. It was for sale!

Architectural Dream Becomes Reality — 1998 to Present:

Lifelong interest in architecture - Frank Lloyd WrightJay and I spent 6 hours at the Gordon House ( located in Charbonneau) and fell in love with it. But it was gut-wrenching to see all the windows boarded up, mold actively growing on most of the walls. We couldn’t afford the $2,200,000 asking price. So we did the next best thing. We helped to save the home from destruction, so a young couple could build their mansion on the site. The home was dismantled, moved, and rebuilt in the Oregon Garden in Silverton. We moved to Oregon, and I finished the plans for our award-winning home, Evergreen.” inspired by Mr. Wright’s “Usonian” homes (1932 – 1959), including the Gordon House.

But we almost lost our dream home during the recession that began in 2006, caused by greedy mortgage brokers and banks. My business went from thriving to dead over a three-month period. Yes, we were easy prey, like so many other homeowners following a dream. 3.7 million foreclosures! This experience took a toll on my mental and physical health.  It also made me more compassionate. I understood what those homeowners were feeling.

We were fortunate to find a gentleman who helped us get a loan modification that lowered the interest rate and extended the loan. This gave us time to get back on our feet. The loan modification documents arrived the morning I was scheduled for cancer surgery and radiation. I’m “over the moon” grateful to live in the dream house that I designed.

Change Is Inevitable

We’ve lived in our dream home for over 15 years. My business soared and I was happily helping homeowners, until early April 2023. Suddenly, all my energy disappeared, and I developed a bad cough that was diagnosed as pneumonia. I was in a local hospital for four weeks while the doctors tried to cure it. Daily blood tests revealed other health issues that led to a bone marrow biopsy in late April. That biopsy confirmed acute myeloid leukemia, and I was transferred to the OHSU cancer ward, where doctors started treatments to kill the cancer.

I was finally released from the hospital in late May, still undergoing chemotherapy that continues. I have opted not to have a bone marrow transplant for several reasons. My oncologist has planned a routine that will keep me healthy for the rest of my life. There are, and will be, times when I have low energy due to the treatments. This is my main reason for retiring from actively operating D. P. Design as it has been for 39 years.



Other Creative Interests

Besides a devoted interest in architecture, I love music and have played the piano since I was 8 years old. I also love to read and write. My first book, THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling, won the Pinnacle Award for Best How-to Book the year it was published.

What inspired me to write my book?

Meeting with homeowners, I learned about remodeling horror stories they endured, problems that they shouldn’t have had. I could help them one on one, but how could I help more people?

I decided to teach classes for homeowners through a college extension program with the local Park & Rec Department. It was an eight-week commitment for them, 2-1/2 hours for each class. Every week, I’d cover a different aspect of home remodeling. I provided detailed handouts for each topic, with resources and suggestions.  The last half hour of each class was spent answering their questions. There were 25 people in class each semester, several hundred over a period of about 4 years.

On the feedback form provided by the extension program, all of the students commented about the handouts, “You’ve got to compile these into a book!” Or, “Write a book!” Or, “Homeowners need this information!”

Sadly, the Park & Rec Department cut way back on their extension program. This included my class. Now I was on a mission to follow my students’ recommendation. It took five years to research, write, and edit my book. It was a labor of love. I hired a wonderful graphic artist, Janis Emerson, and committed to self-publishing THE Survival Guide so I’d have control over the quality — lay-flat binding, and heavy paper that people could mark up or write in.

D. P. Design’s Service Area

Because I’ve decided to focus on helping homeowners with solutions to individual building and remodeling projects, I can work from my home office to anywhere in the world! I’m just a phone call, an email, or a virtual meeting away, to help you. This is exciting! You can see details of my services on the “Process” page.


Map With D. P. Design Primary Service Area