At home with 'Portlandia' star Carrie Brownstein

Story highlights

  • Rocker turned "Portlandia" star Carrie Brownstein shows off her Portland bungalow
  • A basement full of guitars is a favorite spot for Brownstein and co-star Fred Armisen
  • Brownstein is burned out on cutsy bird silhouettes, thanks to an episode of "Portlandia"

"I took all my Ted Cruz posters down before you came over," declares Carrie Brownstein, leaning against the arched doorframe of her Portland dining room.

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Brownstein's delivery is thoroughly deadpan, but anyone even mildly familiar with the 39-year-old would know the claim couldn't be dripping with more sarcasm. After all, along with co-star Fred Armisen, Brownstein -- founding member of riot grrrl cult band Sleater-Kinney and, more recently, Wild Flag -- has made a second career out of portraying a constituent of the kale-eating, craft-beer-drinking, lumberjack-shirt-wearing, jewelry-making crowd on "Portlandia."

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While the locally filmed show, which returned for a fourth season on IFC in February, has made the Washington state native something of a hometown hero in her adopted city, she's quick to point out that Portland was merely a convenient backdrop for the series. "Portlandia isn't as much about a place as it is about a state of mind," says Brownstein. "It's about people who like to feel special, who like to believe that this certain thing has been tailor-made just for them, of which I'm definitely guilty too, at times."

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Given the show's penchant for incredibly nuanced observations of hipster culture -- municipal recycling guidelines are enough fodder for an entire sketch -- it should come as no surprise that Brownstein was equally committed to detail when it came to decorating the 1912 bungalow she bought in the trendy Grant Park neighborhood 10 years ago after touring extensively.

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Brownstein filled the place with sentimental, one-of-a-kind finds: A taxidermied weasel once owned by Amy Sedaris sits on the mantel; '50s-era coastal landscapes by various local artists fill the walls; and a record collection—which, in Brownstein's case, is several thousand vinyls strong and meticulously alphabetized by artist—testifies that yes, this is a hipster home.

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All in all, the spread is not unlike the one Carrie's Portlandia alter ego inhabits. Hard-core fans may recognize Brownstein's real-life mutts from the now infamous episode about dog parks. Armisen, whom she met in 2003 at a "Saturday Night Live" after-party, is clearly her partner in crime in real life, too: The comedian, who rents a house nearby during filming, texts Brownstein in the middle of her ELLE shoot to let her know that Lou Reed has died. (A fellow musician, Armisen is also a frequent guest in Brownstein's basement -- a soundproof practice space tricked out with a loungy Chesterfield sofa and no fewer than five guitars.)

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Of course, inhabiting the blurred line between reality and fiction can have its downsides. A particular source of consternation for Brownstein is one of the show's most famous skits -- "Put a Bird on It" -- which depicts an artisan couple with a compulsive knack for putting a cutesy bird on virtually everything they make.

"Now I go into stores and see things I want to buy with birds on it, and I can't, because I'm too self-conscious," Brownstein says. "The other day, I was in a store and saw a cute dress with birds on it and I was like, 'No, I just can't.'"

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