A Lovell Home With Lowcountry Vibes

With its wraparound porch and louvered shutters framing massive windows, the Greek Revival looks like it teleported from Charleston or Savannah.

Elaborate moldings distinguish the “west parlor” in the James Walker House in Lovell where Sean Litchfield and Zach Violette’s now live

Elaborate moldings distinguish the “west parlor” in Sean Litchfield and Zach Violette’s Lovell home, furnished with an antique chandelier, a Saarinen-style table, and vintage leather chairs they got for $50 at a Parsonsfield-Porter Historical Society yard sale.

By Sarah Stebbins
Photos by Sean Litchfield
Styling by Hudson Moore
From the Summer 2023 issue of Maine Homes by Down East

Tucked between towering maples on Lovell’s Main Street, Sean Litchfield and Zach Violette’s 1838 Greek Revival looks like it was transplanted from Charleston or Savannah. Built by lumber baron James Walker with louvered shutters framing large wavy-glass windows and a wraparound front porch studded with Doric columns, “it wasn’t like anything else in this area,” says Violette, an architectural historian and carpenter. Walker, who later became a state senator and land agent, was accused by his political rivals of corruption and riding around in a fancy “horse and chaise” at taxpayer expense. “They compared him to a southern plantation owner,” Violette says. “So it’s poignant the way he built this completely impractical house that looks Southern with floor-to-ceiling windows and a big porch. It’s kind of a window into his personality.”

From left: Zach Violette, Sean Litchfield, and their pup, Lily, outside their 1838 Greek Revival. A dining-area closet displays Violette’s great-grandmother’s 1904 wedding china alongside dishes the couple discovered in their barn. In the dining area, a $20 chandelier from Portland’s ReStore and Shaker chairs from a Parsonsfield estate sale set off a table the couple made with floorboards found in the barn; the photograph is by Litchfield.

Still, Walker’s house is a source of community pride. After Litchfield and Violette moved here from New York in 2020, a slew of people stopped by to introduce themselves, and maybe get a look inside. “It was our neighbors, the president of the historical society, and also random people who were like, ‘You bought our favorite house in Lovell,’” says Litchfield, an architectural photographer. The couple had been contemplating a move to Maine for years when the pandemic spurred them to hunker down in Violette’s parents’ two-family home in Augusta and finally search for a place. The James Walker House, meticulously renovated by previous owner Grosvenor Newcomb, save the former workers’ quarters in the ell, where Walker ran a barrel-making and blacksmith shop, seemed like a unicorn. “Sean wanted something that was done and I wanted a project, so it was perfect,” says Violette, who is turning part of the upper ell into guest rooms.

From left: In the upstairs hallway, Violette’s architecture books are arrayed opposite a flag from Elmer’s Barn in Coopers Mills. “I like the texture and the stories it could tell,” Litchfield says. Previous owner Louise Whidden’s early-20th-century paintings of Kezar Lake hang in the powder room, painted in Benjamin Moore’s Sherwood Forest. Rustic and elegant meet in the owners’ bedroom, equipped with an antique stool and a lamp from Cornish Trading Company and a Facebook Marketplace four-poster Litchfield painted.

However physically impractical, the house makes a lot of sense stylistically. Window surrounds — ranging from pedimented lintels, deeply fluted pilasters, and paneled aprons in the front parlors to pedimentless assemblies in the dining area, to tapered flat trim with folk-art scrolls on the lintels in the bedrooms — establish each space in a hierarchy. Pocket doors divide what Litchfield and Violette call the west and east parlors (“it’s pretentious, but an easy way to differentiate the two,” Violette says), designed as entertaining and family hangout spaces that can be closed off or combined. And in nearly every room, fireplace surrounds that once framed woodstoves provide a focal point. “This was a fancy house, so it had the new technology of woodstoves,” Violette says. “But people were used to having a fireplace with a mantel, so they still put them in.”

Clockwise from left: Former owner Grosvenor Newcomb’s painstaking renovation included a new kitchen with marble countertops, a fireplace rebuilt with its original bricks, and wide-plank Brazilian-cherry flooring that blends with the old-growth pine seen elsewhere. Litchfield chose the brass hardware and pendants and Chilton walnut-and-ash bar stools. “If we had bought the house in its previous condition and renovated it, this is exactly how we would have done it,” he says. In the “east parlor,” wingback chairs from Kennebunkport’s Nathaniel Lord Mansion pick up the rust tones in a Salvation Army rug. In the west parlor, Art Nouveau travel posters, found rolled up in a closet, bookend a treasure-filled antique cabinet from a Bridgton church.

Furnishings, intriguingly arranged by Litchfield, follow the architecture. Conversation pieces abound in the west parlor, where vintage handmade leather-and-wood chairs surround a marble Saarinen-style table. The wall behind exudes a Grand Tour vibe, with French Art Nouveau travel posters, found in the home (along with a previous owner’s journal, written from Paris in 1914), flanking an antique glass-front cabinet displaying Chinoiserie-style vases, Violette’s 19th-century leather-bound books, and Litchfield’s grandparents’ antique camera. In the more intimate east parlor, a modern clean-lined sectional mitigates the formality of velvet wingback chairs and Chinoiserie-inspired lamps. While in the dining area (one notch down in the woodwork hierarchy), Shaker chairs and a rustic table the couple assembled with antique floorboards for a surface juxtapose with Violette’s great-grandmother’s 1904 floral-patterned wedding china.

The dishes are arrayed in a closet with similar pieces belonging to a previous homeowner — perhaps the bespectacled woman with the glossy side buns and sheer bonnet or the girl in the puffed sleeves and velvet collar depicted in portraits the couple unearthed in the home and hung in a back hallway. “I wanted to hang them somewhere so they don’t haunt us,” Litchfield says.

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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