A Portland Second Empire Gets a Glow Up

A couple who loves to host trades tight Boston quarters for a 1900 place in the Forest City, but its jigsaw of dark rooms and small backyard needed reworking before party time.

Mackenzie Maher-Coville sitting in her remodeled Portland second empire living room
By Sara Anne Donnelly
Photos by Rachel Sieben
From the Spring 2023 issue of Maine Homes by Down East

Family Room

Portland second empire living/dining room before
Before

After Mackenzie Maher-Coville and Collins Dunn moved from a Boston apartment to a circa 1900 Portland Second Empire in 2016, “we thought about how to create a space that’s easy for people to connect in,” Maher-Coville says. To facilitate entertaining and feeding/supervising their kids, they worked with Portland architect James Gauthier, Windham contractor Tomasz Momot, and Saco designer Tina DiGiampietro to turn a dining room off the kitchen into a family room (above). New south-facing windows brighten the space and an extended wall accommodates a carved-wood daybed from Portland’s Asia West. A capiz chandelier echoes the motifs on the tin ceiling, painted an iridescent shade by South Portland’s Ralff & Sons, “that glows in the sunlight,” Maher-Coville says.

Before and after

Backyard

A sparse rectangle when the couple moved in, the yard wasn’t enticing as a play or hangout space. To complement a fenced lawn, accessed via a pergola-topped gate, they’d already put in, architect Gauthier’s wife, landscape architect Charlotte Maloney, worked with Maher-Coville to mitigate the yard’s right angles with a curvilinear hardscape, installed by Falmouth’s Gnome. A brick-and-bluestone medallion marks the entrance to the shed, which connects to a pergola-topped circular patio via a bluestone walkway. This spring, the couple plans to plant low-bush blueberries, native fruit trees, and vines that will drape the pergolas. “It won’t take tons of maintenance and it will look lovely,” Maloney says.

Before and after

Kitchen

The cookspace was dark, cramped, and busy, with four doors. Contractor Momot removed three of them, including one leading to a bath that became an open dining area, and added large windows where upper cabinets had been. Kayla Goddu, of Portland’s Kitchen Cove Design Studio, helped create visual balance with stained-oak base cabinets crowned with snowy uppers. Faux-soapstone quartz countertops evoke beach stones and the vertical lines on the tile backsplash, while a sculptural chandelier, selected by designer DiGiampietro, injects glamor. “Now, we can more easily have people over, and create the community we didn’t have in Boston,” Maher-Coville says.

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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