A Yarmouth Couple Regroups After Discovering Lead in Their Greek Revival
They moved out, then put their kitchen and living-room reno budget toward remediation.
ABOVEThe Fischers and their sons, Ross, 11, Drew, 8, and Lewis, 4, play in front of their Greek Revival, built by Captain Joseph Drinkwater in the mid-19th century. It remained in Joseph’s immediate family until 1873. In 1902, Captain Sumner Drinkwater, who was married to yet another Drinkwater, Alice, purchased the house and it stayed in their family for 77 years.
Sarah and Jeremy Fischer fell hard for the rambling 1844 Yarmouth farmhouse they toured in 2014. “But it was too much house and too much project for where we were at the time,” Sarah says. When a For Sale sign went up in the yard just two years later, however, they were ready. Over the course of seven months, the couple settled in, installed a new metal roof, shored up the barn, and planned a kitchen and family-room renovation. Then, the house slipped out of their grasp again. A test revealed elevated lead levels in their 18-month-old son’s blood, forcing the family to move out and put their reno budget toward stripping layers of lead paint from the original windows and doors and repainting every inch of the interior. They also removed dusty old carpeting and vinyl sheet flooring containing asbestos and refinished the pine flooring beneath. “I’m looking forward to a gorgeous new kitchen,” says Sarah, an interior designer who juxtaposed a playful palette with the home’s historic features, “but I’m grateful we could attend to what the house needs most.”
The low-ceilinged family room and adjacent keeping room (a Colonial-era term for a small gathering space off the kitchen) are targets of a future renovation. For now, Sarah is leaning into their inherent coziness with cushy sofas, such as the family room’s West Elm sectional. It faces a mahogany console with caned doors and a Samsung Frame TV disguised as a painting of clipper ships, a nod to the Yarmouth High School mascot and the home’s seafaring history.
The home’s original wavy-glass windows were a major source of lead dust, “but it broke my heart to imagine getting rid of them,” Sarah says. Fortunately, off-site remediation and repairs by Bath’s Jung Restoration weren’t much pricier than replacement windows. Benjamin Moore’s Chiswell Blue — a historic shade inspired by homes and artifacts found in Colonial Williamsburg — on the walls and woodwork adds drama to the small dining space, where Sarah matched a modern brass Target pendant with an antique oak table that hosts frequent rounds of The Game of Life.
Sarah pulled most of the home’s paint colors, including Benjamin Moore’s Soul Mate in the office-guest room, from her collection of vintage rugs, several of which came from family members. Many afternoons, her officemate is 8-year-old Drew, who likes to do art projects at a vintage school desk near her vintage Facebook Marketplace one. A canvas settee picks up the cobalt shades in the carpet and the carpet color samples on the wall. On the wall opposite the desk, the couple installed a murphy bed for guests.
In winter, the family huddles around the woodstove — the only heat source at this end of the first floor. A blanket chest, painted in Benjamin Moore’s Nova Scotia Blue, conceals firewood and pops against beadboard walls in the company’s Harwood Putty, while a window seat, added during the renovation, provides the warmest reading spot in the house.
Amid the lead remediation, the Fischers worked with Yarmouth’s Pearce Builders to update the boys’ bath, walling over a door and turning a vintage pine chest, unearthed at a Biddeford barn sale, into a vanity with a porcelain IKEA countertop. Hexagonal marble floor tile and a glass shower surround brighten the space, while a bench topped with one of the room’s original pine floorboards provides a seat and storage.
Crisp white woodwork sets off walls in Benjamin Moore’s Cochineal Red in Drew and Lewis’s room. According to a collection of letters from the home’s early owners, the chimney was leaking on the 1917 night when Sumner and Alice Drinkwater’s daughter, also named Alice, was born here. Sumner knocked down the chimney that very evening and patched the hole, and Alice went on to live a long, happy life in Yarmouth.
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