TEXT BY SARA ANNE DONNELLY
PHOTOGRAPHED BY LIZ DALY
Basically, it was a big, blank slate,” jeweler Andrew Xenos says of Dromore Grange, the landmark 1889 Phippsburg hall that he and his wife, fine-art printer Emma Sampson, renovated last spring. The barn-like space once hosted gatherings of farmers and their families. In recent years, it was a concert hall. By the time Xenos and Sampson, who met as students at Maine College of Art & Design, in Portland, stumbled across an online listing in the summer of 2020 touting the building’s “endless possibilities,” it had a stage and a second-floor studio apartment. “Like any artists, we were like, ‘Wouldn’t it be ideal to take a space and transform it?’” Sampson says. “We didn’t realize how difficult it would be.”
ABOVE Jeweler Andrew Xenos and fine-art printer Emma Sampson’s reimagined Grange hall in Phippsburg encompasses living and sleeping quarters on the second floor (top), and a kitchen, dining area, his-and-hers studios, and an artisan shop below.
The town wouldn’t permit the place for year-round occupancy until it met current winterization standards, which meant insulating, installing heat pumps, and replacing 17 windows and four exterior doors. All of which, along with demo, framing, and drywalling, had to be done in six months, as mandated by the couple’s Federal Housing Administration (FHA) renovation loan. Working with a contractor friend, they sketched out their multi-purpose vision with painter’s tape on the spruce floors: his-and-hers studios, an open kitchen and dining area, a gallery showcasing local goods on the lower level, and two bedrooms and a living space above. “The idea is that when you walk in, it’s very homey, because it’s our home, but it’s also inviting for people to look around at what we have to offer,” says Sampson, who hopes to introduce workshops and artist gatherings soon.
On a typical day, a visitor might find the teak dining table set for dinner with vintage and locally made ceramics for sale, one of the couple’s two dogs lounging by the woodstove, and Sampson and Xenos working in their studios near displays of their jewelry and prints, along with woodenware and paintings by other local artists. They might smell Sampson’s berry pies mingling with the scent of juniper and driftwood candles by Xenos’s cousin, Taylor Xenos, both of which, pies and candles, are available for purchase. “People like to hang out,” Sampson says. “They might sit and chat, ask about the space, who the artists are. They take their time.”