TEXT BY SARAH STEBBINS
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIN LITTLE
A dated, dysfunctional master suite becomes a contemporary oasis in a historic home designed by architectural greats.
When famous architects designed your home, certain decisions are out of your hands. Portlanders Ali Malone and Ben Ray wouldn’t dream of touching most of the Douglas fir woodwork in their 1904 Arts and Crafts house, built by John Calvin Stevens’s son/partner, John Howard, for his family — even though, “if we were to design a house, we would not be in the dark-trim camp,” Malone says. Ditto for the office closet marked with the Stevens family’s heights and notes about who was wearing shoes.
But the master suite was another story. A warren of small rooms with dropped ceilings and 1970s bath fittings, the space had long since lost its historic luster. The parents to Atticus, 6, and Harlow, 3, saw an opportunity to carve out a spot that “feels like us,” says Malone, a broker with Portside Real Estate Group. They worked with architect Matthew Ahlberg, of Portland design-build firm Barrett Made, to streamline the rooms, expand the bath, and expose the bedroom ceiling beams. White walls and trim provide “a refuge” from heavy wood and are a great backdrop for art, says Ben, who runs Evangeline Linens out of the house.
The bedroom features blankets from Evangeline Linens, a Bertoia Diamond chair, small paintings by Cape Elizabeth’s Laurie Fisher, and a metal bench and Lucite lamps nabbed at Marden’s. Northport’s Block Brothers Custom Cabinets crafted the bathroom casework; Portland’s Paul G. White Company provided the marble countertops; and Old Port Specialty Tile in Portland supplied the marble floor and shower tile. The steam shower components came from — who would have thunk it? — Marden’s.
Pre-renovation, the couple received a tip about a primo Marden’s shipment. “It was a who’s who of design people in the parking lot,” says Malone, who got a strikingly grained, wooden H.D. Buttercup bed, nightstand, and dresser, gilded metal bench, and a Lucite-framed Paule Marrot print right off the truck.
Now pregnant with her third child, Malone has a new appreciation for her spa-like space. “I have a tub, steam shower, I’m good.”