House Tour

The Funhouse

Visual thrills await around every corner in a Portland couple’s colorful, historic home.

TEXT BY SARA ANNE DONNELLY
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MICHAEL D. WILSON
Ayumi Horie and Chloe Horie

ABOVE The couple poses before a mural Ayumi painted in the guest room/nursery.

The Martin Hawes House in Portland’s Stroudwater neighborhood looks serious. It’s the area’s only brick structure, a Greek Revival built in 1835, with a façade so austere, so plain, the non-profit preservation group Greater Portland Landmarks has compared it to a mill building. Even the positioning of the home, with the gable end facing the street, seems to shrink from any hint of “look at me.” But should you pass by at night, you might notice the living room walls, visible through a pair of six-over-six windows overlooking the road, glowing a brazen, cartoonish, quite unserious red. “The best part,” homeowner Ayumi Horie says, “is it looks like a brothel.”

Ayumi and her wife, Chloe, sit in their cozy maple-and-birch kitchen on a recent evening, their Boston terrier, Clover, wandering idly at their feet. Next door, the Tate House Museum stands as an elegant monument to pre–Revolutionary War history. But here in this decided non-museum, why not make the walls “visceral”? Ayumi says. Instinct led the Hories to a palette of warm, saturated colors that, by nature, appear to spring forward and envelop you — a vivid marigold in the office, bubblegum pink in the hallway, and that jezebel red in the living room. “We want to be good stewards,” Ayumi says, “but at the same time, we don’t want to take the historical authenticity too seriously.”

And so, inside this most staid of Stroudwater homes, Ayumi, a potter, and Chloe, a performance artist and teacher, have created a kind of funhouse designed to amuse, stir, and surprise. Take the kitchen, originally a dark, low-ceilinged space. Working with Portland carpenter Greg Frangoulis, the couple removed an adjacent bathroom and pantry, added two east-facing windows, and tore out a second-floor studio to create a cathedral ceiling. A towering woodstove smokestack, spiral staircase, and eight pendants dangling from braided cords enhance the verticality. A stark contrast with the rest of the house, with its period proportions and woodwork, the kitchen’s sudden height and newness give you a jolt.

ABOVE A gradation of Behr shades — Indiscreet in the living room, Old Fashioned Pink in the entry, and Solar Fusion in the office — enlivens Ayumi and Chloe Horie’s home. A commissioned painting by Michael X. Rose of famous monsters pillaging the Hories’ neighborhood crowns the living room’s pellet stove. 

pachinko
mug collection
Taiji Harada silkscreen

LEFT TO RIGHT A 1970s-era Japanese pachinko game punctuates the office; the Hories’ collection of antique and contemporary mugs, displayed in the kitchen, includes works by more than 17 artists, including Klai Brown, Lydia Johnson, and Akio Takamori; a silkscreen by Taiji Harada graces the dining area; a curvaceous railing provides an elegant counterpoint to rustic pumpkin-pine flooring in the stairwell.

BELOW A 1970s-era Japanese pachinko game punctuates the office; the Hories’ collection of antique and contemporary mugs, displayed in the kitchen, includes works by more than 17 artists, including Klai Brown, Lydia Johnson, and Akio Takamori; a silkscreen by Taiji Harada graces the dining area; a curvaceous railing provides an elegant counterpoint to rustic pumpkin-pine flooring in the stairwell.

Then there are the myriad curiosities, arrayed like visual sparks throughout the home: a giant koinobori (Japanese carp-shaped windsock) over the kitchen sink; a 1960s-era Shiatsu massage chair and commissioned painting of King Kong, Godzilla, and Moby Dick wreaking havoc on the Hories’ neighborhood in the living room; a Japanese pachinko game and stuffed grouse mounted as wall art in the office; and a sculpture of a soft-serve ice cream cone in the hallway. “They represent our life,” Chloe says. “These objects from our marriage and pre-marriage coming together to form our house.”

Every inch of the home is prized in the mix: porcelain flowers, made by Ayumi, serve as newel caps on the spiral staircase, a small seascape by Round Pond’s Hazel Raby hangs over Clover’s bowl, and a coin-size Civil War token fills a knot in the bathroom’s pine floor. “Objects enter our lives in bits and pieces,” Ayumi says, “and if we need something, we both take a lot of time to research and develop an eye for whatever object that is. It took me 10 years to find the right pepper mill. (The winner: a sculptural wood-and-enamel model by William Bounds.)

Soon, the Hories might not have the luxury of spending a decade deliberating over kitchen gadgets. There’s a new resident on the way, and she is already fast-tracking decorating decisions. The couple has been hard at work on a nursery featuring a stenciled, smoke-breathing dragon Ayumi designed with a multiplication table on its coiled body. “It’s fun to think about how our house is shifting now that the baby’s coming,“ Chloe says. “Now it’s not only a narrative of two lives coming together, but a narrative of a family growing together.”

ABOVE Portland contractor Peter Floeckher crafted the maple and birch kitchen cabinets, which feature pulls Ayumi made out of leather from the Rancourt shoe factory in Lewiston, where she grew up. The soft, stainless-steel countertops are easy on precious dishes.


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