Home Design

Mid-Century Modern Love

Experienced renovators help an iconic former party pad in Cape Elizabeth get its groove back.

TEXT BY SARA ANNE DONNELLY
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JAMES R. SALOMON
Laurel and Richard LaBauve’s Cape Elizabeth modern den

ABOVE In Laurel and Richard LaBauve’s Cape Elizabeth den, rescue dog Petie rests before a fireplace faced in groovy terracotta tile from Portland’s Distinctive Tile & Design. Laurel modeled the modular mahogany bookcase on designs by iconic mid-century architect Finn Juhl.

The name of Laurel and Richard LaBauve’s home renovation company, SoPo Cottage, neatly sums up their niche. The two have rehabbed and sold 14 old cottagey houses in South Portland, wowing readers of Laurel’s blog and her 4,200 Facebook fans with before-and-after photos that showcase her facility with beadboard paneling, beachy palettes, and opening up floor plans. But in the last few years, Laurel began harboring a passion for mid-century modern style, writing on her blog in 2018, “I wish I could find a MCM house in SoPo to renovate. I think it would be a blast!! But we don’t seem to have many examples in our area.”

Laurel and Richard LaBauve of SoPo Cottage

A short time later, the universe responded with the Holy Grail of mid-century homes, freshly on the market: a 4,300-square-foot split-level ranch in Cape Elizabeth designed and owned by John Leasure, the architect responsible for such local MCM landmarks as Portland’s Franklin Towers, the South Portland Public Library, and Cape Elizabeth’s St. Bartholomew Church. The LaBauves had been casually looking for a larger home to better accommodate their growing business and family, which includes three young grandchildren, and this one filled the bill. “And it’s not like we could have said, ‘We’ll just wait for the next amazing mid-century house to come on the market,’” Laurel says.

4,300-square-foot split-level mid-century modern ranch in Cape Elizabeth designed and owned by John Leasure

ABOVE The east side of the home features a wall of floor-to-ceiling glass doors.

FROM LEFT A black board-and-batten-paneled wall Laurel designed gives the illusion of height in an angled guest bedroom, while in the guest bath, a mosaic-tile backsplash from Portland’s Paul White Company adds dimension to a floating Fresca vanity. South Portland’s Waterhouse Builders implemented Laurel’s kitchen design, which includes a Walker Zanger mosaic-tile backsplash in Stardust (as in Ziggy) and Snow Storm quartz countertops, chosen for their durability and resemblance to era-appropriate Formica. A brass Sputnik chandelier and leather-and-brass CB2 stools round out the thoughtful homage.

Perched on a wooded granite ledge, the home was Leasure’s pride and joy. He tinkered with the design for three years before construction was completed in 1972. The architect and his wife raised six children here (The Brady Bunch parallels are real) and threw some epic parties. And how could they not? Their house had a 41-foot-long sunken great room with a hanging fireplace, two koi ponds, electric-blue shag carpeting, and a wall of sliding glass doors fronting an expansive deck; a stainless-steel bar sink with built-in bottle holders; and a bedroom whose black-and-white wallpaper repeatedly spelled “mushroom.” “We talked to somebody who was here for a party where someone drove a Harley-Davidson into the house, around the fireplace, and back outside again,” Laurel says with a laugh.

Alas — buzzkill alert — the house needed a lot of work to be party-ready again. “Usually we’re pretty good at estimating,” Richard says. “But we didn’t realize how much had to be done behind the cosmetic part.” They had to rewire the entire house due to a squirrel infestation, beef up the insulation, replace most of the glazing, rebuild the rotted deck, and — wah wah — fill in the koi ponds to address a pervasive moisture problem. Though they can typically renovate a house in six months or less, this one took 17, and the new western red-cedar siding still needs to be put on.

structural wooden beams framing the great room fireplace that were carved and bolted to resemble steel

ABOVE Architect and previous owner John Leasure incorporated commercial design elements into the home, including the structural wooden beams framing the great room fireplace that were carved and bolted to resemble steel. On the far wall, art by Angela Adams, painted black by the homeowners, helps soften the beams’ angularity. A rubber tree that previously grew in the floor and a lush fern recall the room’s former koi ponds.

On the plus side, most of the design was worth preserving — like the central open kitchen, a key mid-century innovation; the bar area with its original cocktail-glass-patterned wallpaper and bottle-holding sink; and the thick mahogany-stained rail that runs the length of a dramatic cantilevered mezzanine in the great room. “We’ve tried to keep the essence of Leasure’s design because we feel like we’re living in a bit of Maine history,” Laurel says. “There are so few mid-century modern homes in particular done by Maine architects.”

The combination of Leasure’s vision and Laurel’s careful curation is unapologetically one-note: Everything from the low-profile furniture, to the sluicy ovals in an Angela Adams wall decoration, to the vintage gold-leaf tumblers in the bar speaks of a fangirl enthusiasm for The Brady Bunch era, juxtaposed with a Scandi palette of cool-white walls, buttery wood finishes, and playful textural elements like black-and-white mosaic tiling and, in the master bedroom, a creamy, three-dimensional bagasse wall panel bearing groovy, oversized florets.

Last May, with the renovation mostly behind them, the LaBauves were ready to reclaim the home’s party-pad mantel. Fifty guests donned retro garb and danced to the Beatles and Glen Campbell while psychedelic images flashed on the great room’s television. No one rolled through the front door on a Harley, but as revelers tossed back Singapore Slings late into the night, one imagines Leasure would be proud.

Mid-Century Modern Love

Experienced renovators help an iconic former party pad in Cape Elizabeth get its groove back.

Laurel and Richard LaBauve’s Cape Elizabeth modern den

ABOVE In Laurel and Richard LaBauve’s Cape Elizabeth den, rescue dog Petie rests before a fireplace faced in groovy terracotta tile from Portland’s Distinctive Tile & Design. Laurel modeled the modular mahogany bookcase on designs by iconic mid-century architect Finn Juhl.

TEXT BY SARA ANNE DONNELLY
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JAMES R. SALOMON

The name of Laurel and Richard LaBauve’s home renovation company, SoPo Cottage, neatly sums up their niche. The two have rehabbed and sold 14 old cottagey houses in South Portland, wowing readers of Laurel’s blog and her 4,200 Facebook fans with before-and-after photos that showcase her facility with beadboard paneling, beachy palettes, and opening up floor plans. But in the last few years, Laurel began harboring a passion for mid-century modern style, writing on her blog in 2018, “I wish I could find a MCM house in SoPo to renovate. I think it would be a blast!! But we don’t seem to have many examples in our area.”

A short time later, the universe responded with the Holy Grail of mid-century homes, freshly on the market: a 4,300-square-foot split-level ranch in Cape Elizabeth designed and owned by John Leasure, the architect responsible for such local MCM landmarks as Portland’s Franklin Towers, the South Portland Public Library, and Cape Elizabeth’s St. Bartholomew Church. The LaBauves had been casually looking for a larger home to better accommodate their growing business and family, which includes three young grandchildren, and this one filled the bill. “And it’s not like we could have said, ‘We’ll just wait for the next amazing mid-century house to come on the market,’” Laurel says.

4,300-square-foot split-level mid-century modern ranch in Cape Elizabeth designed and owned by John Leasure

ABOVE The east side of the home features a wall of floor-to-ceiling glass doors. BELOW Laurel and Richard LaBauve sit the 4,300-square-foot split-level ranch’s living room. 

Laurel and Richard LaBauve of SoPo Cottage

Perched on a wooded granite ledge, the home was Leasure’s pride and joy. He tinkered with the design for three years before construction was completed in 1972. The architect and his wife raised six children here (The Brady Bunch parallels are real) and threw some epic parties. And how could they not? Their house had a 41-foot-long sunken great room with a hanging fireplace, two koi ponds, electric-blue shag carpeting, and a wall of sliding glass doors fronting an expansive deck; a stainless-steel bar sink with built-in bottle holders; and a bedroom whose black-and-white wallpaper repeatedly spelled “mushroom.” “We talked to somebody who was here for a party where someone drove a Harley-Davidson into the house, around the fireplace, and back outside again,” Laurel says with a laugh.

Alas — buzzkill alert — the house needed a lot of work to be party-ready again. “Usually we’re pretty good at estimating,” Richard says. “But we didn’t realize how much had to be done behind the cosmetic part.” They had to rewire the entire house due to a squirrel infestation, beef up the insulation, replace most of the glazing, rebuild the rotted deck, and — wah wah — fill in the koi ponds to address a pervasive moisture problem. Though they can typically renovate a house in six months or less, this one took 17, and the new western red-cedar siding still needs to be put on.

ABOVE A black board-and-batten-paneled wall Laurel designed gives the illusion of height in an angled guest bedroom, while in the guest bath, a mosaic-tile backsplash from Portland’s Paul White Company adds dimension to a floating Fresca vanity.

On the plus side, most of the design was worth preserving — like the central open kitchen, a key mid-century innovation; the bar area with its original cocktail-glass-patterned wallpaper and bottle-holding sink; and the thick mahogany-stained rail that runs the length of a dramatic cantilevered mezzanine in the great room. “We’ve tried to keep the essence of Leasure’s design because we feel like we’re living in a bit of Maine history,” Laurel says. “There are so few mid-century modern homes in particular done by Maine architects.”

The combination of Leasure’s vision and Laurel’s careful curation is unapologetically one-note: Everything from the low-profile furniture, to the sluicy ovals in an Angela Adams wall decoration, to the vintage gold-leaf tumblers in the bar speaks of a fangirl enthusiasm for The Brady Bunch era, juxtaposed with a Scandi palette of cool-white walls, buttery wood finishes, and playful textural elements like black-and-white mosaic tiling and, in the master bedroom, a creamy, three-dimensional bagasse wall panel bearing groovy, oversized florets.

ABOVE South Portland’s Waterhouse Builders implemented Laurel’s kitchen design, which includes a Walker Zanger mosaic-tile backsplash in Stardust (as in Ziggy) and Snow Storm quartz countertops, chosen for their durability and resemblance to era-appropriate Formica. A brass Sputnik chandelier and leather-and-brass CB2 stools round out the thoughtful homage.

Last May, with the renovation mostly behind them, the LaBauves were ready to reclaim the home’s party-pad mantel. Fifty guests donned retro garb and danced to the Beatles and Glen Campbell while psychedelic images flashed on the great room’s television. No one rolled through the front door on a Harley, but as revelers tossed back Singapore Slings late into the night, one imagines Leasure would be proud.

structural wooden beams framing the great room fireplace that were carved and bolted to resemble steel

ABOVE Architect and previous owner John Leasure incorporated commercial design elements into the home, including the structural wooden beams framing the great room fireplace that were carved and bolted to resemble steel. On the far wall, art by Angela Adams, painted black by the homeowners, helps soften the beams’ angularity. A rubber tree that previously grew in the floor and a lush fern recall the room’s former koi ponds.


One Comment

  1. Laurel and Richard have impeccable taste for design. Would love to see more photos of this property and some of their projects highlighted on MaineHomes!

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