ABOVE In the living room, the couple uncovered bay window openings beneath drywall and installed new glazing and moldings. Their Chihuahua mix, Olive, perches on a West Elm sofa adorned with pillows and a quilt that Katharine made from fabric collected on foreign travels. “Fabric markets feel like a good way to get to know a place,” says Katharine, who grew up in London and Hong Kong.
TEXT BY SARAH STEBBINS
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIN LITTLE
Absolutely nothing you can see was here except the stairs,” Katharine Watson says from the living room in her 1894 Queen Anne, which is filled with seemingly original features. In 2015, she and her husband, Joe, purchased their fixer-upper in Portland’s Deering Center neighborhood for its large, flat yard, primed for raised beds, and a detached garage that would become a studio for Katharine’s block-printing business. They threw themselves into a renovation, but after removing dropped ceilings, drywall, faux-wood paneling, and layers of carpet, linoleum, and (alas!) water-damaged wood floors, they found the home’s historic charm wanting. So they improvised their own, in the form of ornate ceiling medallions and cast-iron radiators, carved moldings from a carpenter’s barn, salvaged doors, and stained-glass windows you’d swear had ornamented the place for a century.
Joe, the wine director for Rosemont Market & Bakery and a culinary school grad, wanted the kitchen to resemble an open-concept restaurant. Pre-COVID, friends often gathered at the soapstone island for tastings, complete with printed menus made by Katharine. An accent wall in Valspar’s Moon Shade shows off Joe’s copper pots. On the home’s exterior, Sherwin-Williams’s Oyster Bay and Chinese Red punch up the original shingles, which had been hidden beneath vinyl siding.
Shelving crafted by Whip Hubley, of Portland’s Barrett Made, frames the dining space furnished with a Portland Architectural Salvage cabinet, a rattan Serena & Lily pendant, and a pine table from the antique Dutch barge Katharine’s family lived on in London. Now she visits her parents on their Hong Kong houseboat.
A salvaged stained-glass window and pillows by Katharine and her mom punctuate the nook where the couple likes to host hot-pot parties, an Asian tradition in which raw ingredients are cooked in simmering broth on the table — in this case, IKEA butcher block atop an antique iron base.
One of the first purchases the couple made was a soaking tub for the upstairs bath. “If Katharine could spend 24 hours a day in water, she would,” Joe jokes. Prints by Meg Fatharly hang overhead. Downstairs, they turned a bedroom into a powder room with a sink made from an antique side table and a gallery wall incorporating Katharine’s paintings.
An antique rug from the boat Katharine grew up on, worn in the spot where she and her siblings used to sit to watch TV, grounds a dining table from Brunswick’s Cabot Mill Antiques that the couple trimmed to create a coffee table. Behind, a tree print by Red Tail Studios, photos of Katharine’s relatives on York Beach in the early 1900s, and a botanical print by Karin Rytter subtly contrast with Sherwin-Williams’s Tinsmith on the wall.
In the now-winterized garage, Katharine employs an antique printing press and mid-century paper cutter purchased on Craigslist that “unfortunately, we’ve had to move three times,” Joe says. The press’s former owner built his studio around it and had to cut a hole in the wall to get the machine out, a detail that jibes with the couple’s acquiring philosophy. “What we’ve always tried to go for is, nothing comes into the house unless it has a backstory,” Katharine says.