TEXT BY MICHAELA CAVALLARO
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIN LITTLE
“We lucked out and landed a place that came with a bit of a family,” says Madeline Backman, referring to the 1880s Yarmouth farmhouse she and her husband, Dan, bought in 2021. One set of previous owners showed up unannounced to plow the Backmans’ driveway during the year’s first big snow; the daughter of another former owner babysits their kids, Pepper, 4, and Levi 8.“Everyone has been so kind, and they love the house so much,” Madeline says. “It feels like we’re the next stewards of this place, and we have to continue to do it justice.”
While also making it their own. Transplants from California’s Sonoma County, the couple sought out southern Maine to be closer to Dan’s family in Boston, where he grew up.
ABOVE 1) A copper vent-hood wrap by Falmouth’s Vertex Specialty Fabrications and an antique brass chandelier provide earthy counterpoints to kitchen cabinets in Benjamin Moore’s Queen Anne Pink, crafted by Northport’s Block Brothers Custom Cabinets. 2) Doors in Benjamin Moore’s Sea Green hint at the cheerful palette inside. 3) Kitchen trim in Queen Anne Pink, like the cabinets, subtly pops against walls in the company’s White Dove. The Kalon stools are wonderfully rustic, like the table from Portland Architectural Salvage.
They spent a summer in a Portland rental while overseeing renovations sketched out by Dan, an architect — straightening out a zig-zagging upstairs hallway, updating the primary bath, and adding a second full bath for the kids. Last summer, they reimagined the kitchen. Every room balances their reverence for the home’s history with a penchant for whimsical color schemes. While they’ve traditionally leaned toward deep greens, Maine’s long, gray winters call for a “light, airy, bright vibe,” says Madeline, who selected a minty shade for the entry walls and woodwork. In the dining room, wainscoting, casings, crown molding, and a built-in china cabinet sport leafy-green paint pulled from exuberant nasturtium-patterned wallpaper. And in the primary bath, sage-colored moldings and paneled walls conjure burnished sea glass.
ABOVE 1) In the kids’ bath, whimsical tile from American Restoration Tile references Rifle Paper Co.’s Wildwood print, while Benjamin Moore’s Lake Placid on the woodwork and on a Portland Architectural Salvage tub imposes a unifying color scheme. 2) In the primary bath, painted in Benjamin Moore’s Nob Hill Sage, an Anthropologie sconce echoes the motifs in tile from American Restoration Tile; the earthenware sink is from Nor’East Architectural Antiques, in New Hampshire. 3) In the living room, ceramic masks made by the couple’s kids mingle with wooden ones from the Hollywood Flea Market, a trio of Julie Cloutier works, antiques-store art, and an antique channel-back chair.
Elsewhere, soft pink — “my happiest color,” Madeline says — packs a complementary punch. “I love using it in ways that feel surprising.” Say, in light and dark iterations on walls and woodwork, respectively, in the upstairs hallway; in a monochromatic embrace in the family room, where even the upholstery matches; and on cabinets and trim in the eat-in kitchen. Here, beadboard and ornate tin ceilings — the latter a happy surprise discovered beneath a drop ceiling — subtly divide the room, furnished with a pair of beadboard-backed shelving units with wavy trim. Inspired by antique hutches, the design was initially a bit outside Northport cabinetmaker Ben Block’s comfort zone. But after several rounds of renderings, he had a concept everyone was pleased with. “It achieves the aesthetic they were going for without compromising the ability to be timeless,” Block says. Beneath maple butcher-block countertops, his team built Shaker-style inset cabinets with feet, which makes them look “more like furniture and less like off-the-shelf cabinets,” Block says.
ABOVE 1) The living room layers rose tones on walls in Benjamin Moore’s Tissue Pink and Coastal Cottage (on the trim and below the chair rail); an Interior Define sectional; a Kalon toddler bed; and a rug from The Citizenry. The framed paintings are by Julie Cloutier and the still life is by Gloria Ross, Dan’s aunt. 2) The couple relaxes in a sitting room outfitted with a vibrant loveseat from Interior Define and Madeline’s grandmother’s mid-century coffee table, which grew on Dan after Madeline stripped the “ghastly blue” paint she’d brushed on as a teen. 3) A rainbow, painted by Madeline, arches over an antique spool bed in Pepper’s room.
Many of the home’s furnishings are hand-me-downs, or pieces the couple repurposed or purchased secondhand. “In the past, we’ve gravitated toward mid-century stuff,” Dan says. “We still love that, but with this farmhouse style, we needed to blend in more traditional items too.” They spotted the rustic wooden kitchen table at Portland Architectural Salvage, drawn to the scuffs and dents from its former life at a Cleveland bakery. The kids’ sleek, pale-wood toddler bed serves as a mini-sofa in the family room, where it echoes the lines on a mid-century Lane Furniture coffee table the couple picked up at a northern California antiques fair. Brass Hollywood Regency–style chandeliers in the kitchen and dining room, found at Massachusetts’s Brimfield flea market and on eBay, subtly reinforce the home’s botanical motifs.
Upstairs, Madeline painted a giant rainbow over Pepper’s antique spool bed, which Dan bought from its 100-year-old original owner on Facebook Marketplace. The combo fits both their style — “eclectic, and hopefully happy and comfortable,” Madeline says — and the historic home they’re watching over for the next generation.