House Tour

Room to Grow

With creative renovations and modern flourishes, a Portland triple-decker becomes an airy, easygoing home for a young family.

TEXT BY PETRA GUGLIELMETTI
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIN LITTLE
the living room of a renovated triple-decker Victorian in Portland Maine

ABOVE A painting by Portland designer Heidi Lachapelle’s husband, Louis-Pierre Lachapelle, crowns the Anthropologie daybed in the playroom, which also features John Robshaw pillows and a cotton-sisal West Elm rug.

Picture the perfect house for a family with small children and a triple-decker Victorian with three separate staircases probably doesn’t come to mind. Yet when Mollie and Evan Barnathan were house hunting in 2017— baby and toddler in tow — they could envision their future in this 1886 brick townhouse in Portland’s West End. Sure, the layout had its quirks: the first floor was dominated by a tricky-to-decorate double living space and the second by an “unnecessarily gigantic” master suite, while the third level, which had once functioned as a therapist’s office, had only a closet-size half-bath. But the place also boasted patinaed hardwood floors and elaborately carved woodwork, and it checked crucial boxes on the couple’s wish list, including off-street parking, a small yard, and proximity to Evan’s work.

Originally from the Boston and Philadelphia areas, respectively, Mollie and Evan had been renting in the West End for three years while Evan completed his family-medicine residency at Maine Medical Center. After he opted to continue his training there, they looked at houses to buy in the suburbs, but soon realized “just how much we love what we have in the West End,” says Mollie, a postpartum doula. “You get a fairly urban living experience, but without the traffic or chaos or madness [of bigger cities].”

LEFT TO RIGHT 1) Sleek West Elm armchairs in Mollie and Evan Barnathan’s Portland living room swivel to face an adjacent playroom; an Anthropologie Persian rug in Mollie’s favorite shade and a Serena & Lily globe pendant add bohemian flair. 2) Anthropologie wallpaper enlivens the kids’ bath, furnished with a vintage dresser made into a vanity and vintage rug from Portia’s Barn in Portland. 3) In the entry, purple migrated from the staircase, where it once covered the trim, to an antique cabinet that was painted and attached to the wall. 4) A nursery window seat topped with Rifle Paper Co. fabric corrals toys.

Their new home, on the other hand, with its Crayola palette of bright yellows, oranges, and blues on the walls and purple trim on the main staircase, was chaotic. Overwhelmed, the couple turned to Portland interior designer Heidi Lachapelle, who recommended a mostly white-and-gray paint scheme. “And I guess that could have been the end of it,” Mollie says with a laugh. Instead, they worked together to open up and modernize one room after another, removing interior doors, swapping bulky shutters for translucent Roman shades, and installing sculptural light fixtures. Strategic furniture arranging helped diminish the scale of the master bedroom, and one of the living rooms became a functional-yet-chic play area with a daybed covered with a fitted sheet and bohemian, block-printed pillows and a giant built-in — repainted a vivid teal — devoted to toy storage.

Lachapelle and her business partner (slash sister-in-law), Katie Judkins, helped the Barnathans weave their existing furnishings into the funky, eclectic scheme, pairing, for example, their hand-me-down roll-arm sofa with mod swivel armchairs in the living area and their turned-leg farmhouse table with fuchsia velvet seats in the dining room. When it came to bold statements, like the dining chairs, playroom built-in, and splashy botanical wallpaper used in two baths, Lachapelle was a tiebreaker. “Whenever there was something that was a little out there and Evan would say he wasn’t sure, I’d be like, ‘Well, Heidi says it’s cool,’ and he’d say, ‘OK,’” Mollie jokes. Adds Lachapelle, “we balanced the moments of energetic color with calm and grounding neutrals, so it works.”

LEFT TO RIGHT 1) The powder room always looks fresh, thanks to bold Anthropologie wallpaper Lachapelle paired with a vintage mirror from Portland Flea-For-All and a Rejuvenation sconce. 2) In the living room, an Anthropologie velvet chair pops against the home’s dominant paint color — Sherwin-Williams’s Grayish, which Lachapelle loves for its warm yet crisp look. 3) A cloud-like sheepskin rug and capiz-shell pendant complement the rainbow theme in Mollie and Evan’s 3-year-old’s room. 4) In the dining room, another Louis-Pierre Lachapelle painting distills the nearby palette, including Sherwin-Williams’ Lagoon on the playroom built-in and fuchsia on the Anthropologie chairs; the chandelier is from Pottery Barn. 5) Another painting by Portland designer Heidi Lachapelle’s husband, Louis-Pierre Lachapelle, crowns the piano.

The home’s transformation gained momentum a year in, when Mollie and Evan decided to have their third child and renovate the third floor to accommodate another bedroom and full bath for their brood. Lachapelle connected them with Portland contractor Michael Monsell, who closed off a superfluous staircase and solved multiple spatial conundrums created by the space’s vaulted ceilings with clever built-in storage and skylights. “Now, the light that comes in when we’re getting the kids ready for bed is so beautiful,” Evan says. While they were at it (and while plumbing was exposed), the couple had Monsell and Lachapelle update their master bath with heated marble floors, a marble-topped double vanity, glassed-in shower, and soaking tub.

The result of their collective efforts is an old-meets-new urban home that has charm — and, yes, stairs — to spare. “I was definitely apprehensive about those, but we run up and down them all the time, and it’s been OK,” Mollie says. “We’ll see what happens when we’re 70!”

Room to Grow

With creative renovations and modern flourishes, a Portland triple-decker becomes an airy, easygoing home for a young family.

the living room of a renovated triple-decker Victorian in Portland Maine

ABOVE A painting by Portland designer Heidi Lachapelle’s husband, Louis-Pierre Lachapelle, crowns the Anthropologie daybed in the playroom, which also features John Robshaw pillows and a cotton-sisal West Elm rug.

TEXT BY PETRA GUGLIELMETTI
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIN LITTLE

Picture the perfect house for a family with small children and a triple-decker Victorian with three separate staircases probably doesn’t come to mind. Yet when Mollie and Evan Barnathan were house hunting in 2017— baby and toddler in tow — they could envision their future in this 1886 brick townhouse in Portland’s West End. Sure, the layout had its quirks: the first floor was dominated by a tricky-to-decorate double living space and the second by an “unnecessarily gigantic” master suite, while the third level, which had once functioned as a therapist’s office, had only a closet-size half-bath. But the place also boasted patinaed hardwood floors and elaborately carved woodwork, and it checked crucial boxes on the couple’s wish list, including off-street parking, a small yard, and proximity to Evan’s work.

Originally from the Boston and Philadelphia areas, respectively, Mollie and Evan had been renting in the West End for three years while Evan completed his family-medicine residency at Maine Medical Center. After he opted to continue his training there, they looked at houses to buy in the suburbs, but soon realized “just how much we love what we have in the West End,” says Mollie, a postpartum doula. “You get a fairly urban living experience, but without the traffic or chaos or madness [of bigger cities].”

ABOVE Mollie loves a modern farmhouse vibe, which influenced the redesign of the master suite, outfitted with a sliding barn door. Benjamin Moore’s Baby Seal Black on the vanity, a moody marsh scene by Portland photographer Natalya DeSena, and a striped throw from Portland’s Home Remedies provide nautical notes.

Their new home, on the other hand, with its Crayola palette of bright yellows, oranges, and blues on the walls and purple trim on the main staircase, was chaotic. Overwhelmed, the couple turned to Portland interior designer Heidi Lachapelle, who recommended a mostly white-and-gray paint scheme. “And I guess that could have been the end of it,” Mollie says with a laugh. Instead, they worked together to open up and modernize one room after another, removing interior doors, swapping bulky shutters for translucent Roman shades, and installing sculptural light fixtures. Strategic furniture arranging helped diminish the scale of the master bedroom, and one of the living rooms became a functional-yet-chic play area with a daybed covered with a fitted sheet and bohemian, block-printed pillows and a giant built-in — repainted a vivid teal — devoted to toy storage.

Lachapelle and her business partner (slash sister-in-law), Katie Judkins, helped the Barnathans weave their existing furnishings into the funky, eclectic scheme, pairing, for example, their hand-me-down roll-arm sofa with mod swivel armchairs in the living area and their turned-leg farmhouse table with fuchsia velvet seats in the dining room. When it came to bold statements, like the dining chairs, playroom built-in, and splashy botanical wallpaper used in two baths, Lachapelle was a tiebreaker. “Whenever there was something that was a little out there and Evan would say he wasn’t sure, I’d be like, ‘Well, Heidi says it’s cool,’ and he’d say, ‘OK,’” Mollie jokes. Adds Lachapelle, “we balanced the moments of energetic color with calm and grounding neutrals, so it works.”

ABOVE 1) Sleek West Elm armchairs in Mollie and Evan Barnathan’s Portland living room swivel to face an adjacent playroom; an Anthropologie Persian rug in Mollie’s favorite shade and a Serena & Lily globe pendant add bohemian flair. 2) Anthropologie wallpaper enlivens the kids’ bath, furnished with a vintage dresser made into a vanity and vintage rug from Portia’s Barn in Portland. 3) In the entry, purple migrated from the staircase, where it once covered the trim, to an antique cabinet that was painted and attached to the wall. 4) A nursery window seat topped with Rifle Paper Co. fabric corrals toys.

The home’s transformation gained momentum a year in, when Mollie and Evan decided to have their third child and renovate the third floor to accommodate another bedroom and full bath for their brood. Lachapelle connected them with Portland contractor Michael Monsell, who closed off a superfluous staircase and solved multiple spatial conundrums created by the space’s vaulted ceilings with clever built-in storage and skylights. “Now, the light that comes in when we’re getting the kids ready for bed is so beautiful,” Evan says. While they were at it (and while plumbing was exposed), the couple had Monsell and Lachapelle update their master bath with heated marble floors, a marble-topped double vanity, glassed-in shower, and soaking tub.

The result of their collective efforts is an old-meets-new urban home that has charm — and, yes, stairs — to spare. “I was definitely apprehensive about those, but we run up and down them all the time, and it’s been OK,” Mollie says. “We’ll see what happens when we’re 70!”

ABOVE 1) The powder room always looks fresh, thanks to bold Anthropologie wallpaper Lachapelle paired with a vintage mirror from Portland Flea-For-All and a Rejuvenation sconce. 2) In the living room, an Anthropologie velvet chair pops against the home’s dominant paint color — Sherwin-Williams’s Grayish, which Lachapelle loves for its warm yet crisp look. 3) A cloud-like sheepskin rug and capiz-shell pendant complement the rainbow theme in Mollie and Evan’s 3-year-old’s room. 4) In the dining room, another Louis-Pierre Lachapelle painting distills the nearby palette, including Sherwin-Williams’ Lagoon on the playroom built-in and fuchsia on the Anthropologie chairs; the chandelier is from Pottery Barn. 5) Another painting by Portland designer Heidi Lachapelle’s husband, Louis-Pierre Lachapelle, crowns the piano.


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