Before & After

They Call This Carriage House Home

Architectural flourishes punch up a Rutherford Island carriage house whose character had been buried beneath Sheetrock.

ABOVE “Remodels on a dime, that should be my future, advising people,” Michelle Peele says. Among her tricks: adding inexpensive hemlock beams that “look reclaimed,” painting shelf backs a contrasting shade so displays pop, and updating cabinet hardware (below). An encaustic by Peele on the mantel and paintings by Portland’s Henry Isaacs (below) energize her neutral palette.

ABOVE “Remodels on a dime, that should be my future, advising people,” Michelle Peele says. Among her tricks: adding inexpensive hemlock beams that “look reclaimed,” painting shelf backs a contrasting shade so displays pop, and updating cabinet hardware (below). An encaustic by Peele on the mantel and paintings by Portland’s Henry Isaacs (below) energize her neutral palette.

TEXT BY SARAH STEBBINS
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MEREDITH PERDUE

When we last met Michelle Peele, she was living in a rehabbed Cape on 18 acres in Alna — and hedging about whether she’d stay. “Something would have to jump out at me,” she said early last year when we featured the Alna place — the 15th house she and her husband, Ed, had renovated together. That was before she tore a hamstring and broke her foot on the ice around the property and the arthritis in her hands forced her to retire her floral design business. “I thought, ‘how do I want the perfect last part of my life to go?’” The answer led her to house number 16: a 1927 English-style cottage in her hometown of Southern Pines, North Carolina, where she and Ed now ride out winters. And 17: a 1900s former carriage house on South Bristol’s Rutherford Island, where they spend the rest of the year.

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Set on a half acre and a sensible 1,400 square feet, the carriage house felt like the right downsizing move. The previous owner was in the process of making the erstwhile vehicle quarters livable, but Michelle and Ed have a renovating system, and distinct style. “So I said, ‘We’ll buy it, but you have to stop working on it,’” she says. They started by layering shiplap and stained hemlock beams over newly installed drywall in the living area and kitchen — “Too much Sheetrock looks like a big ol’ gypsum box,” Michelle says. Built-in living room shelving and a 10-foot-tall whitewashed-brick chimney with a hemlock mantel and gas fireplace lend more architectural oomph. In the kitchen, they swapped a door for a casement window to conserve heat and impart a cottagey look and matched the existing blue-green base cabinets with sleek floating shelves.

With another renovation in the rearview, will they stay put? “This is the last house in Maine,” Michelle says definitively — “if something else never jumps out at me.”

Designer: Michelle Peele

General Contractors: Michelle and Ed Peele, Michael Cain

Square Feet: 1,400 Project Time:

1 month Cost: $8,000

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