Decorating & Design
August 26, 2013
Restored Maine Mansion
Some houses truly are surreal estate: while I can admire their style, I can’t really see myself living there. This week’s house is the opposite: I love it, the old-fashioned rugs in the kitchen and all, and would buy it in a hot second. I actually first came across it when it was featured in Design New England magazine in 2010, and when I saw the listing pop up on real estate blogs last week, my heart did a little somersault. (It quickly sank, of course, when I scrolled to the price: $4.5 million.) Take a look at the photos, and maybe you’ll fall in love, too.
Built in 1809, this white Federal beauty is known as Berwick Hill and sits, naturally, atop a grassy hill between the coastal towns of Rockport and Camden, Maine. I know it’s not much to look at — the fanlight over the front door is pretty narrow, the windows don’t even have any shutters and I don’t need to see that utility meter on the bottom left corner. But the symmetrical clapboard façade and two chimneys are so New England that I can practically smell the salt air.
Thanks to the recent renovation, the house’s bones are solid: heating and air conditioning systems are new, the original windows have been restored and ill-conceived additions struck down. They even added a few modern frills, too, like this new pool house. Downstairs, there’s a roomy terrace and outdoor shower; upstairs, there’s a loft that could be used as a studio, office or guest room.
The foyer includes a Rufus Porter-esque custom mural by local artist Hope Angier. (I’m guessing that’s Berwick Hill, complete with new pool house, smack in the centre.) Paired with the painted wooden floor, is the style a little faux-crafty country home? Yes. But remove the painted chair and floral stair runner, and I think the space would look plenty fresh.
The listing, quaintly, refers to this as the front parlour, but it looks like a living room to me. This is where I might — if I had any budget left after closing — make a few changes. I’d probably swap out slightly overstuffed sofa and chair while keeping the cosy, friendly striped wallpaper. But I can’t decide whether I’d put in another rug, or just bare those gloriously wide original floorboards.
One of the six bedrooms not only looks like it has the original door latch, but the furnishings from the 19th century as well — right down to the lacy canopy and candlesticks. (I wouldn’t mind sitting up here, looking out from the hilltop and pretending to be Emily Dickinson, but I understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.) Luckily, the bathrooms have been totally modernized, and the principal bedroom even boasts a generous walk-in closet.
The listing price includes both the house and sixteen acres of land. I’m not sure you can see all the way to the ocean, but there are beautiful mountain views. And to give the home some added historic charm, the current owners brought in plenty of lilacs and azaleas, and even transplanted mature apple trees to a field to create an instant orchard.
What do you think? Would you like to be the next steward of Berwick Hill (or help me buy it, please)?