Double the Fun
Bringing two houses into the twenty-first century
First of a three-part series
Everyone in Boothbay Harbor knew the house with the yellow awnings, a yellow so brilliant, boat captains used them as a landmark to get their bearings. Built in the 1920s, it was classic Maine style—big, rambling, with an enclosed sun porch in front, balanced by an octagonal room on the opposite side. The house had painted shingles and six-over-six windows with shutters and window boxes overflowing with red geraniums. A tall, thick hedge hugged the house like a scarf. The huge lawn rolled away to the road and beyond that was the harbor’s rocky shoreline. It was a grand old lady down on her luck, elegant from afar, but on closer inspection a bit frayed around the edges.
Connie Prince and her fiancé, Florida State Senator Jack Latvala, had driven past the house hundreds of times over 10 years, whenever they visited Boothbay Harbor. Although they loved the area, the couple lived in Tallahassee and was not looking for a vacation home. “Boothbay Harbor is a charming town with great restaurants, perfect summer weather, and wonderful, friendly people,” Prince says. “We’d go once a year, and always stay at the Spruce Point Inn. It’s at the end of a road, so we passed this house coming and going. Jack and I loved the house—it was so warm and quaint. We usually go early in summer, but that year we went up late, and we saw that the house was on the market. As soon as we saw that, we knew we wanted it. I made an offer and that was it.”
Inside was all New England formal: built-in bookshelves bracketing a wood-mantel fireplace painted white. Paintings of ancestors and mirrors in ornate gold frames covered the walls. Rooms were filled with antique furniture—family pieces perhaps—suited for perching with a cup of tea, not kicking back with a beer. It felt dignified and tasteful but not like a vacation home. The awnings, so bright and cheerful when seen from outdoors, had the effect of enclosing the rooms in shadows, dimming the light and making the interior seem gloomier than it really was. The kitchen and baths had not been updated since the 1970s.
Also on the three-acre property were multiple garages, a swimming pool, a pool house, and a meandering, one-story guesthouse that looked as if it had been added onto over decades with little attempt at cohesion. From the driveway, visitors would reach the guesthouse and garages first, with the main house set slightly back and away. It made the property resemble an inn rather than a private home.
Prince bought the property in 2012 and set about giving it not just a freshening up, but a total makeover. Two houses were a boon for the couple: four adult children, their spouses, two grandchildren, and Parker and Cooper, Prince’s Labrador retrievers, made space a priority. Her initial plan was to add a second story to the guesthouse, making it larger and more functional, then work on the main house, which looked to be a more complicated job. Prince hired Adrian Keating of AJ Keating Construction in West Bath as her general contractor after admiring a home that he had built for friends of hers.
It did not take long for the plan to go awry. “It turned out that part of the guesthouse foundation we’d intended to use was unstable and couldn’t support the second story,” Keating says. “So Connie said to finish the main house instead.” The deadline was tight: Keating had from November 2012 to Memorial Day 2013 to get the building habitable.
To start, the main house was nearly gutted. The sun porch, which had been the entry, was closed off and made weather tight so it could be used year-round. A new entryway was added nearby. Keating’s crew rebuilt the roof, added a screened porch, and refinished the Douglas fir floors, salvaging some to replace the sheet vinyl in the kitchen. The rear wing of the house was unfinished and used as cold storage. It was turned into a guest bath and laundry room. A half bath in what became the billiards room was made a wet bar. And the almost century-old house needed most of its systems replaced or added to, including heating, central air, generator, water supply lines, and a well pump.
“I need to live in a place with a lot of light, so we took down walls—the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, and between the dining room and the sunroom. Now you can see all the way outside to the water from the kitchen, and I can talk to people as I cook,” Prince says.
It was an ambitious project with a daunting time frame. Keating had recommended Sarah Steinberg, principal at Steinberg Custom Designs in Cumberland, to design the kitchens, baths, and built-ins for both houses.
Steinberg wanted to preserve the best details of both homes. “In an old house, there are beautiful rich tones and textures that can’t be bought new but can be revitalized, such as the original wood floors,” she says. “The idea is to stay respectful of history while giving the house a facelift. When dealing with an old house, be gentle; try to retain its character. You can have an open concept and keep the feel and integrity of the original.”
For the 16-by-17-foot kitchen, Steinberg thought it more efficient to split the refrigerator and freezer, putting a 30-inch fridge near the cooktop, and a 23-inch freezer between the double wall ovens and the coffee and wine bar. Dishwashers and trash receptacles flank each sink. The microwave is in the island. The appliances are Thermador.
“The kitchen style in the main house is traditional,” Prince says. “I wanted the design to be a little formal, with marble countertops and a large workspace. I love to cook, especially when the kids come.” Wright-Ryan Homes of Portland built the all-white custom cabinetry. “White cabinets fit the age of the house. So does marble. Marble has advantages and disadvantages, but I say, just let it go.”
The countertops are Imperial Danby marble with an ogee edge and honed finish by Morningstar Stone and Tile of Topsham. Because of the upkeep, Steinberg says she likes to have “the marble talk” with clients. “Are you ready for marble? Do you know what you’re getting yourself into? Not everyone is suited for marble. Connie is.”
The Shaw farmhouse sink faucet is from Rohl’s Perrin and Rowe Kitchen Collection. The custom range hood made by RangeCraft in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, is zinc with a hand-rubbed wax finish. “That gives it more dimension and color,” Steinberg says. Over the island hangs Chapman’s Savannah four-arm downlight chandelier in brass, from TJ’s Interior Design in Cape Neddick. “It’s okay in a kitchen to mix metals and mix chrome with brass. If your goal is for things to blend, match finishes. If you want something more unique, mix it up.”
In the dining room, deep blue walls do not overwhelm, partly due to the crisp white wainscoting and trim but also because the room opens to both the south-facing sunroom and the bright white kitchen. The color is Aegean Teal (2136-40) by Benjamin Moore. The crystal bud chandelier over the dining table is from Fogg Lighting in Portland. Prince brought the table and chairs from Florida. In the sunroom the walls are painted Cork (2153-40) and the ceiling is washed pine. The chairs and sofa are from Pottery Barn. There is also a small table with four leather chairs, where Prince and Latvala like to eat when not entertaining a crowd.
Off the kitchen is the billiards room, and given how Prince loves to entertain, it sees lots of use. “I’ve had the pool table forever and have moved it about eight times,” she says. “I can’t give it up, because when my kids were three and four they wrote, ‘I love mom’ on the slate under the table. I just can’t let it go.” The beams and the fireplace are original to the house. The chest and couches are from Simply Home in Falmouth, and the light over the pool table is by Ralph Lauren.
In that room, a wet bar replaces a half bath, and the rear door leads to two offices, one an octagonal room. The wet bar cabinets and bar counter are mahogany. The side countertops are Vermont Verde Antique serpentine stone, which is stronger than marble. Walls and ceiling are covered in grass cloth, and the floor is slate.
Of her designer and general contractor, Prince says, “Sarah and Adrian were a joy to work with. They made the house fit our vision, not their own. Each understood what our needs are. We’re not formal people. We wanted everything updated but want people to walk in, kick their shoes off, and feel comfortable.”
And those brilliant yellow awnings? After much deliberation, they were lost to the renovation but not without objection. “Jack wanted to keep the awnings,” Prince says. “I thought the house would look more open and brighter without them.” The home is brilliant even without the awnings. Over three years, almost every inch of the property has been transformed. First the renovation of the 16-room main house, then a tear down and rebuild of the guesthouse. Just as a new rug in a room can make the furnishings look drab by comparison, the sparkling new houses inspired a renovation of the pool house, swimming pool, terraces, and gardens.
These were finished in the nick of time because Prince’s daughter, Nicole, and Major Frank Duverger were married in front of the pool house in September 2014. Prince and Latvala tied the knot there themselves in July 2015. For the weddings, both houses were near bursting with friends and family. Prince says, “I love when the house is full of people celebrating, cooking, eating, and enjoying one another’s company.”