I love a good house story — one that runs deep with history and mixes in the right amount of charm. I also love to learn about the history of a home as much as I like to see the house in present form. A few years ago, an older man showed up at my door and wanted to tell me all about growing up in my house. He shared stories about him and his brother as young children, where the family phone hung in the kitchen, and where they put their Christmas tree each year. Many of the little quirks of my 1890 home were revealed.
Ben Ray and Ali Malone have a similar story. After moving around the country, these Portland, ME natives wanted to get back to the community they grew up in and raise a family there. When asked what drew them back to their hometown, Ben shares, “Portland is the perfect ‘little city’ of roughly 70,000 people. It’s a community where you walk down the street and people smile and say ‘hello’ to you; it’s a community that supports the arts, cultivates creative types and small businesses, has award-winning restaurants (but is still super laid-back!) and still has some salty bars — and yes, salty people too. It is the place where we intend to grow old together.” When they first returned to Portland, the couple began renovating commercial spaces and homes, paying homage to each space’s architecture as well as their ability to shift styles to fit each building.
When Ali, a real estate broker and developer, was eight months pregnant, they found their 1904 Arts and Crafts style home. Built by famed architects John Calvin Stevens and John Howard Stevens for the Stevens family, it was then added onto in 1914. “We were drawn to the fact that JHS had designed this house to use personally (it was the first house he designed as a partner at the firm). He started his family in the house and you can feel that in the space. It has a casualness and practicality that spoke to us — it felt modern for the era,” Ben says. As a young girl, Ali used to play in that same house, as it was later home to one of her classmates. “Ali spent quite a bit of time in this house as a child. One of her good friends in elementary school lived in the house decades ago. She had memories of playing in the room that now belongs to our son, Atticus… Reentering the house as potential buyers nearly three decades later was totally surreal for her.”
Ben runs his growing company Evangeline Linens from an office on the second floor of their house. Since he and Ali are both able to work from home, the mornings are spent at a slower pace, savoring the morning light in their living room with their two children, and spending time as a family, often with impromptu dance parties. In a home rich with art and modern furniture, each decorative item lends well to the space while also adding to the existing charm. Ben leaves us with this piece of decorating advice, “Layer in pieces over time. Buy things that you love and not what you are ‘supposed’ to love. Edit and remove stuff periodically. And buy lots of art!” Scroll below for the full home tour. —Erin
Image above: “The painting above the fireplace (painted on the actual mantel, not a hanging painting) was done by the original owner/architect’s father, John Calvin Stevens (a nationally renowned architect). The small paintings sitting on the mantel are by Michel Droge. Vintage owl andirons (with glass eyes) were found at a flea market in Midcoast Maine,” Ben shares.