Inside the Thoughtfully Classic Modernization of A 1930s Falmouth Home

With a respect for the building’s history, expert renovator Carrie Hansen turned a southern Maine residence into her dream house, complete with a drive-through barn.

When Carrie Hansen and Bruce Hamilton-Dick bought their Falmouth home, Hansen had a vision of installing a big barn with a drive-though, inspired by similar structures in Saratoga Springs, New York (where she started her career renovating historic homes).
To add to the sense of visual continuity, Hansen made sure the roofline of the barn and the house were at the same height.
The sunroom was one of the biggest surprises in the house. Originally, the couple thought they would tear it down, but it’s become one of their most-used spaces. To freshen things up, Hansen had it painted white and installed low-maintenance porcelain tiles that look quite similar to her favorite cement tiles.
During the restoration, Hansen also added larger windows along the back of the living room. “There was no central light in here, so I added that lantern in the middle of the room, and a bar area, which keeps it nice and casual,” she says. Hansen’s also had the collection of vintage candlesticks that adorn the mantle “forever.” Brass, she says, feels at home by the sea.
The owners’ bedroom features custom built-ins that give Hansen (“admittedly a bit of a clothes horse”) space for her wardrobe. “Instead of a big walk-in, we have five closets,” she reveals.
The pool was originally surrounded by decking, but the grass is both nicer underfoot and more fitting for the space; the couple also added boxwoods and paver stones to give structure to the area.

Experienced renovators Carrie Hansen and Bruce Hamilton-Dick have worked on over two dozen houses together, so the married couple knew renovating the property on Thornhurst Road in Falmouth would be a breeze. Or if not that, at least a walk in the park. Plus, they had rarely seen a house with such good bones.

Hansen was working on a project nearby when she noticed this house and its sideways orientation. That is, it wasn’t square to the road; it was skewed, as if perhaps the house had been there before the road was built. “I saw it, and I started to imagine how it would be to drive up to it. If you had to drive through a big barn to get to it, wouldn’t that be beautiful?” Unfortunately, there was no “for sale” sign swinging in the yard. “But it was such a warm, very inviting house,” she says. “So I walked up one day and knocked on the door.”

Funnily enough, Hansen soon learned, the current owner, Debbie Reed, was thinking about selling. And by sheer coincidence, it turned out that Reed and her husband had approached the former owners in exactly the same way. “She said, ‘It seems appropriate that you end up with the house,’” Hansen remembers. “Immediately, I had ideas about what I wanted to do with it.” Hamilton-Dick was on board from the beginning, though he says now that he “couldn’t see what she saw” when she talked about putting up a drive-through barn. “The interesting thing is that Carrie has a vision,” he says. “She’s very articulate and very specific about what she sees. Many years ago, I used to doubt her. But time and time again, I keep seeing that, if I follow the vision, let her take the lead and build what she sees, then it will be amazing.” If Carrie wanted a barn, there would be a barn. After all, the idea wasn’t without precedent. Hansen had long been influenced by the architecture of Saratoga Springs, New York, where she started her career. But she didn’t want to emulate the elaborate Victorian-style homes of Saratoga in this Maine renovation. “Early on, I learned from my mentor, Tom Frost, that good design should both fit in and stand out,” says Hansen. “It’s his mantra, and it has always stuck with me.”

The barn, Hansen knew, would stand out because of its graceful arched shape. Thanks to clapboard and cedar shingle siding, thoughtfully executed by builder Josh Sevigny, it would fit in with the existing 1930s house, which of course looked right at home on the quiet little street already. “I love symmetry, and you’ll see that in all of my properties,” says Hansen. “In building that barn, I made sure that the roof started at the same height as the house. It’s simple things like that. It sounds silly, but aesthetically, it works.” Similarly, Hansen decided to add plantings that would feel rhythmic and purposeful to the front walkway, opting for trimmed boxwoods (for a bit of shape) and soft hydrangeas (as a nod to the coastal environment and the gardens of Maine). “I got Incrediball, the biggest kind of hydrangea,” she says, for their “huge, floppy white flowers.” Next to the front entryway, she planted rose of Sharon trees, “because they’re structured, and you get that beautiful hibiscus flower in the summer.” With the help of Mario Grimaldi, a third-generation excavator, Hansen reworked the driveway, property layout, and walkways to optimize the wow factor upon the approach. “There was so much work that went into it, from lowering the landscape to getting the proportions of the carriage house correct,” says Hamilton- Dick. “But once it was in, it turned that house from a  house by the side of the road into an estate.” It also closed off the back side of the lot, giving the family more privacy for their outdoor activities.

While Hansen has always been drawn to traditional and slightly formal designs, since moving to Maine her style has “grown and expanded” to incorporate a few more coastal elements. This is evident from the moment you step inside the Thornhurst Road house. While not a beach cottage by any means, Hansen chose a palette of navy blue and cream that speaks to classic New England style. She also brought in plenty of jute and rattan, natural textures that soften the clean lines of the architectural detailing. “I have always thought brass had a coastal feel,” she says. “I’ve been using brass for a long time, before it became so popular.” In the living room, Hansen selected a brass-framed mirror to hang above the couch, set a pair of brass candlesticks she’s “had forever” on the mantel, and matched the brass table lamp to the brass lantern. “To give it more texture, I wrapped the inner lantern with jute. I always like to make light fixtures exclusive, something you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else,” she reveals. “I also like my art to reflect my surroundings.” In Saratoga Springs she enjoyed collecting equestrian art, but in Maine she revels in being surrounded by scenes of the sea. The living room features all New England artists, and she has works by Jane Collins and Karen Parkinson scattered throughout the house.

Another theme that echoes around the first floor is the use of arches. “The arches with the key on top are original to the house,” she says. “But I added in wider arches when we put in the new staircase.” As the process of designing this feature went on, the staircase got “grander and wider.” She explains, “I like to have two sets of stairs in a big house like this. And we put in more windows to bring light into the space.” They also replaced windows throughout the house and added extra windows to the kitchen. “My desire for the kitchen is always to make it light and bright,” says Hansen.

They didn’t, however, need to add windows to the already brilliant sunroom. At first, Hansen wasn’t quite sure how she would use this space. “That turned out to be the greatest surprise. When I looked at the house, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m tearing that thing right off,’” Hansen remembers. “But we lived in the house for a year before renovating, and I kept gravitating there.” Instead of removing the sunroom, Hansen painted the natural wood walls white, retiled the floor with porcelain star tiles that mimic cement, and brought in a few beloved antiques, including a barley twist table she’s had for years. “I’m always finding a spot for that table,” she says. “Now, it’s a game table.”

Aside from the kitchen, the sunroom is now the most-used room in the whole house. But come summer, the family tends to migrate outside. To make the backyard even more relaxed, Hansen ripped up the decking around the pool and replaced it with grass. While the grandkids play in the pool, Hansen likes to garden. “I do all my own planting. Give me a shovel and I’m right at home,” she says. Last year, for her birthday, Hamilton-Dick built his wife a series of planter boxes out of rough-sawn hemlock, where she can grow tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. He used the remains of an old fence from the front of the property to create a charming cedar-post fence around the veggies. “But there is our biggest mistake,” he says of the backyard. “Mario helped us find a guy who made local compost and it turned out to be super-soil. The tomatoes grew eight feet tall. The zucchini ran out of their beds. The pepper plants were three feet tall!” The biggest problem they have with their new Maine home is overperforming plants—could there be a better sign of success?