Design Well Orchestrated

By Rebecca Falzano | Photography Irvin Serrano

The making of a historic West End home into a show house


Long before it belonged to current homeowners Ed Gardner and Steve DiMuccio, the stone and slate estate on Portland’s Western Promenade was built for James C. Hamlen Jr., a descendant of Hannibal Hamlin, who served as U.S. vice president under Abraham Lincoln. (Within the family, the last name is spelled two ways.) In 1920, when Hamlen Jr. was asked to run the Maine division of the family business (an international cooperage and lumber operation), he sought a house of suitable size and stature for his family. He hired Portland architect and former Harvard classmate John P. Thomas to design a stately 5,000-square-foot Tudor Revival overlooking the Fore River estuary—quite a departure from the shingle-style and colonial revivals that were sprinkled along the West End at the time.

Nearly a century later, in the fall of 2011, the house was given new life when it served as the canvas for more than 20 designers to showcase their talents for the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s 13th Designers’ Show House. Bound only by their imaginations (and grateful for the generosity of Gardner and DiMuccio, who temporarily moved out so they could get to work), the designers transformed 16 spaces into livable, beautiful expressions of their creativity—and of the home’s inherent grandeur.


Butler’s Pantry & Kitchen

The house’s Old World vernacular dictated the butler’s pantry and kitchen concept by Tracy A. Davis of Urban Dwellings. Faced with several broken-up spaces, Davis enlarged the opening to the breakfast nook and removed a barrier wall that had previously divided this area into two smaller spaces. Morningstar Stone and Tile restored the Calcutta marble countertop and a late nineteenth-century French bistro marble tabletop. The island is an industrial workhorse crafted from locally repurposed wood, a leftover from the bygone times of the steel industry in the Midwest. Davis chose a unifying color palette and simple materials to further bring the room together. “The palette was selected to create a backdrop that would showcase the volume of this space and draw the individual to experience a sense of place,” says Davis.
Tracy A. Davis | Urban Dwellings |


Drawing Room

Deb Kingry and James Light from Simply Home in Falmouth teamed up to create this soothing drawing room, taking inspiration from an eight- by seven-foot abstract white-on-white painting by Harry Nadler from Elizabeth Moss Galleries in Falmouth. The design unfolded from there. “We both wanted the room to be light, contemporary, and usable, yet edgy and fresh,” says Light. The pair lifted the palette from the lavender gray stone surround of the fireplace—the “only surface we couldn’t control with paint color,” according to Kingry. The two then added punches of green in the pillows, a boxwood topiary in a white urn, and a moss ball on the library desk. “That color was the lipstick that helped hold the room together and gave it some oomph,” says Light. After determining the room’s layout, Light and Kingry found a rug from Eliko Rugs to ground the space, then filled in accessories, furnishings, and fabric from Simply Home and their own personal collections.
Deb Kingry & James Light | Simply Home


Powder Room

What the powder room lacks in size it makes up for in style. Annie Kiladjian of Annie K Designs and Theresa Tomczyk of Distinctive Tile and Design collaborated on this tiny room, drawing inspiration from the homeowners’ Asian art collection. “We used materials that create movement so as to make the room look bigger,” explains Kiladjian. “The floor tiles make the space look larger because of the pattern of the tile and the way we laid it. The wall tiles are more subdued and placed at a height to make the ceilings look higher.” (Larry Stoddard of Distinctive Tile and Design installed all the tile in the room.) Kiladjian designed an apron for the old sink and a radiator cover, and the cabinetry was built by Scott Libby Woodworking. The gold finish on the wall adds some glitter and is complemented by the bamboo-inspired mirror from Foreside Consignment Gallery.
Annie Kiladjian | Annie K Designs |
Theresa Tomczyk | Distinctive Tile & Design


Master Suite Bedroom & Closet

Jan Robinson of Jan Robinson Interiors found her inspiration for the master suite in the view of the setting sun over the Western Promenade. “The room just glowed at sunset with the soft oranges, reds, and buttery yellow on the walls. I added in the pop of blue of the refurbished buffet piece to further complement those colors,” she says. The bedspread, which Robinson sewed herself, is made of textured silk with pleated organza trim hand-sewn in a loose, free-form pattern. Robinson chose the patterned valances because they were reminiscent of a Japanese painting of brightly colored birds. All fabrics are from Kravet Fabrics; all of the paint was donated by the Sherwin Williams store in Westbrook; the cork wallpaper used on the ceiling above the window seat and in the dressing room was from Thibaut Design; and the lighting came from the House of Lights in Scarborough.
Jan Robinson | Jan Robinson Interiors


Dining Room

A walled garden just beyond this dining room’s French doors served as inspiration for Linda Anne Banks of Banks Design Associates and Simply Home. “Often the dining room is one of the prettiest yet least used rooms in the house,” she says. To reinvent the room as a more useful and functional space, Banks repurposed it into a working atelier, surrounded by books, watercolors, curiosities, drawing devices, and maps of many travels—a place, she says, “where one could plan a garden, a trip, or a divine dinner party.” The room is easily converted back to a formal dining room for 2 or 10. “In every room I always choose a driver—the one piece of art, a rug, or an object that sets the palette and defines the direction for the room. In this case it was my original vintage map of Paris, dating from 1762. The colors are pinks, lavenders, and sage greens accented with gray and white,” says Banks. Powder-pink walls create a restful backdrop for the gray painted furnishings surrounding the table. The crisp gray and white lattice patterned slipcover is an ode to the garden trellises beyond. The gray linen host and hostess chairs and the white slip-covered ottomans link the banquette with the surrounding seating. The furnishings are anchored by a sea grass rug. An authentic French chandelier dates from the early 1800s. The ceiling height proved challenging for Banks: “It’s very vintage—not quite eight feet high—but from this challenge sprung the inspiration to bring attention to the low ceiling.” Banks turned a reproduction sunburst mirror on its back and mounted it to the ceiling to anchor and embrace the chandelier (which is not electrified). When the candles are burning, their flames dance in the mirror above. All furnishings are available through Simply Home.

Linda Anne Banks, ASID | Banks Design Associates | Simply Home |


Downstairs Study

Brett Johnson of Maine Street Design Co. designed the first-floor study, complete with warm, rich finishes, custom furniture, upholstery by Alfred’s Upholstery, sewing by Alice Mobley, and art by Louise Philbrick and ML Norton. Blended glazed walls of aubergine are framed with soft white trim. A custom fire seat is upholstered in a steel gray ultra suede with nail-head trim. A sofa in soft cotton chenille with down embroidered pillows is flanked by a pair of tables made out of industrial salvage by Chris Johnson of Northeast Composites. Two parsons chairs in a deep purple sculpted chenille face a steel and glass coffee table. All of this floats on a cocoa and cream wool and viscose hand-knotted carpet from Bradford’s Rug Gallery. The windows are dressed in natural linen curtains interlined in flannel bump for warmth and trimmed in a subtle lavender border. Johnson punctuated all of this with bright orange accents. The room presented some challenges. “Because the fireplace and entrance were not centered, I created a sitting area to one side, allowing the fireplace and secretary desk to be the focal points.” Low ceilings and a lack of natural light were combatted with glazed walls by Karl Kamrath, which helped bring the room to life.

Brett Johnson | Maine Street Design Co. |


Grand Foyer, Staircase & Upstairs Hall:
Vanessa Helmick
Fiore Interiors

Karen Gallagher Interiors
Guest Suite & Bath:
Anne Cowenhoven
Accent & Design

Kim Corwin
HOME – Make It Your Own
Master Bath:
Lynne Maxfield-Cole
Decorating Plus

Full Bath:
Robin Desjardins-Davis
Design For Less
Paul LaJoie
Port City Flooring

Upstairs Study:
Kate Halpert Lowry
Kate Lowry Designs
Servants’ Quarters:
Rachel Ambrose & Lisa Hincher
Home Remedies

Outdoor Landscaping:
Tony Elliott
Snug Harbor Farm

Project Manager:
Dale Akeley
Project Resources

General Contractor:
Geoff King
King Builders, LLC