A family of five carves out their own slice of Portland
If you walk by a certain house in the Libbytown neighborhood, the one with the gated picket fence around the front yard and the chevron curtains around the front porch, you might just find one, two, or all three of the Torrieri boys sitting on the steps waving at you. Huck, the oldest, calls it “watching the world go by.”
While some people head for the suburbs once they become parents, Louis and Meghan Torrieri are raising their three boys, Huck, 5, Brixton, 3.5, and Scout, 2, to be city kids through and through. In Portland, this means embracing life in their small but vibrant city.
A city boy himself, Louis grew up in Philadelphia and recalls his own time spent sitting on the stoop of his childhood home. As an adult, he tried country life for a bit, moving to Vermont and then living on five acres in Bowdoin. After traveling to London for work, however, he found his love for cities reignited and unrelenting. As a surfer, he was also drawn to the ocean: Portland, he decided, would be the perfect fit.
Meghan was born in a yurt in Bowdoinham and grew up in Yarmouth. After graduating from high school, she went to college in the Midwest, then moved farther west to San Francisco, where she lived for a bit before returning to Maine to be closer to her family. She purchased a run-down, two-family house in Portland that had never been renovated, hoping to flip it. It was built in 1913 and used to be the home of the city medical examiner. She was single at the time and the house was too big for just one person. Then she met Louis.
The two married and began to talk about starting a family. “I thought when we had kids that I’d want to move to the suburbs,” Meghan recalls. “Having grown up in Yarmouth with
a yard, I wanted my kids to have that.” Louis, on the other hand, remembers when his family moved out of Philadelphia to the suburbs of Delaware. “There was this kid who came from New York City, and he always saw Star Wars movies first and had seen John Lennon walking down the street. I always thought, ‘Wow, it would be cool to have city kids.’” Meghan and Louis came to realize that they could have a little bit of both—city living and some outdoor space—right there, in their own backyard.
Set on staying in the house, the couple decided to turn it into a space where they could root their family. “We call our family the Tribe,” says Meghan. “We’re kind of trying to make this our own compound.” Outside, they added a back deck that functions as an outdoor living room. Inside, they turned a sitting room in the front of the house into a generous-sized playroom for the kids, cleverly covering the fireplace opening with a chalkboard wall. Upstairs, each of the boys has his own bedroom, and on the third floor, Meghan has an office space where she runs B Merry Events, her planning firm specializing in weddings and special events.
While the house is quite large, the yard is modest-sized—just enough space for the kids to dig in the dirt. When they need to really run around, they walk over to the nearby park. In the summer, they love running under the sprinklers in Dougherty Field. “We don’t need a big backyard,” says Louis. “We have that field over there that the city mows, which is nice because I don’t like mowing lawns.”
While their street doesn’t have many children living on it, the boys have become friendly with their older neighbors—Mr. George and Mr. Raymond, for example. “The boys will stand outside and say hi to everyone and wave as people drive by,” says Louis. “It’s that kind of neighborhood.” And because the old house was once meant for two families, the Torrieris have a lot of room for entertaining. “We have a lot of get-togethers with our friends because the kids have room, the adults have room, and everyone can be together.”
Louis is the marketing and communications director at Amato’s Sandwich Shops and is also a photographer. The photos he takes of his family line the shelves and walls of the house; the day I visit, the annual Christmas photos are still hanging, documenting the progression from a couple with two dogs to a family of five (no dogs). There’s the year they all posed with a disco ball, the boys wearing crowns; the year they stood on a couple of skateboards; the year they posed in front of a drum kit, Meghan pregnant with Scout, the caption reading “No more silent nights. Ever.”
The Torrieri house is indeed light on silence— and sleep—these days, but overflowing with laughter and love. In the summer, the family walks to the farmers’ market and the venerable Tony’s Donut Shop up the street. (“We get doughnuts a lot,” says Louis. “We justify it by walking there.”) On Sunday nights, after Meghan comes home from a wedding weekend, the tribe hits the beach with dinner in hand.
And they like to take the boys downtown often. “They love walking around the Old Port; it’s kind of their thing,” says Meghan. “They like sitting on the curb; they like going over the cobblestone streets in the car.” In fact, if the family drives outside of Portland, to Freeport, for example, Huck will sometimes say from the backseat, “Is this the country? I don’t like raccoons.”
While they love exploring the city, home base is their favorite place to be in Portland. “We make no bones about the fact that this is a house that we love, and it’s all chipped up because the kids play hard in here,” says Meghan. “We absolutely let them ride their scooters inside. We’ll take all the dings in the wall. We’ll take permanent marker on the white duvet cover. We’ll take it all, easy. This is us.”