A Munjoy Hill condo puts a Connecticut couple close to family and city conveniences.
In decades past, people didn’t come to Maine for its urban charms. The shorefront, the mountains, the lakes—those were the draws. But with Portland booming, Kathy Meyer and Harvey Yaverbaum, who live in rural Connecticut, appreciate Maine for its city life. The couple has a blended family, which includes Yaverbaum’s youngest child—a former preschool teacher who lives in North Yarmouth with her telecommuting husband and two children—and Meyer’s older son—a physician with Maine Medical Center, who lives in South Freeport with his interior designer wife and two children. Meyer and Yaverbaum didn’t always have a connection to the state. Their focus was New York City, given her job as general counsel for a New York hospital system and his as a real estate partner for a sizeable New York law firm. Once two of their children moved to Maine, however, Meyer and Yaverbaum got to know the area. They rented for several summers, and then decided to buy into a 12-unit Munjoy Hill building, developed by Susan Morris and Chip Newell, who also live at the address.
The purchase afforded the couple a chance to live in a convenient, lively neighborhood, a decided contrast to the isolation of their year-round abode. Back home, a carton of milk necessitates a drive to the store. In Portland, Meyer and Yaverbaum can step out the door for groceries at Rosemont Market, brunch at Lolita, or a copy of The New York Times at Hilltop Superette. In Connecticut, the couple cooks for themselves. In Portland, they love to eat out. “I have a rule that every time we come we go to Empire,” Meyer says of the popular Congress Street restaurant, which features reasonably priced dim sum and Chinese cuisine. She adds, referring to Vinland, “I get a big kick out of the restaurant that only serves things from Maine and takes itself very seriously.” But food is not the couple’s only pleasure. They are fans of the Portland Museum of Art and love the water, lighthouse, and street views from their balcony and oversized windows. The Portland Observatory is so close that Meyer and Yaverbaum can wave to its visitors.
The condo consists of a great room, an owners’ bedroom and bath, two guest bedrooms and bath, a powder room, and a playroom, which is up a handful of stairs from the corridor that serves as the entrance into the apartment. The space was already handsomely appointed with custom cabinetry for the kitchen and bath and living room built-ins when Meyer and Yaverbaum purchased it. For the rest of the interior, the couple turned to designer Brett Johnson and his team at Maine Street Design Company in Portland. “We set out to make the condo as comfortable as we could,” says Johnson, emphasizing that he didn’t want the couple to think about any details when they arrived. “We wanted it simple and luscious as far as the quality of furnishings, bedding, and dishes, so it would be like checking into the nicest hotel where everything is ready for you.”
Johnson married clean, contemporary lines with natural fabrics, which add a touch of earthiness to the modern design. In the neutral living room, a textured, oatmeal sectional sofa has turquoise accents. The minimalist dining room features a large round table, an irregular-edged, cast-plaster chandelier, and mesh-backed chairs with orange leather seats, which provide a pop of color. The single piece of art on the wall is Yaverbaum’s: an oversized photograph of a fjord in Montenegro. Yaverbaum’s images of his travels with Meyer are displayed throughout the house—all the art in the home consists of his photography—and the work inspires the palette of each room. A photograph that highlights the drama of the interior of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia hangs above the upholstered headboard in the couple’s bedroom. Johnson has picked up the image’s blues and reds as accent colors on pillows in the otherwise neutral room. A blue and white guest bedroom was inspired by images of Greek island villages and is partially furnished with custom pieces from Johnson’s Maine Street Mercantile and Manufacturing Co., which is a division of his interior design business.
Johnson was in something of a quandary about how to handle the playroom’s walls when Yaverbaum told him about the elaborate train set that fills the entire basement of his Connecticut home. Not surprisingly, the impressive layout is a big hit with his grandchildren. Yaverbaum had always wanted to photograph it, so Johnson encouraged him to do so, using the results to create a nine-panel photo collage for the playroom. The images coordinate with the palette that Johnson had already imagined for the room, which features a yellow, orange, green, and brown geometric rug, a gray card table, and a gray couch with orange pillows.
Convenience and green living were crucial for the couple. When looking to buy, they only considered places where they didn’t have to do maintenance, parking was included, and the energy system was state-of-the-art. “I don’t understand it all, but it’s very green and efficient,” Meyer confesses. She does get that the triple-paned windows keep out the sound of the nearby firehouse and that their rooms are always snug. And Yaverbaum is amused by the sensor lights that only turn on when someone walks by. “It’s cool to walk down the hall and have the lights precede you,” he jokes. “You feel like some sort of celebrity.”
Although they are older themselves and had heard that Maine has the oldest population in the country, they’ve been struck with the number of young people in their community. “People with strollers!” Yaverbaum enthuses, then notes the friendliness of the neighbors, the way they kindly extend themselves. “For us, it’s a wonderful change.”
One thing missing? Someone to join them for a game of bridge at the table in the playroom. They haven’t yet found anyone who plays. “Maybe,” Meyer says, “this article will help.”