Anne and Bob Ritchie create separately and together in a South Freeport farmhouse.
The considerable charms of Anne and Bob Ritchie’s restored farmhouse reveal themselves slowly. An approaching visitor catches a glimpse of buttery yellow clapboard, then the lush gardens—layered with shrubs and perennials—come into view behind a weathered picket fence. Turning into the driveway, one sees the small barn, and beyond it, Anne’s white garden and a swath of lawn, ringed by woods. Finally, there’s the house itself, its lavender front door a clue to its inhabitants’ distinctive style.
Or rather, styles. Married for 33 years, the Ritchies have not always lived together, but they do in this circa-1850 house, which has two owners’-bedroom suites and plenty of room for them each to pursue their separate interests. For Bob, it’s science and stone; for Anne, it’s art and wellness—a fine art photographer and devoted practitioner of yoga, she swims in Casco Bay every day in the summer from Winslow Park, just a short distance from the house. They share a fondness for wood heat, splitting the wood themselves, and for their Maine coon cats, Jack and Ava.
In August of 2015 Anne, an educational consultant, was on her way to the park for a swim when she saw that the farmhouse was for sale. For three years, she had been renting a small house a mile away from where she and Bob had lived for two decades. A retired physician and scientist who, in the 1970s, founded the Foundation for Blood Research in Scarborough, Bob is also an amateur geologist. He has contributed significantly to the collections of the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel (where he is on the board), including 900 spheres he carved from various types of stone. All of that stone was in the Ritchies’ former home. “Five and a half tons of rock, a diamond saw, two sphere machines, grinders, dust, oil, dirt, noise everywhere,” says Anne. “There was no room for me, my head, my heart, my art.” She looked at the South Freeport farmhouse and saw possibilities. “It had a place for a woodstove, two fireplaces, proximity to where I spend a good part of every day all season long, first-floor living for Bob, second-floor living for me,” she says. She moved in first, living in a small section of the house during an extensive renovation. Bob moved in six months later, after donating his stone-cutting equipment and most of his rock inventory to the museum in Bethel.
Bob’s main-floor owners’ suite was move-in ready and has a practical vibe, centered on his office, a double-height room with pine-green walls and French doors opening onto the patio. Anne’s suite upstairs includes a small, serene bedroom, walk-in closet, bathroom, and a large, airy studio where she practices yoga and works on her photography; examples of her work—ethereal photographs of plants and other natural objects, printed on canvas, hang throughout the house. From her streamlined white desk she can see Casco Bay over the trees. Contractor Arthur Davignon, of Falmouth, built her a barn door for her bathroom, which was updated with an open shower, white pebble tile floor, and sleek, freestanding bathtub tucked under a skylight.
The hub of the house—where the Ritchies spend time together—needed major work. The central chimney was dismantled and rebuilt, using the original bricks, to accommodate a woodstove in what was the dining room. Part of the roof had to be redone. When Davignon pulled up old 12-by-12 tiles in the kitchen, he discovered everything underneath was rotten. “That floor is totally new, all the way through to the carrying timber,” says Bob. They retained the kitchen’s footprint, but installed crisp white lower cabinets with natural stone pulls from the Nest in Brunswick, glass shelving in place of upper cabinets, a farmhouse sink, stainless steel appliances, a spacious island, and LED track lighting from WAC Lighting. In the daytime, the kitchen is flooded with light from a bank of windows that looks out over a tidal creek. “At high tide, I can paddle from Winslow all the way in there,” says Anne. The countertops are gneiss—a geological cousin of granite—in a pattern called titanium, black and gray swirled with silver and white from K and D Countertops in Windham. “To me it looks like the islands in Casco Bay,” Anne says of the slab that tops the kitchen island. Given her minimalist, white aesthetic, the choice was a surprise to Bob. “She sent me an image of it and I thought, ‘Black stone? What’s going on?’” he says.
Elsewhere, however, Anne’s favorite palette prevails. The former dining room has been repurposed as an airy sitting room with side-by-side white-painted antique armchairs centered on a nubby, oatmeal-colored rug from Garnet Hill and French doors leading to a sunny patio. “In the summer we look out and in the winter we face the woodstove,” says Anne. The floor that flows from the sitting room to the kitchen is porcelain tile that looks like distressed, white-painted wood, from Homestead Flooring in Yarmouth. The living room window treatments are white linen blankets from Brahms Mount in Freeport (where Anne once worked), as are the throws that drape the two facing sofas in front of the fireplace. Anne also replaced two windows on one wall of the living room with a large south-facing window that offers a bucolic view of the gardens. White, industrial-style lamps from Ikea stand behind the sofas. Anchoring the room is the fireplace, which she is apt to light even on a summer day if there is a chill in the air. “We love wood and fires,” Anne says. “The day we closed on the house, I came here and lit fires in the living room and kitchen and they burned beautifully.”
Anne is confident in her taste, combining vintage pieces—a white-painted hutch from a shop in New Hampshire, for example—with contemporary items such as a pair of stonebase lamps from Crate and Barrel. “We didn’t hire interior designers. I see something I think would be perfect; I bring it home and it somehow fits,” she says. Stones are displayed as decorative objects—granite orbs stacked under a cloche on a shelf, and smooth ovals of black basalt from Jost Van Dyke on Anne’s desk. “There are stones from all over the world in this house.” Instead of crowding her out, here, stone finishes and accents complement and ground the home’s bright, breezy rooms. Stone, air, light, dark, fire, water: there is ample room for all these elements, and for both Anne and Bob. “We moved in here not really knowing if this was going to work, and it does,” she says. “We’ve made it, I think, lovely, and it works for us.”