By Laura Serino
Photographed by James R. Salomon
It’s obvious when you step into Pat Taub’s house in Portland’s West End that you’re stepping into the home of a writer. Every piece of furniture or artwork tells a story. There’s the dark rattan chair from when she lived in Key West, a dragon-spouted teapot from a trip to China, and an abstract painting by an artist from Syracuse, New York, where she raised her children. It is an eclectic mix of pieces that are reminders of friends, family, and a good tale or two.
Taub had just ended a long-term relationship in Key West when she first came to Maine to attend a women’s spiritual retreat center in Tenants Harbor. The experience was so inspiring that she took an internship with the center and bought a house nearby. After the center closed, Taub made her way to Portland. “I’m more of an urban person, so I thought it might be a great fit,” she says. A three-story apartment in what was originally a single-family residence on State Street became her “labor of love.”
To renovate the apartment and keep its original nineteenth-century details intact, Taub brought in preservation specialists Papi & Romano Builders of Portland. “I was really clear about what I wanted in the kitchen. I wanted open shelves and I didn’t want it to be cookie cutter,” says Taub. An archway to the dining room was opened up to let in more light. She called in a favor from her friend Ruth Reiter, a former magazine home editor, who helped her choose colors, including orange high-lacquer cabinets. “The orange was tricky. It could have been a seventies punch in the face, which would have been horrible!” says Taub. The color called for soft-hued partners, which Taub found in a white silestone countertop and a slate-front refrigerator. The ceiling serves as a makeshift gallery for two paintings passed down from Taub’s mother, a bright floral still life and an oil of an Italian peasant woman.
Though the resurrection of every brick and beam is an art form in itself, it’s not just an enviable bone structure that makes these walls talk. At nearly every turn is a family heirloom or treasured piece with a story that Taub can tell. Above the couch in the living room hangs a nude painting in a stunning mother of pearl and bone frame, a find of Taub’s mother, who was an antiques dealer and gallery owner. “I definitely get my sense of design from her,” Taub says. Hanging close by is Love for Sale, a painting by Tenants Harbor artist Robert Hamilton. The room’s style is inviting, but decidedly eclectic, resulting in a space that feels intimate and personal rather than purposefully designed. “I just buy stuff that I love,” Taub explains. “I don’t think about it matching. Magically it all blends together.”