A Bolt from the Blue

Two reformed city dwellers cultivate artistic inspiration in the Maine countryside

Michele Michael and Patrick Moore in front of the barn they built at their home in Dresden, Maine.
Michele Michael and Patrick Moore in front of the barn they built at their home in Dresden, Maine.

Floor-to-ceiling windows and an open floor plan make for a modern-tree-house effect at the home of ceramist Michele Michael and woodworker Patrick Moore. Located in the remote Maine town of Dresden, the three-story structure—surrounded by forest and looking out onto the Eastern River—provides an intimate view of the local wildlife: eagles, owls, heron, turkeys, foxes, and beavers, to name just a few.

A Bolt from the Blue

In 2002, after vacationing on the coast, the Brooklyn, New York, couple purchased the three-bedroom house as a second home. Three years ago, they decided to sell their apartment and make a permanent move. “I had a wonderful career in New York, but once I fell in love with working with clay, I knew it would give me the opportunity to live in Maine full-time,” says Michael, a former prop stylist and magazine editor, whose line, Elephant Ceramics, celebrates painterly washes of color and handmade textures inspired by nature. “We had long dreamed of moving to the country, and my ceramics helped make it happen.”

Meaningful collections are grouped into vignettes throughout the couple's home.
Meaningful collections are grouped into vignettes throughout the couple's home.
Michael and Moore's house gives its owners easy access to local waterways.
Michael and Moore's house gives its owners easy access to local waterways.

After a flurry of home-improvement projects, which included replacing the chimney, insulating the basement, and putting in stone walkways—“not very glamorous, but necessary,” Michaels admits—they turned their attention to the interiors. Moore’s clean-lined custom furnishings mix easily with midcentury classics, Moroccan textiles, and a varied array of artworks, many from the couple’s own friends. Michael’s dominant palette of blues and creams provides a cohesive motif and a connection to the outdoors. “The earthy, watery quality of my glazing and textures comes directly from the beautiful little tidal pools, seaweed beds, lichen-covered granite, and ocean waves,” she says.

The biggest project was the barn, which was built from the ground up and now serves as Michael’s ceramics studio and Moore’s woodworking shop. Here, color is carefully considered: white walls allow surfaces such as a worktable built by Moore to stand out in shades of blue. (Even the North Star slab roller was chosen for its eye-catching hue.) Follow Elephant Ceramics on Instagram for an intimate, meditative window into Michael’s world.

1. Start with White Michael prefers cool, bright walls (Benjamin Moore Super White, to be exact) as a background for her color-rich collection of art, furnishings, and accessories.

2. Roll Out the Carpet The first decorative investments for the home were high-quality Moroccan rugs that brought personality to the space and longevity to its finishes.

3. Highlight the Beauty of Wood Many of the home’s interiors showcase wood in its close-to-natural state, including a sunny corner of the living room with a Danish teak console and an Eames lounge chair. But a few major pieces also feature painted surfaces, including the blue-top Shaker-style dining table built by Moore, and the vintage lawyers’ chairs in the kitchen, coated in a similar hue.

Turquoise, ocher, and crimson create a cohesive palette in the master bedroom.
Turquoise, ocher, and crimson create a cohesive palette in the master bedroom.
Showy dahlias burst forth from handmade ceramics on the serene dining room tablescape.
Showy dahlias burst forth from handmade ceramics on the serene dining room tablescape.

4. Show Off a Saturated Shade Inspired by a room at the Paul Smith boutique in Manhattan, Michael chose a turquoise wall paint for the master bedroom and a pompom-embellished cotton coverlet from Morocco. She then added subtlety with complementary colors—an ocher-tinged Moroccan rug, a burgundy slipper chair and wildflowers—and graphic contrast with a black-and-white photograph by Gilles Peress.

5. Create a Nature-Influenced Tablescape “I chose a palette of signature blues for my glazes because food, for the most part, looks beautiful on blue,” says Michael. On the dining table, a shock of homespun linen hand-dyed by Michael forms a base for a rotating array of ceramics: her own works as well as pieces by Christiane Perrochon, Heath, Paula Greif, Mud Australia, and some Danish midcentury and 19th-century English transferware.

Vintage Thonet chairs (in a lesser-known style), recovered in Knoll fabric, surround a Shaker-style dining table built by Moore.
Vintage Thonet chairs (in a lesser-known style), recovered in Knoll fabric, surround a Shaker-style dining table built by Moore.

6. Bring in a Hit of Modern Above the table, the Cross Cable light fixture by David Weeks adds contemporary edge to the rural scene, while echoing the shape of the stag horns in the painting by Jared DeFrancesco.

7. Build a Meaningful Collection Much of the art was amassed through exchanges with other artists, including painters Heather Chontos and ceramist Paula Greif. Given the wide-ranging mix of styles, Michael embraces the eclecticism: “I feel strongly that if you have a group of objects you love, they will somehow all work together.”

8. Keep It Moving A space should never be static. Michael frequently rearranges her furnishings, artwork, and accessories, editing along the way. “I suppose this is a hazard of being a prop stylist for so many years!”

Open shelving in the kitchen displays Michael's pieces, as well as those in her collection by other artisans.
Open shelving in the kitchen displays Michael's pieces, as well as those in her collection by other artisans.
A strong color for the kitchen cabinetry helps ground the white-walled space.
A strong color for the kitchen cabinetry helps ground the white-walled space.

9. Put It All Out There In the kitchen, Moore designed and built the open shelving to hold his wife’s collection of vintage cocktail glasses and handmade ceramics. The Prussian-blue cabinetry was inspired by a visit to the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Museum in New Gloucester, Maine, where blue milk-paint was used for the flooring and wall paneling in several buildings.

10. Make It a Group Effort Sometimes it really does take a village. The couple hosted an all-day barn raising, with many friends stopping by to help. “I’m very thankful for the community we live in,” Michael says. The structure was built of an oak-and-pine frame, using trees thinned from the surrounding forest; a timber frame employed traditional methods of hand-hewing the timbers with a broad ax, while Moore whittled each peg that holds the frame together.

Michael at work in her barn studio, with her cobalt-blue North Star slab roller to her left and pieces from her collection lining the shelves and table behind her.
Michael at work in her barn studio, with her cobalt-blue North Star slab roller to her left and pieces from her collection lining the shelves and table behind her.
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