Coastal Callings: A Restored Waterfront Home on Maine's Hunting Island
On one of Maine's 3,000 coastal islands rests a single revamped abode, filled with timeworn antiques, comfortables textiles, tonal wood, and raw beauty.
Like the craggy spits of land they sit on, many homes dotting the Maine shoreline are rustic and unique in beauty, and shaped by decades of wind, weather, and waves. This summer cottage, on an island so tiny it practically disappears during storms, was thoughtfully renovated to handle anything, even regular winter floods. It's just one of 30 gems featured in Maura McEvoy and Basha Burwell's new book, The Maine House ($39.99, amazon.com).
More than 3,000 islands speckle Maine's coastline. This one, called Hunting Island, is a five- minute motorboat ride from Cape Newagen in the town of Southport, about an hour north of Portland. The sole dwelling was originally built in the early 20th century as a hunting-and-fishing camp, and had no electricity or proper plumbing until 2011, when Kate and Bob Horgan hired Boothbay-based contractors Knickerbocker Group to fully renovate it.
They rebuilt the roof, which is now covered in standing-seam metal, and added awning-style windows made of durable mahogany and painted in Benjamin Moore Soft Jazz. But they preserved its weathered charm—even using stones from the site and beach-sand mortar to restore and add onto the cottage. A two-story addition introduced more space—but the creatives found ways to preserve the integrity of the coastal abode, which is full of warm, sand-washed woods, natural texture, comfortable textiles, and antiques sourced from up and down the Northeast. Keep reading to take a step inside.
From "The Maine House," by Maura McEvoy and Basha Burwell. Text by Kathleen Hackett © 2021, published by Vendome.
Up and Away
High tide can bring seawater six feet from the cottage's front door, so buttoning it up well before winter storms hit is essential. "The first spring, we returned to find the front door and two kitchen windows gone. There was a boulder in the living room," says Kate. The couple replaced plywood winter window coverings with polycarbonate ones custom-designed-and-built by Knickerbocker Group, and poured sealed-concrete floors with vents to let water flow out. The steel rods rimming the ceiling support the stone walls and have hooks to hang up the long gray couch (which came with the place) and wooden furniture, mostly gathered by Kate at antiques shops in Maine, Vermont, and New Jersey. Cushions get stored upstairs, and upholstered chairs go to a guesthouse built on higher ground. The art is by Mainers: A Paula Ragsdale painting is at left, while the other two are by Martha Burkert.
All Things Considered
In the living room and elsewhere, the original stone walls were supported by nondestructive reinforcing (including the steel rods visible in the photograph at left) but kept intact. The slipcovered armchair is by Lee Industries. Electrical outlets sit above flood level, powered by wiring contained in conduits.
Into the Woodwork
The kitchen is part of a two-story, 365-square-foot addition. Its marble countertops were inspired by a cover of Living, says Kate: "I gave it to Knickerbocker, and they copied them!" The counters and sink are the only fixed elements; Knickerbocker Group custom-built sturdy portable cabinets—some on casters—that can be moved to the back of the house, which gets less water, for the winter. The walls and ceiling are whitewashed cedar, and the light fixtures are from Rejuvenation. Local artist Philippe Villard made the dish rack.
The Captain's Quarters
A pair of twin beds were all this room (one of two original bedrooms) could fit when Bob and Kate bought the cottage in September 2010. They expanded it as part of the addition. It's set over the kitchen and a new guest room; the stone wall marks where the original structure ends. On the other side of the wooden wall is a bathroom with a washer and dryer, bidet, large shower, and separate tub with views of a lighthouse on a neighboring island. The garment-dyed, handmade linen bedding is by California-based Bella Notte. "It's those unexpected touches that bring civility to life on a rock!" says Kate. The painting is by John Seitzer.
Oldies But Goodies
Kate, who has a decorating business called Darché Designs, chose furnishings that would not compete with the house's raw beauty. This eating area with views of Newagen harbor is adjacent to the expanded kitchen. She found the gray cupboard at an antiques shop in nearby Wiscasset; it holds pantry goods and vases. The tall, skinny clock is from Abacus Gallery, in Boothbay Harbor; the botanical prints are from the Frederick Galleries in Spring Lake, New Jersey (where the couple spend other months of the year); and the small framed artworks are by Kim and Philippe Villard. The table and chairs came from The Nest, also in Spring Lake (but now closed).
Opposite the eating area, an original staircase leads to the remodeled primary bedroom and bath. The railings are new, but the driftwood banister is a lifer.