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Home Decorating: Cape House in Maine

Home Decorating: Cape House in Maine
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Terry John Woods and Dale West extended their Vermont farmhouse sensibility to Down East Maine to create what they consider “the perfect summer home.”

The familiar things have their place here: a well-used table; an old cupboard, scraped and painted, awaiting a new round of memories; a scattering of reclaimed boards, smoothed and finished into something fine. They’re connections, these pieces–to family, to past gatherings, to the Vermont dairy farm where these cherished items once graced a generations-old homestead.

Over time, Terry John Woods, an interior designer, had turned that farm, in Shrewsbury, into something spectacular. But then came the call of the sea and, at the same time, decisions about what to do with his growing collections of antiques, furnishings, and folk art. He wanted to keep his year-round home in Vermont while looking for a summer place.

“I buy houses so I can save stuff,” Terry says, laughing.

He’s kidding–sort of. Truth is, about five years ago, his attention and many summer weeks were being pulled toward the Down East area around Machiasport, where he and his partner, Dale West, a writer and fundraiser, would eventually come to own this three-bedroom Cape atop a hill overlooking the water. It’s a different setting, of course, but this 190-year-old house, with its own history and scuffmarks, offered familiar ground for Terry’s things.

A quiet coastal town in Maine’s Washington County, Machiasport isn’t a place you just stumble across. Up you go: four hours northeast of Portland, past Rockland, Bucksport, and Jonesboro, before it comes into focus. The first naval battle of the American Revolution was fought just off its shores, and a century ago, fish and timber brought jobs and wealth here. But that time is long past. It’s been a struggle ever since to get those dollars back from a tourist run that often doesn’t advance north of Bar Harbor.

But in early 2006, that seclusion attracted Terry and Dale, native Vermonters who loved fixing up old homes and had a passion for undiscovered pockets of New England. “We were doing these little weekend getaways every month,” Terry says. “I was online looking at houses, and I found this place for $60,000 in Machiasport. I immediately made an appointment with the real-estate agent and told Dale, ‘That’s where we’re going.’”

They didn’t buy that house, but at the end of their stay, they succumbed to the agent’s pleading to show them a double-chimney shingled Cape that had just come onto the market. It was airy and light, and through a partial renovation job, the couple could see that the important details of the place–wood floors, plaster walls, wavy-glass windows–had been preserved. Built in the 1820s by a local furniture maker, it also offered a level of craftsmanship that Terry had rarely seen in a Cape.

“The high ceilings are practically unheard of, and the trim is incredible,” he explains. “The [trim's] scalloped casing downstairs–that’s something you’d see in the White House.” There was also the unimpeded view of the Machias River. On the drive home to Shrewsbury, they agreed to buy the place for $110,000. Terry and Dale had found their summer house.

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