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Home Decorating: Cape House in Maine

Home Decorating: Cape House in Maine
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Still, it needed some help. A longtime Maine family had owned the property, before it had landed in the hands of an enterprising house-flipper, who’d gone through the hard work of ripping up the carpet and taking down the wood paneling that had plagued the place, before she’d run out of energy and put it back up for sale. What Terry and Dale had purchased was a place that had been scraped clean but still needed finishing.

“I remember heading up there, my car stuffed with tools and other things,” Terry says. “There was Sheetrock dust everywhere, and we had our air mattress to sleep on, and our white Ralph Lauren sheets. I’d get up in the middle of the night, the mattress had gone flat, the sheets were all dirty, and I’d just be lying on the floor thinking, ‘What did we just do?'”

Progress did come. Terry and Dale worked on one room at a time, refinishing and redecorating–doing it with a frugal Yankee’s touch and a style largely informed by the renovated Vermont farmhouse. They gutted and expanded the lone bath, anchoring its look with an old clawfoot tub Terry had found for cheap. In the kitchen, the new owners hit the restart button. Out went a decor that screamed of the 1970s; in came a new but chipped soapstone counter that Terry had picked up at a discount. Now it’s at home atop an old potting cupboard that once stood in his family’s greenhouse in Vermont.

“[The cupboard] is about the same age as the [Machiasport] house, but it looks like it’s been there forever,” Terry says. “I scraped it by hand, and under many layers of paint was this wonderful sage-green color. I took that color as a lead and used it as trim around the windows and backsplash in the kitchen.”

Even when they opted for new, Terry and Dale took care to hide the gleam. A pair of stainless-steel refrigerators, for example, were tucked into a box the owners built out of old doors. And, throughout the house, cupboards, including Terry’s grandmother’s old pie cabinet and another that his father once used to store tools, find their place here, while treasures such as a series of chipped pickling crocks and old wooden bowls add to the familiarity. Even the family barn has a seat at the table–or, to be accurate, is the table, made from boards Terry reclaimed from the Shrewsbury property.

“A true summer house has the special stuff that you’ve kept,” Dale explains. “It’s the stuff you didn’t throw away, the things that make you feel comfortable.” Terry agrees: “Seeing all the furnishings and farm stuff, Machiasport is a sentimental house for me when I walk into it.”

Still, it’s not all about Vermont. Infused into the look of the house is also a style drawn directly from the immediate surroundings, bringing ocean and farm together. The color choices (soft yellows, cool greens, and light blues) affirm the home’s coastal presence, as do the series of seascape oils, painted by Terry, that hang on the walls.

There are little touches, too, such as the collection of local reddish rhyolite rocks–jasper lookalikes–lining one fireplace mantle, while a group of white shells top another. Put together, it’s a house that’s been freshened, not overhauled: brought back, not done over.

“The house was like this little silver pot where this handle was sticking out of the ground and we just polished it,” says Terry. “We just wanted to make it shine again.”

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