If you build it they will come. This has been the driving philosophy behind the home we have created here on the wild coast of Maine. Here is its story!

Starting the Real Work

This is where things get messy. Really messy.

I am grateful that so many of you were interested in the first part of our house story last week!

If you missed it, you can read Part I here!

Today, welcome to Part II! This is where things get messy. Really messy.

Way worse than the dead mice in the cottage sink when I first toured the property.

Probably worse than the giant ant nest in the walls of the original guest cottage, though I wasn’t actually here for that….

So let’s get to it!

Maine is Calling

Every time I visited, I would stand in the frigid little cottage…dreaming of summer days.

My previous post ended with the renovation of the guest cottage.

I visited Maine a couple times during the winter of 2017 to check on construction and make decisions about bathroom and kitchen finishes. I stayed in a hotel because the cottage was closed up for the winter.

But every time I visited, I would stand in the frigid little cottage, looking out the windows at the icy view and dreaming of summer days — the low rumble of lobster boats in the morning, bright sunshine on blue water, cotton candy sunsets, surprise fireworks across the cove, white sails gliding by on the horizon, seagulls soaring in cloudless skies.

I didn’t have a concrete plan when we bought the property, but I was beginning to develop one.

Time to Move On

A surprise retirement party!

On Friday September 1st, 2017, I bid a very final farewell to the only job I ever had.

I worked my entire career for a federal agency. It was interesting, important, serious work. And I was fortunate to be able to work part time for many years while I raised our three kids.

Things were changing at work and in Washington, though, and, with Maine calling me, I began to think it was time for me to move on.

So I started to look into retirement. Since I started work right out of college, I was eligible to retire at a relatively young age. There would still be plenty of time left for my “second run”, as my husband calls it.

On Friday September 1st, 2017, I bid a very final farewell to the only job I ever had. Due to the nature of my work, there is no going back for a visit.

That weekend my daughter Zoë threw me a surprise retirement party. And boy was it a surprise! I had absolutely no inkling anything was afoot. My entire family and many friends celebrated my transition from one phase of life into the next.

There was a framed U.S. flag, a gift from my employer for my years of service, to honor my past.

And a “Molly in Maine” banner my daughter ordered, representing the future. (Though I did not realize at the time how significant that moniker would become…)

The First Step

The original cottage and garage

This was a huge project — the physical manifestation of my dream.

By the summer of 2017 the renovation of the guest cottage was wrapping up and I was sliding gradually into retirement. It was time to turn my attention to the main house.

This was a huge project — the physical manifestation of my dream. It wasn’t something that my builder and I could design on our own this time.

When we added on to our Maryland house, we used an architect that we found by knocking on the door of a house with an addition I had admired.

I ended up doing the same thing here in Maine, but with an added bonus! The couple whose door I knocked on not only gave me a referral for the firm which designed my dream house, but they have become some of my closest friends up here!

From Vision to Concrete Plan

All this is to say that a lot of thought and intention went into the design of the house.

I love the classic but clean lines of my friends’ home. It is a new build, but from the outside it looks as if it has always been there. Inside, the design is open, but not too big, with windows framing the beautiful harbor views.

I wanted our home here to be a current twist on a classic Maine coastal cottage — the kind of home that has been passed down through the generations. But with a more open floor plan, big windows, and new plumbing! I didn’t want anything too big or too fancy. Simple finishes such as tongue and groove paneling, bead board, wood beams, stone and pine floors. And we had to have a big stone fireplace in the center of the home. Outside, natural cedar shingles, of course!

Silverio Architect + Design of Lincolnville, ME delivered all that, and more! The new house settles naturally into the landscape. Deep overhanging eaves, dormer rooflines, craftsman-style pillars, and a mix of casement and 6-over-1 windows speak the vernacular of traditional New England coastal architecture.

A large wrap-around deck is covered by the eaves over the seating area on one side of the house and open on the other where the outdoor dining table is. French doors from both the living and dining areas create indoor-outdoor flow and allow for easy access to the waterfront.

All this is to say that a lot of thought and intention went into the design of the house.

Now, it was time to get started with construction!

Construction Begins

Where once our tidy little cottage stood, there was now an enormous dirt pit surrounded by more dirt.

But first, zoning and permits…

The oceanfront location of our home means we must conform to certain zoning setback requirements. Most significantly, the house must be located at least 75 ft from the shoreline. It turned out the original cottage stood partially within the setback zone, so our construction plans immediately changed from a major renovation/expansion to a complete new build, .

It meant we needed special permits from the town. Boo!

It also meant we could have a basement. Yay!

Construction began in December 2017. The original cottage was demolished. (That didn’t take much.) Then an enormous hole was dug for the foundation and basement. That was when things started to get really messy….

My first visit to the now construction site in December was quite a shocker! Where once our tidy little cottage stood, there was now an enormous dirt pit surrounded by more dirt. Did I mention there was dirt?? That dirt would remain for a good 8 months after we moved into the house.

Steady Progress

Construction progressed steadily through the winter and into the spring.

Construction progressed steadily through the winter and into the spring. It was amazing to watch the dirt pit gradually turn into a house! I wonder how many pieces of wood were pieced together for the framing! The build team worked tirelessly through the worst of Maine weather. But oh, on those beautiful days, they sure had a great view!

Meanwhile, I was busy picking out the hard finishes. As with the guest cottage, I made all the interior design decisions myself. I did work with some great local businesses who helped me narrow down the choices and execute my vision.

Crestwood Kitchens : kitchen design

Fogg Lighting: light fixtures throughout

Matt Berta Cabinetry: primary bathroom cabinets

Distinctive Tile and Design: tile throughout

This was the fun part! I enjoyed picking out every little detail, down to the doorknobs!

If there is interest, I could do additional posts on specific rooms or finishes. Let me know if you would like to see something like this!

Construction Ends

I greeted everyone when I picked them up at the airport “Welcome home!”

By the time summer 2018 rolled around, the house was really coming together! It was exciting to watch what I had only seen in my mind’s eye become a reality.

I had been living in the guest cottage with Maddie and Cisco and our cats, Izzie and Tuck since May, when our house in Maryland sold. As delightful as the cottage is, it was getting a little tight with the five of us in just 450 square feet!

So, as parts of the house neared completion, we started hanging out there a bit. We ordered our refrigerator and stuck it in the unfinished kitchen space. When friends visited, I moved beds into the guest rooms and they showered in the guest cottage. In August the kids all came. By then we had most of a working kitchen and the downstairs bathroom.

The house wasn’t even finished and we were already making memories here.

Finally in October the house was ready enough for me to make the move down the driveway. We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas here that year. Before everyone arrived at Thanksgiving, I had the stained glass insert, which welcomed us home in Maryland for so many years, installed in the front door I had custom made to fit it here.

Never mind that there were temporary wooden steps to that door and a wooden ramp to the mudroom. There was no landscaping or real driveway. The house was an island in a sea of dirt and construction debris.

But still, I greeted everyone when I picked them up at the airport “Welcome home!”

Lessons Learned

Building a home was a huge privilege, but is was also one of the most stressful things I have ever done.

Have you ever been through the construction of a new home??

It is certainly a huge privilege and an incredible opportunity. And one of the most creatively fulfilling things I have ever done.

But it was also one of the most stressful. And our construction went relatively smoothly!

We had our share of wins and losses. The biggest win was when locally quarried granite cobblestone was found during initial excavation. It had been used for fill probably when the land was leveled for the original cottage. The builder salvaged as much of the stone as he could. The mason then built the fireplace and the wall out front with it. We still have plenty of stone left — maybe for a wall up by the road one day. It is not only beautiful, but it adds such a sense of place. And, it was free!

The losses were generally small. A bathroom vanity arrived with a cracked marble top. One of the kitchen cabinets somehow ended up in Hilton Head, SC. Due to an ordering error, we had to scramble at the last minute for kitchen counters.

Through it all, my builder was diligent, honest, and flexible. He listened to my crazy ideas and then made them happen. The house he built for our family is not only beautiful, but strong and tight. It has already sheltered us from numerous storms and extreme weather.

The most stressful part of building the house was the cost. It felt like someone was always asking for money. Often lots of it. Ultimately, though, we were lucky — if we were to build now, it would probably be double the price.

Leaving Maryland

Ultimately, I realized that it was time to move forward.

At the same time as the construction was going on in Maine, I was clearing our Maryland home of 28 years of life and getting it ready to sell. It was a huge undertaking in and of itself and certainly added to the stress of the construction process.

But that is a long story for another day, if you are ever interested in hearing it.

In short, leaving our home in Maryland was probably the hardest thing I have ever done — physically and emotionally. I brought all my babies home to that house and launched them all into the world from it.

That home had been wonderful to raise our children in. They were grown and gone, though. Ultimately, I realized it was time to move forward.

The sunny yellow house might not be ours anymore, but the memories we made there always will be.

It is time now to make new memories.

In a new home.

Living the Dream

I made the leap and chased after a dream.

So, here I am now. Molly in Maine.

I left behind everything that was familiar and comfortable — our home of 28 years, a career, friends.

I made the leap and chased after a dream.

Was it easy? Certainly not always. There were times when I seriously questioned what we were doing here. Sometimes I still have those days.

But then I look out the windows at those same views of “harbor, shoreline, island, and ocean; bold rocks, jagged spruce, and soaring birds” that I saw on that first day standing in the field in January 2016.  And I know I am home.

We built it. In just a few weeks my first grandchild is coming.

I am living my dream.

I hope this story encourages you to chase after your dream too!

Thank you for taking the time to read the story of our home!


Highlighting coastal decor and lifestyle, Maddie and Cisco, and the way life should be...