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!

Time Flies

If you build it, they will come.

I know I said in my last blog post that this week I would be sharing our mantel and living room dressed for late spring. Sadly, though, our chilly wet weather has left me totally uninspired to decorate the house for warmer days.

I also got sidetracked from the living room with a kitchen project that has been rather time consuming. Sometimes when I am in a decorating rut, a project is just what I need to get my creative juices flowing! I am excited to share the results with you later this month once I am done!

But I digress…

The main reason I changed the subject of today’s blog post is that I realized this week marks 5 years since we made the big move to Maine. And next week it will be 7 years since we bought our property here.

Wow, time flies!

I related some of the story of our home in my very first blog post Bold Journeys and Second Runs. Today I am sharing the details of how we embraced the philosophy “If you build it, they will come” and realized the dream of building a home here on the coast of Maine where family and friends can come to reconnect and relax.

This is the first of a two-part series. It will cover how we ended up here in Maine, our home search, the original property, and the guest cottage renovation.

The Dream

Coastal Maine cottage with patriotic decor
The dream: a house on the coast of Maine

I fell in love with New England when I went to college in New Hampshire. After graduation, work brought me to the D.C. area. I stayed there for 34 years, working for the federal government, building a good life, and raising a family.

But I always dreamed of returning to New England. I longed for a life of quiet beauty, far away from the rat race.

Our family started vacationing on Nantucket each summer so that I could get my New England fix. And that is where the coast claimed my heart.

Then, two of our kids attended college in Maine, and I fell hard for the people, lifestyle, and natural beauty of the state.

Do you see where I am going with all this?

My dream was set: When I retired, I wanted to live in a house on the coast of Maine.

The Big First Step

Love at first sight.

We started looking at properties here in Maine in the fall of 2015. I had read in Maine lifestyle magazine Down East about a town in the MIdcoast area. I knew that I didn’t want to be in the southern part of the state, but I also didn’t want to be too far from Portland’s amenities. The Midcoast area seemed liked a good fit.

To be truthful, I had no grand plan when we started looking. I just knew that my heart was pulling me to Maine.

We eventually ended up looking at homes in a community neighboring the one I had originally read about, because, as our realtor put it, we could get waterfront property down the peninsula for the same price as waterview closer to the nearest town with shopping and restaurants.

In December of that year, I spent hours pouring over listings on Zillow.

By the time I flew back to look at more homes, I had a clear favorite: a property with two tiny seasonal cottages and a field on the rocky shoreline of a quiet cove opening out to the ocean.

You all know the ending to this part of the story. It was love at first sight when, on a mild January day, I stood in the field here and took in the views of harbor, shoreline, island, and ocean; bold rocks, jagged spruce, and soaring birds. 

We closed on our slice of Maine heaven on May 12th, 2016. I flew up from Maryland for the day. I signed the papers, ordered three mattresses, went for a bike ride with a friend, and ate a lobster roll. Then I flew back home.

I had no idea at the time what a truly momentous day this was.

The Original Property

Looking down the “driveway” to the original cottage. The guest cottage stands to the right.

I always joke that we bought a view with two rundown cottages. I had eyes only for the ocean vista. Not even the dead mice in a Rube Golberg-type trap in the kitchen sink could deter me.

I had a vision in my head of what this property could one day be, but the reality at that time was very different.

The “Lower” Cottage

The “lower” cottage by the water was the larger, with two bedrooms (a queen and one that just fit a twin), an open living/dining/kitchen space, and a tiny bathroom with a shower barely big enough to turn around in. But there was a fireplace and big windows framing the view. It was simple and small. And after I worked my decorating magic, I would even have called it charming and cozy.

The “Upper” Cottage

The original upper/guest cottage

The “upper” cottage by the road was in much rougher shape — downright dark and dingy. The walls were made out of a kind of thick cardboard and the shower was a strange plastic contraption with the water heater right next to it. The cottage was accessed by way of cement steps straight from the field. You entered into a small enclosed porch. There was only a small window looking down to the water.

I did stick a bed in there, but I would never have called it charming. Or cozy…

Settling In

As a seasonal getaway, the lower cottage was more than adequate. I settled in and made it home. The first two summers we had the property, I would make the crazy long drive from Maryland with Maddie and Cisco, sometimes just for a long weekend. But I always felt such a huge sense of release when I pulled into the driveway and saw our little cottage with the water sparkling behind it.

It was my happy place, and I was realizing that I wanted to spend more time here.

Maybe even all my time.

Guest Cottage Renovation

The main impediment to spending more time at our property here was the fact that the cottages were not winterized. There was one baseboard heating unit in the living room of the main cottage, but no insulation in either of them. You could actually see daylight around the brick of the fireplace!

The first season I stayed until the bitter end in the fall, one of the last of the summer people to close up and leave.

Before leaving, though, I had lined up our caretaker Scott, who is actually a skilled carpenter by profession, to do a complete renovation of the upper, now guest, cottage.

The builder enclosed the cottage in plastic so he could work on it through the winter.

Scott began work in December. He took the building down to the studs, finding rotted posts and an enormous ant nest behind the cardboard walls.

The Plan

Now the porch makes for a welcoming entrance from the driveway.

Together we designed a plan for the new cottage — opening everything up, vaulting the ceiling, and incorporating the enclosed porch into the main living space. A wall of five large windows on the water side now look out across the field straight down to the shoreline. There is a new entrance to the cottage from the driveway via a welcoming front porch. (The porch was preexisting, off the bedroom.) Classic natural cedar shingles have replaced the cheap plastic siding.

The layout includes a living space with seating (the sofa is a queen size pullout) and a dining table, a sleeping nook, a kitchenette complete with mini farm sink and under counter refrigerator, and a compact but luxurious bathroom. There is even a utility closet containing an on-demand water heater and a European style combo washer/dryer.

And yes, there is insulation and electric baseboard heating!

The cottage is now a bright and welcoming retreat for guests. I have decorated it in a casual coastal Maine style so that visiting family and friends really feel like they are on a getaway. It is wonderful for them to have their space!

I often get asked if we rent out the guest cottage. At this time we do not, but that is definitely something I could see doing in the future. I will let you know if we ever do!

The Next Step in My Dream

January 3, 2018 — the foundation and basement are poured for the new house!

Even though we had added an addition and updates to our house in Maryland, the guest cottage renovation was a huge learning experience for me. I made all the design decisions and picked out all the finishes.

It turned out to be just a warm-up for the even bigger project to come.

Next week, I will be talking about the main house construction, the big move to Maine, and how we continue to live our dream here.

We built it. And family and friends come.

Thank you for joining me here today! I look forward to seeing you here again next week for Part II!

Be well, friends!


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