A designer transforms a fishing shack into a stylish abode
Fishing boats, ocean views, and a unique draw footbridge make Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine, one of the state’s iconic locations. Since the cove is still a working port, fishing shacks along the shore are common, but one of these has a special story.
This fishing shack, originally built in the early 1900s, had a trap door in the floor so that fish could be unloaded from a boat below and brought directly into the building. Over time, two more shacks were cobbled onto the original one, creating a hodgepodge structure. Years passed, boats and fishermen came and went, and then one day, it was sold, and its fishing days were done.
Sometime in the 1970s, artist Bruce Thayer took up residence. Although the home remained a structural jumble, Thayer loved it. He repeatedly invited his friend Andrea Maher of Andrea Maher Interior Design in Boston, to visit him there, but a busy schedule kept her away. Thayer eventually died, and some time later, Maher found herself house hunting in nearby York Harbor. On a whim, her realtor showed her his fishing shack in Perkins Cove. Maher first thought that the home was a “tear down,” but after going inside, she saw potential. “The place had great energy,” she says. “How ironic that Bruce wanted me to see it for all these years, and then my husband and I wound up buying it!”
A Skilled Transformation
Maher wanted the home to maintain a cottage feel and be comfortable. She knew that she and her family would use the house year-round, so a place geared to both easy living and entertaining was key. Jerry DeHart of Coastal General Construction in Ogunquit was hired to do the rebuild.
“The project was very challenging because shoreline zoning laws limited how much square footage we could add to the home,” DeHart explains. “We had to be creative in planning the space. We also had to work within the perimeter of the existing structure. There was little room for a laydown area while construction was underway. We worked on 10 feet of building, then stopped, moved stuff, and did 10 more feet.”
When remodeling the house, which is now two and a half stories with a half basement and 2,300 square feet of living space, DeHart retained as much of the original building materials as possible. “Andrea wanted to maintain the original character and be good about recycling,” he says. Consequently, he saved many of the existing cedar shake shingles and much of the flooring.
DeHart raised the roof in a few areas because some of the original ceilings were only five feet six inches high. Engineering brought the various rooflines into synch and changed the configuration to accommodate snow loads better. Inside, he opened up space by removing walls and realigning windows so that they focused on water views. The home also needed insulation, and energy efficient windows were added.
“The living room was like Pandora’s box,” Maher says. “I thought we might just refinish the floors, but when we lifted up the floorboards to see how things were, we discovered a mishmash of wiring. Every time an electrician had done an upgrade, he’d wired over the existing wires. We knew that we had to start over.”
The builder retained the original pine floors in some downstairs and upstairs rooms. In cases where the floors had to be replaced, he used reclaimed wood as much as possible, but even new boards were locally sourced. “The floorboards are six to 10 inches wide,” DeHart says. “They look spectacular, and everything blends really well.”
Although the cove shelters the home from violent waves during storms, DeHart wanted to make sure the house was built up enough to withstand possible flooding. “We have had storm tides at 12 feet, but the home sits above 13 feet, so it will be fine,” he says. “It is also built on ledge, so it is not going anywhere.”
Colors of Sand and Sea
After nine months, the remodel was complete, and Maher began creating the interiors. She selected a sand and ocean theme, choosing soft tones that work well with the coastal light. Although Maher loves bright colors, she went with white bead board throughout most of the home to open up space and relied on furnishings to provide accent hues.
In the living room, a cheerful blue-and-white striped sofa and tan boxy armchairs make a cozy seating area around an unusual “suitcase” coffee table. Manufactured by Bauer Interiors of Atlanta, Georgia, the leather-banded table resembles old-fashioned luggage. Narrower armchairs face the fireplace, which dominates one wall and is original to the home. Since the living and dining areas flow together, these chairs can easily be turned around and incorporated into the dining space for more seating.
“When a house is small, you need to plan for flexibility,” Maher says. “We frequently dine in front of the fire in cooler weather, yet with a simple adjustment, furnishings can do double-duty.”
Maher used outdoor furniture fabric from Ralph Lauren’s Outdoor Furnishings line on her chairs and sofa. “It is light and easy to clean,” she says. “Throughout the home, I used nothing but outdoor fabric, linen, or burlap. I stayed as natural as possible. Even the living room rugs are reversible and can be dry cleaned.”
The living room opens onto the deck, which wraps three-quarters of the house and adds another 400 square feet of usable space. An outdoor stairway gives guests easy access to the area. Maher chose Summer Classics outdoor furniture in teak for the deck; her chairs feature brilliant blue cushions with festive striped accent pillows, both of which capture the carefree ambience of this outdoor space.
“We love the deck!” she says. “We have parties out there all the time, sometimes with people dancing until 3 a.m. On warm summer nights, I’ve even fallen asleep out there. It completes the house.”
Inside the home, Maher often repurposes furnishings. The dining table was originally old, dark wood but she painted it cream, along with the accompanying ladder-back chairs. The effect is as clean and bright as sun on water. Maher painted the antique sideboard light blue and transformed the elaborate iron sconces just above it into ethereal sculpture with white paint. “If something is old, but not especially valuable, I’m not afraid to repaint it to achieve the look I want,” she says. “You need to be willing to take some risks.”
In the kitchen, she created a cool, white work area by continuing the white bead board on the cabinets and by using built-ins to maximize space. She chose gray-and-white, leathered marble for the countertops. “Leathered marble is textured and not glossy,” she says.
Woven wood shades adorn the living room windows, and the kitchen windows are hung with burlap valances edged in shells. These complement the pine floors and balance the white walls.
The cottage has two guest bedrooms, each with a different feel. In one, Maher revamped furniture belonging to her husband Marc’s grandmother. “The furniture had been bleached—it looked awful,” she says. “I had a local woodworker, Jack Rodie, refinish it and merge the two twin beds into one king-sized bed. Now it looks great and meets our needs.” She outfitted the new bed with Ralph Lauren’s cable sweater pillow and throw in pale blue to complement the white walls and dark wood of the floors and furniture.
The second guest bedroom is more playful, with shelves outfitted with kids’ games and toys and a child’s desk in front of one window. A former record cabinet serves as a nightstand, and an antique armoire redone in mustard and blue provides storage. The hardwood floors are painted sky blue and graced with a wool needlepoint rug embellished with musical designs. While the rug is very old, Maher is not shy about placing it, or the armoire, in a room where children may play.
The master bedroom is the only room where Maher departs from her signature white walls. Instead she creates a personal haven by painting the room Wythe Blue. The effect is soothing against the white bead board ceiling, polished wood floors, and dark wood of the Guy Chaddock mahogany bed. The nightstand—another reclaimed item—is done in a paler shade of the blue, while a Marie Albert armoire, also in mahogany, makes a dramatic statement in one corner of the room.
Now that the remodel is finished and the decorating done, Maher and her family love their “fishing shack cottage” and life in Perkins Cove. “I still cannot believe this place is ours,” she says. “I guess it was meant to be.”
Andrea Maher Interiors
Coastal General Construction Inc.
Jack Rodie Fine Woodworking