Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Harbor Lights Illuminated... The First Floor

Each year, The Museums Of OldYork in York, Maine has successfully managed to secure a residence suitable to be transformed by interior designers into a Decorator Show House.  I look forward to visiting the Old York show house each year as they are always wonderful properties and the designers consistently produce fabulous spaces, not to mention that a field trip to coastal Maine is a wonderful way to spend a lovely day in July or August!  I was very pleased to throw my hat into the ring last year and participate in “Secret Cove,” the 24th annual show house which was located in Kittery Point.  Creating "Syrena's Room," a lavender, aquamarine, and silver bedroom with the feel of an underwater paradise for a mermaid- and surf-loving teenage girl was one of the high points of my professional design career, and brought me much personal satisfaction and joy.

This past March, I attended the informational tour of this year’s home, but other commitments prevented me from contributing my design skills to the project.  

Before... snow covered grounds on a cold day in March
But, like every year, I couldn't miss visiting the completed show house once it opened. This year’s show house, called “Harbor Lights,” is extra special for the Museums Of Old York as it is the 25th anniversary of their major fundraising effort.  The house that they were able to secure has a rather grand provenance.  The Dutch Gambrel shingle cottage was designed by a prominent Boston architectural firm and built in 1906 for New Hampshire Governor Frank Rollins as a summer home on a bluff overlooking the York River.  Since then it has only changed hands twice, first in 1920, and then in 1955 to the family that has lived in it year-round and still currently owns it today.

The show house actually closed for tours after Saturday, August 16th, but I am sharing my visits with you so you won’t have to miss out on seeing it.  I am including a ‘before’ photo or two of each of the spaces so that you can fully appreciate the conceptual and physical work that the designers had to face and execute when they approached this project.  It’s one thing to visit a show house and say that you do or don’t like a room... that's fair enough, and I do it myself.  But to have a glimpse into what it actually started out as, and then see how far the designer has taken it gives you a whole new perspective.  In this post we will make our way around most of the First Floor…

The home is on Harbor Lights Way, a long road that winds its way through a wooded setting until arriving at the cottage, where sweeping river and harbor vistas finally come into view behind the home.

The first interior space that you arrive at is the “Enclosed Porch.”  When I first saw the space, it was filled with a lot of wicker furniture and seasonal accessories jumbled together in storage, and had a decidedly casual seaside feel with lots of white and turquoise paint.  It looked pretty typical for a coastal space, but offered such opportunity with its many windows and French doors, making it a light-filled, welcoming space with both garden and water views.  Designers Michaele Boehm and Kacey Graham of Boehm Graham Interiors chose a soothing palette of cool grays and crisp white, inspired by sand and skies, white caps and clouds.  The space is at one relaxing and elegant. The stripes of a painted floor and drapery trim are designed to be reminiscent of the sea foam left behind the incoming tide.  Over-sized bright white ginger jars make a statement and draw you into the space, making sure that you don’t miss the view to the harbor.


From the Enclosed Porch you make your way into the largest room in the house, the “Living Room.”  Initially, it was riot of color with the window and door trim, as well as the fireplace, painted a glossy bright watermelon hue.  Imagining that this home and space would be the base for “large, relaxed gatherings of extended families and lazy, hazy summers spent playing, swimming and boating,” designer Meredith Bohn of Meredith Bohn Interior Design chose to move away from the busyness of the bright colors, and focus more on a palette that is more simple yet elegant.  Crisp white on the ceiling and trim makes all the difference in the world, and the aubergine, lime green , and taupey-gray tones featured on the furnishings, walls, and floor coverings, complement the historic features of the space while also feeling modern.

Before... looking toward the water

Before... looking toward the woods

A large opening that was originally flanked by French doors draws you from the Living Room to the “Dining Room.”  When I initially saw this space in March, it was a sea of green… similar to that of a Chinoiserie bedroom in the Governor’s Palace at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, and was being used as a temporary main floor sleeping space by a family member.  All of the trim was painted green, and the walls were wallpapered in a Chinoiserie-like green pattern; the backs of the built-in china cabinets were contrasted in the watermelon hue borrowed from the Living Room.  Frank Hodge, of F.D. Hodge Interior Design, completely changed the complexion of the space when he transitioned it to a palette of French blue, cream, chocolate brown, and pale coral.  This scheme was inspired by a collection of French pottery that Frank had acquired many years ago, and was brought to life by a Quadrille fabric that coordinated beautifully.


The Dining Room was initially accessed by the house staff through a swinging door from the Butler’s Pantry, which adjoined the original kitchen on the wooded side of the house.  Next to the Dining Room was a covered porch with a wonderful harbor view.  At some point, the utilitarian kitchen was delegated to other uses, and the covered porch became the family’s “Kitchen.”   Designer Lisa Teague of Lisa Teague Design Studios liked the Kitchen’s summer-porch feel, so she decided to keep the update simple with a goal of not competing with the view, and opened it up by removing the island.  As small as it is, the Kitchen is very inviting and would indeed be a lovely spot to enjoy a cup of coffee and take in the panorama outside.  The quiet, coastal tones of the space are from her collection, “Quiet Home Paints,” a non-toxic, VOC free line.


Speaking of the emphasis on the view… let’s head out on the back “Patio” for just a bit before continuing on.  It spans the width of the rear of the home, with access from the Living Room and Kitchen, as well as views through large windows in the Dining Room.  The vistas to the York River and Harbor, as well as the Atlantic Ocean are, of course, the star of the show.  Georgie McGowan, of Georgie’s Home and Garden, made sure to include many comfortable spots for relaxing or enjoying a meal, all while taking in the magnificent expanse.


Back inside, and around the corner from the Kitchen, is a diminutive “Butler’s Pantry” where the servants from the Governor’s day undoubtedly made a stop before serving in the Dining Doom.  Lisa Teague has interpreted this space more as a potting space, perfect for fresh herbs and veggies to be used in recipes in the Kitchen. 


Down the hall to what was once the kitchen, one now finds the “Study,” a quiet, out of the way retreat.  In between being a kitchen and now, the family seemed to use the space as a den or family room of sorts, and it had an eclectic, folk art feeling.  Cynthia Clark, of Cynthia Clark Interiors, kept the color scheme simple to offset the many door and window openings, built-ins, and trim traversing the space.  The many doorways and windows also made the furniture layout in this room challenging as it is a walk-though space.  Cynthia floated a desk and comfortable chair and ottoman in the center of the room allowing it to be functional while keeping it nice and open.



After passing through the Study, you reach the “Back Staircase Gallery”… the back staircase would have originally been used by house staff heading up from the kitchen or in from the back door.  Now, painter Elizabeth Whelton of Elizabeth Whelton Fine Art & Design, imagines it to be a space where “children pass though when they are heading to the beach,” and “then returning home and running up the back stairs in sweet exhaustion (and maybe a few friends) at the end of the day.”  The space was inspired by Elizabeth’s summer sketchbook, and the surface designs replicate painting supplies.  A reclaimed sail is used as a drape in the landing, perfect for a private changing spot from a wet swimsuit.


So, except for a porch on the front of the home, which I will share with you next time as we leave the home, this has been a tour of the first floor of “Harbor Lights.”  What were your favorite spaces?  What ideas might you incorporate in your next design project?  Are you inspired?

Please note: all original photography by David and Katherine Hawkins - not to be used without permission

Accompanying music “Harbor Lights” (Silk Degrees, 1976) courtesy of Boz Scaggs


  1. Absolutely amazing work putting this together Katherine... one of your best posts ever! AWESOME JOB!


  2. Thank you Hawkeye... I really enjoyed putting it together... and it's your photography that makes it come alive... so special thanks to you!


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