Verdant pines, chilly Atlantic waters, fresh lobster—these are just a few of the summer delights that Maine brings to mind. For interiors photographer Maura McEvoy, jeweler Basha Burwell and writer Kathleen Hacket—all fervent New Englanders with deep ties to the state—Maine also means soul, spirit and originality. The trio’s new book The Maine House (Vendome) is a love letter to the region’s unpretentious cabins with their time-worn sofas, creaky floorboards, and, of course, spectacular surroundings.
In the excerpt below, fashion photographer and Maine native Carter Bedloe Smith describes his return from the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple to the sleepy island town of his youth where he restored several ocean-front rental cabins—his way of allowing families to experience a world away from it all.
Carter Bedloe Smith’s childhood reads like a fairy tale. He grew up on a Mid-Coast island largely forgotten in the off-season, where the main road dead-ends at the ocean. “I used to hide in the pines for so long that it would scare my parents,” he says. The Smiths were three of the few hundred people, mostly lobstermen, who stuck it out in the winter. At seventeen and restless, Smith hopped on a bus to New York City, photography portfolio under his arm, and landed his first fashion magazine job. “It was the early 1990s and everyone was using artificial lights. I showed up with moody photos of girls in fields of flowers. All natural light,” he says. An international career was born.
The sunrise as seen through a cottage window on a chilly summer morning.Maura McEvoy
Why not hang an anchor over the banister, itself adorned with antique wooden fish floats?Maura McEvoy
mith stripped all of the sheetrock from Number 14, the tiniest cottage on the property, and left the studs exposed.Maura McEvoy
It wasn’t long, though, before Smith realized that it didn’t take ten-hour flights and five-star hotels to give him what he really needed. The answers were back on that dirt road to nowhere. One by one, Smith revived the four seaside cottages there that captivated him as a child so that folks from away could live the fairy tale too. His mission mirrored exactly the one that won him his first magazine job all those years ago. “I’m always looking for the emotion in everything—a photo, a room, a landscape,” he says.
Each cottage is stocked with a full complement of Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Stephen King books.Maura McEvoy
A limited color palette holds together the fruits of Smith’s scavenging: a painted chest of drawers, a Popsicle-stick lamp, a thrift shop painting, and velvet curtains.Maura McEvoy
To say that Smith’s feelings have informed the antiques, furnishings, and objets collected from his far-flung travels is an understatement. An admitted compulsive shopper, he is more mad collector than connoisseur, using his gut as his guide. “I bought a four-and-a-half-foot clawfoot bathtub because I fell in love with it, put it in storage for twenty-four years, and found that it fit perfectly in Number 14, the one-room cottage,” says Smith.
Smith bought the 41⁄2-foot-long bathtub more than two decades before he found a place for it in Number 14. Maura McEvoy
Smith purposely furnished a bedroom simply, so as not to distract from the view.Maura McEvoy
An adjacent barn is reflected in the window of the century-old Red House.Maura McEvoy
His is an analog world, where families gather undistracted but for the sound of the crashing waves and the sight of a regal osprey. There’s nothing to do but cook, play Bananagrams, read—each place has a stack of Hardy Boy mysteries, a copy of Jaws, and books by E. B. White and Stephen King—and eat. “This is what I love the most about sharing these places. They give people a chance to experience Maine in a way that is completely disconnected from the crowds and the lines for lobster rolls.”
The porch at the Gills cottage, built in 1918, offers a front-row seat to the sunrise.Maura McEvoy