House Tour

Castine boathouse

Nautical Style

TEXT BY SARA ANNE DONNELLY
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JARED KUZIA

Once a de facto frat house, this marine building is now a chic retreat for a Castine family.

On summer afternoons, Castine homeowner Roxanne walks across her backyard, down a narrow set of stairs straight as a true course, and over a bluestone patio tufted with emerald grass, to hunker down in — well, a boathouse. Armed with one of the 40 tomes she brings from her home in Connecticut, where she runs an independent bookstore, or one of the hundreds she keeps in her 1806 Castine farmhouse, she sinks into the outbuilding’s white slipcovered sofa. Before her, a wraparound bank of windows framing Castine Harbor makes her feel as though she’s drifting among the sloops and lobsterboats dotting the water. “The thing that drove us from the beginning was creating that wall of windows,” says Roxanne, who owns the property with her husband, Kevin. “You’re looking at islands. You can see the Castine bell buoy [that marks the entrance to the harbor] and the Camden Hills. For this little boathouse to have that grand view is pretty magical.”

Two years ago, the couple, who asked that their surname be withheld, might have used different adjectives to describe their century-old, 750-square-foot cabin — “musty,” perhaps, or “skunky.” Initially used for storage, the drafty shack with rusty nails sticking through the walls eventually became a crash pad and party spot for Roxanne and Kevin’s son, Edward, who sometimes crammed as many as 20 guys inside. “There was a lot of beer pong and music down there,” Roxanne says.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP The owners’ son, Edward, his girlfriend, Chandler (in pink), and a friend relax on a vintage wicker chair and Pottery Barn sofa in the boathouse’s living room, which also features a coffee table and Oriental rug from Ellsworth’s Big Chicken Barn. A living room sideboard fashioned from Victorian corbels makes the most of a tight wall. The structure sports a new dormer and windows; Blue Hill’s Down East Landscape & Design crafted the patio. A rococo table and John Robshaw and Susan Connor pillows elevate the bedroom. 

FROM TOP TO BOTTOM The owners’ son, Edward, his girlfriend, Chandler (in pink), and a friend relax on a vintage wicker chair and Pottery Barn sofa in the boathouse’s living room, which also features a coffee table and Oriental rug from Ellsworth’s Big Chicken Barn. A rococo table and John Robshaw and Susan Connor pillows elevate the bedroom. A living room sideboard fashioned from Victorian corbels makes the most of a tight wall. The structure sports a new dormer and windows; Blue Hill’s Down East Landscape & Design crafted the patio.  

As Edward, now 28, grew older and put his cheap-beer-chugging days behind him, his parents figured he might like to bring a girlfriend to Castine someday, and that the couple would probably appreciate more hospitable guest quarters. So they set about rehabbing the place — stabilizing the support posts, replacing the roof and rotted siding, adding windows in the living room and upstairs loft, and installing the patio and a cedar-paneled bathroom. Pairing the original exposed-timber walls and ceiling, now whitewashed, and wood flooring with unfussy wicker and painted furniture keeps the focus on the structure and the seascape. “We wanted to preserve the notion that it was a boathouse,” Roxanne says. “So making it too shiny a penny would have undermined that.” The renovation took less than six months and has paid off: Edward and his girlfriend, Chandler, now decamp to the Castine boathouse a few times each summer.

During the rest of the season, the place is a refuge for Roxanne and Kevin. When the setting sun begins to paint the walls pink, he often joins her in the living room. Later, they might host a dinner party on the patio under the stars. “There’s something that feels utterly balanced and integrated there,” Roxanne says. “The structure and the view and the furniture and the fabrics — if there is such a thing as feng shui, it really exists in that space.”


One Comment

  1. Sharon Loetz

    The boathouse is exactly what my friend wants to build on the landlocked vacation yard next to me, in North Carolina…

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