The Perks of Being a Wall Painter
A muralist’s Cape Elizabeth home benefits from her bright-but-not-splashy interior touches.
ABOVE Erin Gajan is always on the lookout for vintage Christmas decorations — especially off-season, when prices are slashed. In the living room, some of her finds hang from a seven-foot artificial tree from National Tree Company, chosen for its neutral color and mid-century look. Atop a 1920s German beer-garden table are miniature, vintage bottle-brush trees from Arundel Antiques, a favorite haunt. She made the mirror from an antique chair back found at Freeport Emporium, which she painted Smoke by Benjamin Moore.
TEXT BY SARA ANNE DONNELLY
PHOTOGRAPHED BY DANIELLE SYKES
From the December 2022 issue of Down East magazine
White walls are an invitation for Cape Elizabeth’s Erin Gajan, a home stylist who runs her own custom-mural business. Embellishments to the gallery-white interiors of her own 1952 Cape include a crisp palm-leaf pattern over the family-room mantel, a dusky-blue striation in the living room, and swirling waves in a bathroom. “Murals are a neat way to customize a piece of your house and make it more your own,” says Gajan, who shares her place with husband Marty and daughters Reagan, 13, and Wynnie, 9, along with three dogs and three rabbits. This time of year, Gajan complements her wall art with a candy-colored collection of antique decorations, many of them hanging on a white Christmas tree that, controversially, replaced the traditional fir last year. “My oldest was so angry,” Gajan says. “My family almost fired me from Christmas for unilaterally deciding on a white tree.”
When Erin and Marty bought the house, in 2011, the kitchen in particular “felt really dark,” Gajan says, “and the finishes were really heavy.” To brighten the space, the couple painted the cabinets Extra White by Sherwin-Williams, adding brass hardware and pendant lights from CB2. Art-deco pillows from Zazzle pair with a tulip table from Portland’s Flea-For-All and durable plastic patio chairs from Overstock. “Outdoor chairs are easy to wipe down, and the likelihood of a foot going through one is less than a caned chair,” Gajan says.
During the holidays, Gajan plays with classic Christmas colors, starting with the bright green of the palm-leaf accent wall. A lively fuchsia stands in for traditional red in a collection of throw pillows, handmade with embroidered Indian fabric by Renee Garland of Portland’s Waterlily boutique. A shimmery Moroccan ottoman, bought on Amazon, and a golden Buddha statue add some sheen. Walls, ceiling, trim, and floor are all Extra White by Sherwin-Williams.
A rattan swing chair — a Craigslist find — hangs in the reading nook of Reagan’s room, where Reagan requested her mother’s hand-painted panels of verdant bamboo. The mirror is from Target and bamboo planter from HomeGoods. Gajan painted the lantern Direct Green by Sherwin-Williams, like the mural. “She was quite mad when I painted it — she wanted it to stay gold,” Gajan says. “She’s 13, so most things I want to do, she rejects.”
Hints of the bright colors threaded throughout the home appear in Wynnie’s room on a vintage wicker chair that Gajan painted Direct Green by Sherwin-Williams (Wynnie shares the chair with Gus, one of the family’s “free roam” rescue rabbits). The bedding is Lily Pulitzer for Garnet Hill, and the acrylic painting on the wall, also by Gajan, was inspired by family visits to see the flamingos near her parents’ home in Florida.
Painting the thousands of undulating lines that make up the intricate wave mural in the first-floor bath took Gajan a week of nighttime sessions after her daughters were in bed (while binging “every murder podcast I could find,” Gajan says). The wave wall, in Winsor Blue by Winsor & Newton, turned out so well that members of her book club noticed it and commissioned custom murals for their own homes, launching her word-of-mouth business (@edesignsmaine on Instagram).
Alongside an antique dresser from South Portland’s Heirloom Consignment is a faux-leather Anthony armless accent chair, bought on Amazon, with a fuchsia cotton jacquard pillow (another by Waterlily’s Renee Garland) and a Goodwill garden stool. On the bookshelf, vintage jars display scavenged finds from family outings to Casino Beach, a private stretch of sand in the family’s neighborhood, and the beach near Gajan’s parents’ Florida home.
Marty, Erin, Reagan, and Wynnie hang out next to a pale-blue mural designed, Gajan says, “as an accompaniment, not a standout.” A complementary acrylic painting, by Gajan, and wicker lanterns, from Pier 1, add subtle texture to the space, along with a mid-century bamboo side table from South Portland’s Bonny Read vintage store, wicker ginger jars from The Enchanted Home, and a Chippendale mirror from Cabot Mill Antiques (also Smoke by Benjamin Moore). Alongside the family is Bisbey the Westie — matching the Christmas tree and the walls, as it happens, in white.