Editor's Note

Maine Homes by Down East magazine, Fall 2021

Editor’s Note

The Guide

Pretty, earth-friendly home products, a designer’s serene new Camden décor shop, artful local mugs, fresh looks for two Gilded Age inns, a Bailey Island landmark with presidential ties, a 19th-century merchant’s Franklin place needs a hero, and candid answers to your home and garden dilemmas.

Get Inspired

We’re crushing on this Falmouth green retreat, a dramatic makeover for a Portland Cape, five minutes with Indian Township artist Geo Neptune, DIYers are ready to roll in their spiffed-up fifth-wheel, the walls are alive in Cheryl Tyler’s Brunswick home, and a lobsterboat lounge in Machiasport.

The Secret of Porters Landing

A writer wrestles with four decades spent in a slave-trader’s Freeport Federal.

By Kathleen Sullivan

Writer’s Room

Taking cues from beyond the grave, Carla Baade Turner is returning author Kate Douglas Wiggin’s Hollis home to its former glory as a genteel summer retreat.

By Sara Anne Donnelly

How to Design a Pretty Good House

The grassroots building standard launched in Portland balances cost and energy performance.

By Jesse Ellison


2021 Maine Homes Design Awards

Which industry pros and readers got top honors in our fourth annual contest? View the 10 winning projects.

French Connection

A decorator helps a Falmouth mother rebuild her family’s lost collection of French antiques, one gilded chair at a time.

By Sara Anne Donnelly

Art & Soul

An 18th-century Cape Elizabeth farmhouse is the ultimate artistic collaboration for a creative, can-do family.

By Petra Guglielmetti

Sustainable Style

Draw inspiration from three sets of owners who pulled off energy-efficient dwellings with modest carbon footprints.

By Sarah Stebbins

Wild Things

In Blue Hill, a couple has created a blooming refuge for birds, pollinators, and local garden lovers.

By Virginia M. Wright

Why I Live Here

Mindi Poston Gay savors the Penobscot Bay view from her Lincolnville garage/living space/studio while she plans a home on the property.

Cover photo by Erin Little

Editor’s Note

For his fifth-grade fantasy-writing unit this spring, my son imagined a place, New Portland, New Maine, in the year 3589. Grass and flowers have replaced all the streets, “hovers” that run on electricity or clouds have supplanted cars and planes, and gasoline is illegal. It’s not all roses-blooming-on-New-Munjoy-Hill there: An evil power threatens to take over the city, and semi-autobiographical main character Liam Pierce cops to weaknesses such as “staying calm and worrying too much.” But at least “the world is a much cleaner place” than it was in 2021, which Liam read about in “this really, really, really old book.”

In my darker moments, I sometimes feel that beating back climate change is as my son describes: a fantasy. Over the years, my husband and I have made earnest environmental efforts, from insulating our old house; to investing in heat pumps, a hybrid-electric car, non-off-gassing rugs, and mountains of farmers’ market goods; to purging plastic bags and wrap; to signing up with Nexamp’s community solar program, Portland’s Garbage to Garden curbside composting service, and Hollis’s Jimmy Milkman, who delivers the gallons of milk our kids drink in nostalgic, reusable glass bottles. (Find more local solutions to reducing plastic and paper waste on page 11.) But these shifts do not displace the guilt I feel on frigid winter days when the furnace kicks on, I fire up our gas range, or dwell on our shady hipped roof that resists solar panels. And they seem downright futile in light of our collective ravaging of the planet.

Sarah Stebbins and her son
reusable straws
This 1,100-square-foot, solar- powered York place epitomizes Pretty Good House principles

Green Goals: The young fantasy writer and I hit the Portland Farmers’ Market on a recent Saturday. He and his brother sip their a.m. smoothies from reusable straws. This 1,100-square-foot, solar-powered York place epitomizes Pretty Good House principles.

Our piece on the Pretty Good House approach (page 53) has given me a new perspective. Developed in Portland by a group of local building pros, PGH accepts that houses and people are imperfect — and the latter often cash strapped — and sets forth a practical framework for putting your best environmental foot forward. I learned that our house checks several PGH boxes, and came away with a to-do list of improvements we can make over time. And, as some of you well know, nothing calms a fretful Type A’s mind like a to-do list! We can’t all triumph in the green game, but if we all aim for “pretty good,” maybe we can reverse some planet warming.

Have you caught onto this issue’s green theme yet? If you’re interested in building a home in Maine (and, right now, who isn’t?), I hope you’ll find inspiration in the three energy-efficient, sustainable places we profile on page 86. Their owners took nuanced and varied approaches, but realizing an eco-conscious home is actually quite elemental, Brunswick builder Matt Senecal told me when I was reporting the story. “Green is an opinion — you can argue almost anything is green or not.” What you want to zero in on is “getting the BTUs down for the next 200 years of the home.” At which point, with any luck, the world will be running on cloud power.

Sarah Stebbins