Editor's Note

July August 2019, Maine Homes by Down East

Editor’s Note by Sarah Stebbins 

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Years ago, when I told a New York friend I was heading to my then-boyfriend’s camp for the weekend, she replied, “What? I thought he was in law school.” I knew what she was picturing: Mark (who is now my husband) standing at the edge of a lake in a canvas shirt and knee-socks, his voice booming through a megaphone as he directed his charges to the mess hall.   

In fact, Mark’s family’s camp is a rustic, gray-stained-pine building on Deer Isle’s Long Cove that his parents built nearly 40 years ago. As a native Mainer who has used the word “camp” to refer to such places since I was old enough to swat blackflies, I can’t understand why the rest of the country hasn’t adopted it. What else do you call a property that is utilitarian in form and modestly fitted out (there’s running water, for example, but no dishwasher)? Not a cottage or a summerhouse. With four bedrooms (but, alas, only one full bath), it’s not small enough to be a cabin. And with sloping pink granite where you might expect sand, it’s no beach house. (Curious about the origins of some of these terms? Hannah Holmes offers her saucy analysis on page 24.) Camp is the magic word.


Camp life (clockwise from top left): Our humble retreat; canoeing to Polypod Island, an Island Heritage Trust–owned gem we found last year; a selfie taken during a rock-skipping session; and a set of these swirly glasses (page 30) would class up the place.

To make linguistic matters more confusing, we refer to the family camp as “Deer Isle,” which, right, is also where it’s located. If you know my mother-in-law, a woman with a history of making the global singular (a rubber spatula is “a Rubbermaid”; the indoor grill is “the JennAir”), the moniker doesn’t seem so far afield. But also: for us, the camp, with its scrubby-bottomed spruce trees, speckled, rose-colored ledges, and constant bandying of dimpled mud flats and blue-green water, is shorthand for the whole place — and the decades of memories that have accumulated there. Following tradition, our young sons pocket these, along with the shells and rocks they collect, creating stockpiles that cause their eyes to fill with tears when we leave, but buoy them throughout the year.

Given how central camps are to the Maine ethos, we decided to devote a whole issue to them. You’ll find character-filled new builds (page 62, 68), thoughtful rehabs (page 27, 54), even wheeled versions (page 46 — you’ll never guess who we got to illustrate!), as well as reno tips from experts and savvy readers (page 40). I hope you peruse these stories from your idea of the perfect summer retreat — one that’s filled with solitude, perhaps, or your whole posse. We’ll be in the latter, er, camp during Fourth of July week, when 17 of us, including 7 kids, descend on Deer Isle. If they didn’t know better, the neighbors might mistake us for the other kind of summer camp.

Sarah Stebbins


Ask the Experts

Planning a move to Maine for the summer or forever? Let these insiders show you how to make the transition smooth and stress-free.

Twin Peaks

In Boothbay Harbor, a hilltop cottage references a beloved family camp across the water.

By Sara Anne Donnelly

Happy Place

After decades of summer visits, this longtime camp-goer has a home to call her own in Searsmont.

By Laura Wallis

Sitting Pretty

A family strikes real estate gold on a largely spoken-for stretch of Bridgton’s Highland Lake.

By Amy Sutherland

Sowing Stones

A naturalistic landscape tames a daunting slope in Hancock.

By Virginia M. Wright

Why I Live Here

Reader Jay Pappas used to travel 15 hours from Ohio to his camp on  Madison’s Wesserunsett Lake. Now he’s a happy, full-time Mainer.


The Guide

Stylish camp décor, vintage postcards to collect, design pros’ patterned-tile picks, a Camden shop stocks pretty, practical finds, three new glamping spots, a luxe lakeside retreat with rusticator roots, a captain’s home ready to be whipped into shipshape, roadtripping through Bridgton, six camps you can own, and advice on your home and garden conundrums.

Get Inspired

This Mount Vernon A-Frame is on point, a Naples cottage gets a rustic-chic update, five minutes with Camden stylist/floral designer Molly O’Rourke, inside the SoPo studio where artist Laurie Fisher procrastinates and paints, and a creative couple brings the outdoors into their Portland bedroom.


Homey Things to Do This Season


New Beginning

After an unthinkable tragedy, a writer finds solace — and fertile ground — at a beloved Wells cottage.

By Laurie O’Neill 

Been There, Reno’d That

Owners and pros share tips, tricks, and hard-won wisdom for anyone launching into a Maine camp building or rehab project.

By Laura Wallis

Sweet Rides

Thinking about trading in your tent for a tiny home on wheels? These adventure-ready rigs go the extra mile in terms of comfort and convenience.

By Jen DeRose

On the cover: The “Canopy Room” featured in our Happy Place story. Photographed by James R. Salomon, styled by Janice Dunwoody.

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