TEXT BY JESSE ELLISON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SARAH RICE
Diane Ryan yearned for a cabin in Maine decades before she ever set foot here. The seed was planted in the early 1980s in Jupiter, Florida, where every night she read Donald Hall’s Ox-Cart Man to her four young sons. The story about a 19th-century New England farmer, illustrated by Maine artist and author Barbara Cooney, struck a chord. By the time Ryan’s boys were teenagers, she had amassed a file full of real estate clippings and photographs, not to mention a pile of furnishings for her dream home in her garage.
A few years ago, with retirement in sight, Ryan took on the mission more seriously. She drove up and down the coast and settled on Camden, where in 2017 she found a little cottage perched on the sloping shore of Hosmer Pond.
Ryan’s house was built in 1950, and the second story was added in the early aughts. “My Realtor said, ‘But that’s a camp!’” Ryan says, laughing at her unfamiliarity with the Maine term. “I’m like, ‘Is it in a campground?’” The deck was rotted out, and the septic system needed to be replaced, but the house, with its views of Hosmer Pond and the Camden Snow Bowl ski area, had the character she’d dreamed about. “Plus, it had a fireplace, which was at the top of my wish list,” she says. “The Realtor is like, ‘But it’s not efficient.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t really care.’” She plans to spend a week here each month of the summer. After she retires, she’ll go back and forth between Maine and Florida “like a little snowbird.”
HOME AT LAST
Ryan’s first trip to Maine was in 1999, following her divorce. She brought a tent, rented a car, and drove to Deer Isle to see the inspiration for Dan Fogelberg’s “The Reach,” one of her favorite songs. She spent the next 20 years telling her boys she’d have a house in Maine someday. “They’d roll their eyes and say, ‘What even is that place?’” Three of her sons saw the cottage for the first time last winter. “We had so much fun. They loved it. My son even got engaged at the cabin! The two of them were out on the deck, and the Snow Bowl was all lit up. It was amazing.”
This bathtub has a view of the pond (the water for bathing is even drawn from it). Like the rest of the house, the walls and ceiling are whitewashed. A self-described “HomeGoods freak,” Ryan bought many of her nautical-themed items from the discount home furnishing store. The driftwood garland hanging above the tub and the two green metal flower holders mounted next to the windows are among the items she stockpiled in her Florida garage.
After Ryan bought the house, she and her youngest son loaded the furnishings she’d collected in her garage into a U-Haul and drove to Camden. “The stuff fit just perfectly,” she says. The master bedroom’s tasseled chandelier is from Anthropologie, the porthole mirror from HomeGoods, and the button-bedecked bureau from a Florida friend. The iron bed frame came with the house.
Ryan and her guests enjoy views from the Adirondack chairs on the house’s private dock. “We sit out there and have coffee,” she says with a sigh. “And at night, you can see a million stars.”
Little houses occasionally present big challenges: the first couch Ryan ordered didn’t fit through the narrow front door, but she found this replacement in a local shop. She’s delighted she can sit here and see people skiing at the Snow Bowl, something she realized only when she came up from Florida for the inspection two winters ago. “My Realtor didn’t tell me that. He’s like, ‘I thought everyone knew about the Snow Bowl!’ I’m like, ‘I’m from Florida!’” Now, a little bit of the Sunshine State is in view too: the windowsills are lined with starfish that Ryan collected on Florida beaches.
With its open shelving, butcher-block countertops, and skirt beneath the sink, the kitchen was just as Ryan had envisioned. “I had a picture in my file of almost that exact kitchen that I cut out of a magazine like 15 years ago,” she says. “I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ It’s like, if you put it out there, it happens.”