ABOVE In Sharon and Paul Mrozinski’s collection-packed living room on Vinalhaven, an antique orchard ladder leads to a sleeping loft for their grandchildren.
TEXT BY JOYCE KRYSZAK
PHOTOGRAPHED BY GRETA RYBUS
As if playing hide-and-seek, Vinalhaven hunkers behind ragged shorelines of neighboring islands in Penobscot Bay, 11 miles from the mainland. Still, many seek out its tranquility. In 2017, Wiscasset antiques shop owners Sharon and Paul Mrozinski were among them. Hoping to slow down their pace, they decided to make Vinalhaven their summer home, and bring with them their Marston House shop, which specializes in antique textiles and other finds from the south of France, where they spend winters. “Vinalhaven’s a very special place,” Sharon says. “We’re trying to keep it a secret, but we seem to get even more attention here.”
After marrying and relocating from California in 1987 with their blended family — her two boys, his two girls — the couple gained fame in Wiscasset, where they lived, sold antiques, and ran a bed-and-breakfast in an 18th-century sea-captain’s house they renovated. Now, loyal mainland customers and islanders visit them at their shop on Vinalhaven’s Main Street. They’re also regulars at local antiques fairs and on Instagram, where they’ve amassed more than 17,000 fans. “We have an interesting life that we’ve created,” Paul says. “No one gave it to us. People appreciate that.”
ABOVE 1) Sharon and Paul, pictured in the entrance to their antiques store. 2) In the living room, an antique French clock anchors a pear-themed mantel atop a Majestic fireplace that can be used for grilling. Aged Rockport Steel sheet metal protects the pine floor. 3) In the couple’s bedroom, a four-poster dressed in antique French linens floats between a late-1800s wardrobe and a vintage kilim; their friend, Spruce Head’s Anna B. McCoy, painted the portrait of Sharon and her mother. 4) The Mrozinskis removed walls, a flue, and pull-down attic stairs to open up the kitchen-dining space, which is furnished with Windsor chairs from ABC Carpet & Home and a rug they bought at Rockland’s Bruce Gamage Antiques; afterward, they discovered it had once belonged to McCoy.
Paul, an architect, saw potential in the shingled, 1890 former North Haven post office, which was moved to Vinalhaven in 1906, where it had iterations as a dry-goods shop and service station. “Cars used to drive right inside,” he says. “This guy in town told us about falling into the grease pit when he was a kid.” Working with Vinalhaven’s PC Builders, the couple gutted the structure — leaving beadboard and shiplap walls and exposing beamed ceilings and pine floors buried beneath layers of grime and shag carpet — and renovated it to house the store and their bedroom, sequestered behind a sliding barn door, on the ground floor and an open-plan living space above. Welcoming new single-sash windows face Main Street and new casements on the north wall distill the piercing blue of tidal Carvers Pond.
Perched on a granite foundation and caressed on three sides by the ebb and flow of the pond, the home feels like a metaphor for the couple’s yin-yang bicoastal life. Rustic antique American and English pine tables and kitchen countertops of Italian oak and antique slate ground the décor, with luminous white walls, French linen curtains, and slipcovered furnishings providing counterpoints. Everywhere, surfaces are weighted with their collections: antique books, Shaker boxes, and butterfly specimens in glass cases on 22-foot-long living-room shelves that extend over a pair of windows; late-1800s clay and wooden pears in the room’s firewood nook; Gilded Age American crockery on open shelves in the kitchen, where Shaker baskets dangle from the rafters; antique birds’ eggs and nests in a bedroom cupboard; and vintage wooden toys on nearby shelves. Many items were sourced for the shop and still bear price tags. “If no one buys them, we keep them,” Paul says. “We don’t ever think about buying new stuff.”
ABOVE 1) Spruce grouse drawings by Wiscasset’s R. Keith Rendall and, at far right, a watercolor study by the couple’s friend, Jamie Wyeth, of Tenants Harbor, hang above an English pine table. 2) In the kitchen, shelves and antique-pine tables are loaded with late-1800s American pottery; cookware and Shaker baskets dangle overhead. Pine cabinets by Vinalhaven’s Joshua Eckels support oak and antique-slate countertops; the latter and the slate sink are from Portland Architectural Salvage. 3) Charcoal crow drawings by Franna Lusson soar above a living-room workspace.
On a recent summer afternoon, the couple glides around the kitchen’s antique painted worktable preparing lunch, wordlessly sharing tasks, and reflecting on their journey. “We have this cadre of 40-somethings who think we’re really cool,” Paul says. “Almost like we’re models for their future. We’ve shown that, even in our 70s, we could make a big change and pull it off.”