Editor's Note

November/December 2019, Maine Homes by Down East

Editor’s Note by Sarah Stebbins 

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Last year, my family came about as close to holiday bliss as we may ever get. I cleared an afternoon for tree hunting and, for once, no one complained of being bored or cold — or belly-flopped on the parking lot in protest. At home, we put on Michael Bublé’s Christmas, made popcorn and hot cocoa, and set to work trimming, the kids mostly ignoring the Type A mother hastily relocating their ornaments in the name of symmetry. Later, the four of us, and our dog, piled into my elder son’s bed for a story. We were a few pages in when we heard the unmistakable sound of a fully decorated, six-foot-tall conifer crashing onto the living room carpet.

“I need to dream about rabbits eating lollipops,” our then-5-year-old said to console himself as we surveyed the damage (a handful of shattered, sentimentally valuable ornaments). Our then-8-year-old, meantime, was despairing, and convinced the tree would topple again. “Caution!” he wrote to Santa on Christmas Eve. “This tree fell over before, so it would be a plesure to get the presents (or cole) under the tree without touching the tree.”

These sorts of highs and lows kinda sum up the holidays, don’t they? One minute you’re living in a Norman Rockwell scene; the next you’re wondering which rotten parenting tactics led your son to believe he is only slightly more likely to receive Christmas presents than “cole.”

Merry and Bright (left to right): We hit Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ spectacular Gardens Aglow light display in Boothbay last year; I’m ready to green my wrapping with recycled paper and reusable ribbon (page 14); how sweet is this “deconstructed” wreath (page 42)?

And yet, this reality doesn’t deter me from continually striving to improve our holiday experience. Betting you feel the same, we’ve devoted a sizeable chunk of this issue to enhancing the traditions many of us follow. You’ll find gift-wrapping tips from a local expert (page 14), nature- and nautical-themed Christmas and Hanukkah decorating ideas (page 42), ways to spread holiday cheer to needy Mainers (page 46), and our inaugural gift guide (page 81), packed with design-savvy products made and sourced in our collective backyard. On a non-holiday note, we’re also excited to share the winning submissions from our second annual Design Awards competition (page 51) — we hope they inspire your own home projects and, perhaps, an entry into next year’s contest!

However you plan to celebrate this season, I wish you happiness, peace, and the perseverance of a lofty Tannenbaum gripped in a fail-safe stand.

Sarah Stebbins

P.S. Did you know Maine Homes by Down East is now offering subscriptions? Visit mainehomes.com/subscribe to ensure you never miss an issue!

The Guide

Gilty pleasures to complement holiday décor, Victorian painted sleds to collect, pro tips for spiffing up gifts, SoPo’s new BYO container shop, a Houlton Victorian needs a hero, a West Gardiner Octagon House turns heads, roadtripping (and merrymaking) in the Kennebunks, and straight-shooting advice on your home and garden conundrums.

Get Inspired

We’re crushing on this petite Alna camp, clever wallpaper decorating ideas, five minutes with Bangor vintage dealer Heidi Beaudry, weaver Emi Ito invites us into her Bath studio, philanthropist Art Girard on his mansion-flipping strategy, and an otherworldly Storybook Home in Boothbay.

Sweet Spot

After years of metaphorically moving into Maine houses, a writer finds her place on the midcoast.

By Charlotte Holmes

Creative Spirit

Drawing on nature and nautical themes, we dreamed up chic, easy décor ideas guaranteed to infuse your home with seasonal sparkle — and a sense of place.

By Sarah Stebbins

Spread the Love

This season, why not bring some of the comforts of home to Mainers in need? We’ve compiled 15 worthwhile ways to do it.

By Laura Wallis


2019 Maine Homes Design Awards

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

All Is Bright

Once home to squatters, a family’s sunny Winterport Colonial is now filled with hygge and holiday vibes.

By Jesse Ellison

Art Smart

Bold pieces and inventive pairings punctuate a painter’s otherwise classic Yarmouth home.

By Sara Anne Donnelly

Room to Grow

With creative renovations, a Portland triple-decker becomes an airy, easygoing home for a young family.

By Petra Guglielmetti

The Wish List

Our inaugural guide to design-savvy, locally sourced gifts for women, guys, and kids.

By Jen DeRose

Why I Live Here

From their SoPo home, the family behind Luke’s Lobster has a bird’s-eye view of the activity that fuels their business.

Cover photo by: Erin Little