TEXT BY SARA ANNE DONNELLY
PHOTOGRAPHED BY NATALYA DESENA
It’s a familiar story, with a twist: Cumberland’s Kristan Vermeulen was a busy publicist for Maine craftspeople, traveling the state to meet with them and working from coffee shops for her company, Knotical PR. Then the pandemic slowed her work and landed her in a shoebox of a home office outfitted with mismatched Amazon furniture and piles of her kids’ coats and shoes.
With her spare time, Vermeulen started a podcast, Makers of Maine, in which she interviews creatives, mostly via Zoom, to “continue to have a pulse on the community” and give them a platform. That was fun, but her office still felt like a “not-well-used walk-in closet” — not to mention at odds with her pro-local priorities. So she decided to fix it up with almost exclusively Maine-made products. “There isn’t really a source that showcases what these can look like in a lifestyle setting,” Vermeulen says. “So I thought, why not start with an office?”
ABOVE In Vermeulen’s office: a Chilton Furniture desk and chair, dresser, pegboard, armchair, and side table; a local sheepskin and Oakland-made copper vase from Brunswick’s Cabot Mill Antiques; a hat from Mad Patti Hat Co., in Portland; a leather tote by Cape Elizabeth’s Eklund Griffin; rope baskets by Freeport’s Mae in Maine; a Biddeford-made vintage wool blanket from Jellison Traders.
Portland interior designer Abigail Shea helped her create a soothing, spare aesthetic with whitewashed walls, willowy Shaker- and midcentury–style pieces from Freeport’s Chilton Furniture, and an acrylic-and-charcoal seascape by Cumberland’s Sarah Madeira Day. Shea also encouraged Vermeulen to incorporate Maine-made antiques, such as a ceramic lamp and a brass bud vase from Augusta’s Jellison Traders and Portland’s Viand Vintage & Co., respectively, in honor of her antiques-picker grandmother. The toughest part of the endeavor was finding the items, says Vermeulen, who spent weeks scrolling the Maine Crafts Association’s online directory and calling makers for referrals.
Finished in time for an October spot on Good Morning America about pandemic pivots, the room smells of sage and pine, thanks to a coconut wax candle from Portland’s Near & Native, and features pieces by a dozen makers — from a tumbler by Portland’s Campfire Pottery to a leather-and-rope tote by Cumberland’s Wildwood Oyster Co. In the not-technically-from-here category: the kilim rug from Portland’s Mougalian Rugs (it’s from Turkey) and Vermeulen herself (she’s from Baltimore). Otherwise, “each piece has a Maine origin story to tell,” Vermeulen says. Next-up: Maine-ifying the rest of the house. “I think it’s going to be a challenge with the bathroom,” she concedes. “Like, do I have to have a Maine-made toilet or sink? How far do I take this?”