Editor's Note

September/October 2019, Maine Homes by Down East

Editor’s Note by Sarah Stebbins 

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In my experience, there’s a direct correlation between one’s happiness living in a place and the amount of time and effort spent trying to escape it. Toward the end of my seven years in New York, I devoted many weekends to exploring the least-city-like spots in the city. I pedaled my bike to the New York Botanical Garden and Wave Hill public garden in the Bronx and hopped the tram to Roosevelt Island and the ferry to Staten Island. In the summer, I toted my folding chair on the Long Island Railroad to Long Beach, where, after a day of steeping in sunshine in the sand, I’d sometimes wander the aisles of a giant, suburban Waldbaum’s supermarket just for fun.

When my now-husband, Mark, arrived on the scene with a 1994 Buick Regal, I went farther afield — to mountains north of the city and the Jersey Shore. Once a month, I’d travel in planes, trains, and automobiles to visit him in Portland or Bangor, where he lived during the two years we dated long distance. High on fresh air and open space, I’d return from these journeys refreshed and ready to face the workweek in my crowded, concrete home.

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one intent on fleeing hundreds of miles from New York in the aughts. To shed his city stress, ad executive Drew Hodges hoofed it all the way to Monhegan Island for long weekends. He and his husband, Peter Kukielski (who happened to be a curator at the New York Botanical Garden when I sought respite there), later purchased a saltwater farm in Cushing, which they’ve decorated so imaginatively, you’ll probably want to turn to page 70 right now for a peep. To be closer to Cushing, the couple eventually bought a Portland house and now they’re happily living in Maine full-time.

Bright Spots (from left to right): Showhouse powerhouse Kim Swan (right) and I in the chic living room Brett Johnson designed (page 59); I’m ready to up my apron game with one of Adele Masengo Ngoy’s designs (page 30); what did I tell you about the Hodges-Kukielski home (page 70)? Pure magic.

Since settling in Portland myself, I’ve never felt the location-induced fight-or-flight response I used to experience so acutely. Proximity to an embarrassment of natural riches is surely the primary reason. But I also feel endlessly inspired by the people in this state. They’re building haute treehouses (page 18), teaching new Mainers to sew gorgeous home goods (page 32), making nationally acclaimed art (page 34), writing exhaustive tomes on rehabbing old houses (page 42), and decorating historic mansions in jaw-dropping fashion (page 59).

The last is a reference to the Bar Harbor Designer Showhouse at La Rochelle, which I’m honored this magazine is sponsoring. Sixteen designers transformed the 1902 estate, which you can explore in our feature and in person through October 13 (visit mainehomes.com/larochelle for details). The fact that you can hit the showhouse and, five minutes later, be on your way up one of Acadia National Park’s glorious bald-topped peaks pretty much sums up why I love living here.

Sarah Stebbins

The Guide

Woven items to complement fall’s palette, Dahlov Ipcar works to collect (or covet), pro paint picks for your front door, cult textiles come to Gorham, a treehouse for grownups, International Style in Cape E., a homey farmhouse that needs a hero, roadtripping through Wiscasset, and straight-shooting advice on your home and garden conundrums.

Get Inspired

This log cabin gives us all the feels, intrepid DIYers put their stamp on a neglected Freeport cottage, five minutes with fashion designer Adele Masengo Ngoy, renowned artist Charlie Hewitt invites us into his Portland studio, and an owner painstakingly restores her George Washington–era tiny home.

Prayer Circles

To say goodbye to her family’s Cushing farmhouse, a writer reflects — and walks laps.

By Jean Rukkila

Restoration Done Right

A meticulously rehabbed Union home offers lessons for anyone embarking on a renovation of one of Maine’s senior residences

By Scott T. Hanson

Look on the Bright Side

Declining prices, changes in state policy, and improved technology mean there’s never been a better time to go solar in Maine.

By Tom Groening

Living History

Sixteen designers reimagine nine rooms and a sunken garden at La Rochelle — a masterpiece of Bar Harbor’s gilded age.

I Think We’re Alone Now

To escape city stress (and crowds), a New York couple sought out a saltwater farm in Cushing.

By Amy Sutherland

Cabin Masters

A family finds solace, and creative footing, at a former summer retreat in Bridgton.

By Sara Anne Donnelly

Hiding in Plain Sight

Design sleight-of-hand makes a lakeside home in Rome disappear

By Elizabeth Choi

Meadow Mist

A tidal pond sets the tone for a serene blue and pink garden in York.

By Virginia M. Wright

Why I Live Here

Sean Fowlds used to hang prints of Maine lighthouses in his Florida home. Now he’s got the real thing framed in his Port Clyde windows.

Cover photo by: Irvin Serrano