By Sarah Stebbins
Photographs by James R. Salomon
Jeff and Linda Kleinman got a taste of tiny house living two summers ago, during a stay at The Cottages at Cabot Cove in Kennebunkport. They spent the weekend biking around town and kayaking on the Kennebunk River by way of the tidal cove that backdrops the 16-cottage seasonal resort — activities, Jeff says, their bantam abode helped facilitate. “When you have fewer things around you, you focus more on being outside.” After their visit, they purchased one of the resort’s 285-square-foot cottages (seven buildings are privately owned) and undertook a space-maximizing renovation with Portland interior designer Tyler Karu. “We fit what we can,” Linda says. And what they can’t? “We keep it in the car.”
The Living Area
The former space had some quirks — a sculpture of a sandaled foot, for example, that pointed toward a decorative woodstove, and a built-in bench in lieu of a sofa. “We wanted everything to be comfortable and functional,” says Linda, who worked with Karu to clear out the adornments and choose compact furniture such as the 69-inch-long sofa and surfboard-shaped coffee/dining table. The yellow-and-green palette and mid-century vibe — note the reproduction Hans Wegner Web Chair — stems from the retro Big Chill refrigerator Linda fell for. “I don’t really do the blue-and-white summer home,” Karu says. To create airiness, the team, which included Portland’s Southern Maine General Contracting, whitewashed the once dark paneling and swapped black-painted flooring for red oak.
Previously, a built-in bed spanned the length of this space, so the person sleeping on the far side of the adjoining bathroom had to pass through the living room in order to use the loo. A queen-size walnut bed that stops short of the wall solved the problem. Removing a pair of tiny closets created more breathing room and space for shelving and a nightstand. To complement the kitchen print, Karu installed Mini Moderns’ Dungeness wallpaper — it depicts the coast of Kent, England, but could easily pass for Maine.
The 10-foot-long kitchen recess was “a puzzle,” says Karu, who collaborated with Searsport’s Block Brothers Custom Cabinets on the economizing design. The paneled quarter-sawn white-oak cupboards mimic the surrounding woodwork and incorporate a dishwasher and Big Chill microwave; a two-burner cooktop is set into the quartz counter. Given what the Kleinmans like to “cook” in the summertime — pesto for sandwiches, caprese salad, smoothies — the arrangement “totally works,” Linda says. Seagull-printed 1950s wallpaper she coveted sets off the space and harkens back to the original cottages, which were constructed during the same era. “I feel like that paper could have been here during my childhood,” says Karu, who grew up down the street from the resort and remembers its folksier days.
Little shelves in the rehabbed bathroom — one rendered in walnut to match the vanity, the other accentuated with sunny handmade tile in the shower — “provide plenty of room for toiletries and a hair dryer,” Linda says. (Not pictured: a space- saving barn-style door and emerald-green, square floor tile that evokes the resort’s lush grounds.) So are there any downsides to summering in a home the size of a garden shed? “Sound is our only issue,” she says. “I get up early and Jeff goes to bed late, and you can hear everything.” Now that she wears earplugs and he has wireless headphones for TV-watching, Jeff says, “We’re good.”