Dive right in and mix antiques with new pieces to convey a mood, says Texan MaryBeth Shapiro. Each room in her late 19th-century Higgins Beach, Maine, vacation cottage mixes collectibles from the turn of the 20th century with carefully chosen reproductions. Together the pieces create a relaxing environment that suits the home’s seaside location and the region’s seafaring history.
New shiplap paneling visually connects the 4-season porch (part of a new addition) with the original circa 1890 cottage. MaryBeth calls it their “room with a view.” Lined with windows, the room’s seating options offer comfy spots from which to watch the beach and ocean. A small bookcase is filled with books about Maine—chosen especially to help visitors from Texas.
MaryBeth found coastal treasures at antique shows, flea markets, and consignment stores. Ebay and the Brimfield Flea Market near Boston offered an ocean of possibilities for wool swimsuits from the early 20th century. Above two framed swimsuits, a panoramic photograph of an early 20th-century beauty contest—taken on a beach—enhances the coastal vibe.
MaryBeth set out to buy a telescope to look at the ocean, spied a pair of vintage binoculars, and changed her mind. Another new collecting interest was born and now rests on the fireplace mantel in the cottage’s family room. To the left of the vintage and reproduction binoculars, the ruffled skirt of MaryBeth’s favorite framed swimsuit adds femininity to the display.
Selections from MaryBeth’s vintage swimsuit collection adorn the family room walls. The 1920s Janzen wool suits are mounted against sailcloth and protected by UV glass. The “higgins beach” sign is painted on driftwood.
A neighbor gave his original wool lifeguard jersey from the 1950s to MaryBeth and her husband Gordon. The artifact is displayed above a casual bar set-up in the dining room.
One vintage tin sand pail purchased in Texas led to 30 more—found in Maine as well as the Lone Star State. They make a colorful and graphic display in the dining room corner cabinet. “I feel a sense of connection to the person who owned each object before me. Every piece is like reading a book, with a history you have to imagine,” MaryBeth says. “Collectibles make great conversation pieces.”
In the kitchen, collections of lavender glass bottles and midcentury tin canisters add character to the cottage-style cabinets.
On the second floor of the cottage, a master bedroom (also part of the addition) sports tilt-out windows that can be left open rain or shine. “We wanted as much light in the room as possible,” MaryBeth says. “But we didn’t want to do skylights because of the snow in the winter.” New sea grass shades hang above a 19th-century ship’s captain’s chest, giving the room seaworthy style.
A comfy sitting room/office completes the master suite. Furnishings celebrate Maine’s coastal charm: a reproduction military map of nearby Casco Bay, a sea-worn stone-base lamp made by a local artist, and a new ship’s bell on the wall.
A bi-parting barn door separates the master bedroom and ensures a quiet retreat from the adjacent sitting room/office when necessary.
Found in the master bedroom, a compass-theme oilcloth mat bears the words “Sea Witch; est. CIRCA 1890.” The words refer to the cottage as well as the name’s inspiration: a late 19th-century clipper ship.
The master bath pairs sea-green painted shiplap paneling with traditional-style white cabinets to create a relaxing environment.
Vintage-style chalkboards and hooks help keep beach towels organized. Original shiplap paneling is hung on the vertical.
One of two matching cast-iron beds snuggles against the wall of the guest bedroom. Seashell prints (purchased at the Round Top Antiques Fair in Texas) add seaworthy style. A charming vintage photo of the seaside echoes the sound of the waves audible at all times.
© Caruth Studio