Back to the Beach

Back to the Beach

A 1923 bungalow in Wells brings back childhood memories.

Maura McEvoy's beach house in Wells, Maine

ABOVE Maura McEvoy’s daughter, Oona, preps breakfast in the zone that was once the porch. The wide-pine floors — which Maura sanded down and finished with Bona Naturale — were a happy surprise, discovered under several layers of linoleum. When she built a new master bedroom above, McEvoy insisted on keeping the original porch’s angled ceiling, much to the chagrin of her contractor.


From the September 2020 issue of Down East magazine

Growing up, Maura McEvoy spent half of every summer at her family’s bungalow in Wells on Atlantic Avenue — a sliver of land that shelters the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge from the Atlantic Ocean. It’s where she learned how to rough it, Maine-style: the bungalow, for example, lacked an upstairs bathroom, so she and her four siblings shared a chamber pot at night. She loved working summers as a housekeeper because she was always free by noon to hit the beach. After college, McEvoy took up with Metropolitan Home magazine, where she developed her styling and photography skills. After the birth of her daughter, her career as a freelance photographer took her into America’s swankiest homes, but she couldn’t shake the siren song of Atlantic Avenue’s simple cottage life. Six years ago, she snapped up a 1923 bungalow two doors down from her family’s home, before it hit the market. “I made the sellers an offer, they gave me the keys, and everything inside was suddenly mine.” 


Maura McEvoy's beach house kitchen in Wells, Maine

“It was built like an old house,” McEvoy says, explaining that the original bathroom blocked the view to the wetlands, while the kitchen was squeezed into a windowless closet. She tore down the former, replacing it with a large kitchen area and a new horizontal sliding window. A Pennsylvania-based antiques dealer combined a vintage bureau with a carpenter’s bench to create the kitchen island. McEvoy’s retro-style fridge is actually new, made by Big Chill.


beach house deck in Wells, Maine

With two sisters living down the road and her father, now in his 90s, a few doors away, McEvoy wanted a deck big enough for entertaining (at least) three generations.


dining room

To winterize the house while preserving its cottage feel, McEvoy installed insulation between the walls’ exposed studs and then clad them with beadboard, which she then finished with Simply White by Benjamin Moore. The chairs are from Ikea; the Saarinen pedestal table was an auction triumph.


Garnet Hill, one of McEvoy’s best clients, holds regular sales for employees, which is where she scored the teal-and-turquoise quilt atop the captain’s bed from Gothic Cabinet Craft. A vintage door from Kennebunk’s Habitat for Humanity store, outfitted with vintage hardware from Old House Parts, completes the look. McEvoy spotted staircase striping on Pinterest and decided to paint it herself — which was, she says, a lot harder than it looks.


beach house bathroom

McEvoy handed her contractor, Bob Ellis, of York’s Seawood Enterprises, a photo of a big picture window for the master bathroom. Asked if she wanted a design on the glass to obscure the view in, she immediately said no. “It’s just the marsh out back,” she insisted. “Who’s gonna see me?” She did install a modesty curtain, which her daughter always uses. “I say to her, are you kidding me? Showering in the open is one of the thrills of life!”


Under the house’s original aluminum cladding she found unpainted clapboard and opted to keep it that way in the sunroom. “I don’t know why I picked that color for the floor,” McEvoy says, “but when the sun hits the room, it feels like you’re in a pool.” The quilt was made by her mother’s sister.