In a Couple’s Freeport Home, What’s Old Is New

Their motto: "Only buy used things."

a Mondrian-esque palette in the kitchen, which features cabinetry from New Brunswick’s Classic Woodworking and a maple butcher-block island and cherry stools by Cutler’s Scott Carpenter

ABOVE Kathleen Sullivan selected a Mondrian-esque palette for the kitchen, which features cabinetry from New Brunswick’s Classic Woodworking and a maple butcher-block island and cherry stools by Cutler’s Scott Carpenter. Dotting the open shelving and surrounding wall are colorful dishes (including shallow bowls by Bowdoinham’s Delilah Pottery and a green tray Sullivan purchased with a china set when she was 18), live-edge wooden bowls by Addison’s Donna Kausen, a panoramic landscape by Colin Sullivan-Stevens, and a square landscape and painted bags by the couple’s granddaughter.

By Sarah Stebbins
Photos by Erin Little
From our January 2024 issue

Fifty years ago, Kathleen Sullivan had an epiphany on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. “I thought, if I don’t get out of here, I will want every fur coat and pair of shoes that I see.” Soon after, Sullivan, a clinical social worker, and her husband, Bob Stevens, a retired attorney, resolved to leave their high-pressure lives in the Windy City. “We figured, where can we sail?” Stevens says. They purchased an 1803 sea captain’s house in Freeport, where they raised two children. In 2016, they were looking to downsize when their daughter found an 18-acre wooded parcel in Freeport and urged her parents to build next door to her family. Now, the couple is ensconced in an efficient, 1,800-square-foot place with large triple-glazed windows framing the forest. “The plants, birds, and creatures are our companions,” Sullivan says. “Who needs new shoes when you have all this?”

wraparound south-facing windows in the living room

Living Room

The couple’s son-in-law, Chris Dornbach, an engineer, designed their one-story home with heavily insulated walls, wraparound south-facing windows, and rooftop solar panels, and Windham’s Floyd J. Brown Jr. Construction brought it to life. Sullivan purchased a few new furnishings when they moved in, but then changed her approach. “I think about our consumptive lifestyle and only buy used things,” she says — like the sage rug from Portland’s Angela Adams, a Craigslist find. The sofa was a wedding present and the painting is by the couple’s son, Portland artist Colin Sullivan-Stevens.

An IKEA pendant hovers cloud-like over an antique table from the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog and Eames- style chairs in the dining room

Dining Area

An IKEA pendant hovers cloud-like over an antique table from the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog and Eames-style chairs. From left to right on the wall are a watercolor by North Haven’s Eric Hopkins, a painted bag by the couple’s granddaughter, and a painting by Sullivan-Stevens. “Art has gone through this family for four generations,” says Sullivan, whose grandfather made the tiny chairs on the sill. He grew up on the grounds of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and was a safety engineer when the Empire State Building was erected. “His world was huge,” Sullivan says. “Crafting those small things was his therapy.”

a painting by German artist Friederike Hamann on the mauve walls of the office

Office

After a few years with white walls in the office, “I said, ‘I need more color,’” says Stevens, who logs the most time at the teak desk here. The couple asked Sullivan-Stevens to pick a shade and paint the room, and he went with a mauve that matches the sofa and Missoni carpet. “We totally trust him,” Sullivan says. The painting is by German artist Friederike Hamann.

the bathroom is furnished with cobalt tile from Yarmouth’s Homestead Flooring, a ruddy carpet crafted by Negev Bedouin weavers in Israel, and a colorful poster from a Norwegian circus

Bath

Sullivan’s penchant for primary shades continues in the bath, which is furnished with cobalt tile from Yarmouth’s Homestead Flooring, a ruddy carpet crafted by Negev Bedouin weavers in Israel, and a colorful poster from a Norwegian circus the couple attended with their kids. “I don’t remember anything about the circus,” Sullivan says. “What I remember is how hungry we were.” The cherry stool is by Carpenter.

Entry

A sculpture by South Portland’s Karen Gelardi and a mask by Sullivan-Stevens dangle from an Eames coatrack mounted on a leftover kitchen-cabinet panel. The seascapes are by a family friend and Sullivan-Stevens and the ottoman goes with the living-room sofa. A few years ago, the same sofa appeared in the New York Times as a paragon of mid-century design. “Our sofa that we got in 1973!” Sullivan says.

A sculpture by South Portland’s Karen Gelardi and a mask by Colin Sullivan-Stevens dangle from an Eames coatrack mounted on a leftover kitchen-cabinet panel in the entry
In the bedroom Colin Sullivan-Stevens painted the abstract mural and applied a whitewash that resembles old plaster to the surrounding walls

Bedroom

Sullivan-Stevens painted the abstract mural and applied a whitewash that resembles old plaster to the surrounding walls — a fitting backdrop for the couple’s mash-up of modern and antique furnishings. On a recent afternoon, while their miniature poodle, Luke, basked in a patch of sunlight on the marigold-hued carpet, their Maine coon, Sweet Pea, leapt onto a reproduction Colonial table, toppling a ceramic jewelry box. When it shattered, Sullivan shrugged. “Nothing here’s precious.”

Down East Magazine, March 2024 cover

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