Meeting Their Match

It was love at first sight for a Maryland couple and their cheerful Castine cottage.

Blue Hill’s Down East Landscape & Design built Loi Thai and Tom Troeschel’s flagstone terrace

Blue Hill’s Down East Landscape & Design built Loi Thai and Tom Troeschel’s flagstone terrace and graded the property toward the water, maximizing the view. The wood furnishings are from Island Teak Company in Wiscasset.

By Laura Wallis
Photos by Jared Kuzia
From the March/April 2019 issue of Maine Homes by Down East

A summerhouse is a bit like a romantic partner. You have an idea in your imagination about your perfect match, and when you find it, you know. Loi Thai and his partner, Tom Troeschel, first laid eyes on their 1863 Castine cottage in 2013, while touring the town with a Realtor. “We saw it, sitting there quietly,” recalls Thai of the 1,600-square-foot, three-season abode that had been in the same family for generations. “I said, ‘I love it’; she said, ‘it’s not for sale.’”

The pair went on to buy and renovate a 4,000-square-foot, Federal-Victorian home with three stories and six fireplaces, elsewhere in town, but the little cottage stayed on their minds. So when it went on the market in 2015, they decided to make a move.

From left: Thai found the dining room’s 19th-century weathervane at the annual Maine Antiques Festival in Union. The living room’s vintage dolly coffee table is from the Maryland antiques store he used to own, Tone on Tone.

Though there was serendipity involved, taking on another project in the historic Down East town wasn’t an impulsive decision. The Bethesda, Maryland, residents knew it was a serious time investment just to get there. They always drive the roughly 15-hour distance, accompanied by their 19-year-old Tibetan terrier, Mocha. But they’d fallen for Castine’s quiet beauty the moment a friend introduced them to the area, which they prefer to the bustle of the southern coast. “It’s located on a peninsula at the end of a road,” Thai says. “You don’t pass through. You go to Castine because you’re going there.”

Fortunately, the two have professions that allow for remote work — Thai is an interior and garden designer with a formidable Instagram following (168,000 fans and counting) and Troeschel works for a nonprofit organization. That flexibility was key when it came to renovating the cottage — a year-long endeavor that involved insulating, lifting and stabilizing the foundation, replacing badly settled and patched floors on the first floor, and updating the plumbing and electrical systems.

Clockwise from top left: Rows of 19th-century American spongeware, compiled from sources such as the Maine Antiques Festival, enliven the kitchen. Vintage decoys, from Searsport’s Pumpkin Patch Antiques and the Searsport Antique Mall, perch atop a vintage French cabinet from Tone on Tone. The nautical theme continues in the master bedroom, with its watercolors by British artist Dale Hart. For bouquets, Thai hits Dan’s Flower Farm at the Castine Farmers’ Market.

“Everyone in town assumed we would tear down the house or add a huge addition,” Thai says, “but we love the old charm.” They saved as many original details as they could, including the pine floors upstairs, now painted warm gray, mahogany-railinged staircase, and elegantly pilastered dining room fireplace. They added shiplap walls in the galley kitchen to visually widen the room and lend a nautical feel, and enlarged the water-facing windows in the living room. “We wanted to bring in more light, better airflow, and broader views of Castine Harbor,” Thai explains. Outside, they replaced old painted shingles with white clapboards for a simpler, cleaner look, and removed shutters that were crowding the house.

Thai saw so much potential in the cottage, and Troeschel “served as the implementer of his vision,” working closely with local suppliers and tradespeople, especially Orland builder Stan Leach, a restoration pro who helped execute every detail.

From left: A slipcovered Crate & Barrel sofa and vintage wicker chair give the living room a casual air; the 1870s French faux-bamboo shelf holds 19th-century British mochaware. The living room’s vintage maritime scenes were fun to collect at local antiques markets. A slim Crate & Barrel console table (topped with a vintage-looking Target lamp and stacks of Maine-themed art and history books) anchors the display.

With the construction done, Thai decorated with an eye toward keeping the rooms “comfortable, approachable, not precious,” incorporating slipcovered, wicker, and painted-wood furnishings from antiques and big-box stores. Palette-wise, “I wanted to bring in the colors of the surrounding area — whites, blues, grays, lighter woods,” he says. “I love blue, but as many blue days as Maine has, it’s also so pretty when it’s gray.” Imbuing a coastal home with matching hues helps root it in the natural setting, he adds, and makes it feel more spacious.

The result is the ideal vacation spot. One that — like a long-distance sweetheart — the couple eagerly anticipates returning to. “We’re counting down the days to summer,” Thai says.

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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