Thrifty Purchases, and Boatloads of White Paint, Transformed This Bungalow

An artist and an architect bring their spare, yet colorful, aesthetic to a Vinalhaven cottage designed with guests in mind.

A sofa from a Massachusetts Crate & Barrel’s “scratch and dent” section and a jute rug anchor Lynn Krauss and Stephen Blatt’s Vinalhaven guesthouse, which also sports a tiny kitchen and a claw-foot tub.

A sofa from a Massachusetts Crate & Barrel’s “scratch and dent” section and a jute rug anchor Lynn Krauss and Stephen Blatt’s Vinalhaven guesthouse, which also sports a tiny kitchen and a claw-foot tub.

By Michaela Cavallaro
Photos by Erin Little
From the Spring 2022 issue of Maine Homes by Down East

When Lynn Krauss and Stephen Blatt married in 1989, they were already full-fledged adults with households of their own. So, as they merged their belongings, they tucked excess dishware, kitchen tools, and linens in boxes marked “island home” and stowed them in the basement of their Cumberland house. “We had been talking about wanting to find a place on an island from the beginning,” says Krauss, remembering the day trips and weekend jaunts that led them, 10 years later, to a 1918 shingled bungalow on the north end of Vinalhaven.

Constructed for a boatbuilder who was the caretaker of some of the island’s grand rusticators’ cottages, the 1,400-square-foot bungalow needed just a few coats of paint before the couple could move in. The adjacent one-room guesthouse was another matter: Part of its roof was missing and a plumbed, but non-operational, toilet sat in the middle of the room. Blatt, an architect, rebuilt the roof, installed a proper bath and small kitchen, and sheathed the walls with scrap boards from other carpentry projects. Krauss, a painter and printmaker, placed a claw-foot tub, found on the island by their plumber, beneath a window overlooking the cove.

Clockwise from top left: Stephen Blatt built the bookcases that frame the entry to the couple’s first-floor bedroom, which is furnished with a garage-sale bed, linens bought on “deep discount” at Freeport’s former Ralph Lauren outlet, a French indigo pillow from Vinalhaven’s Marston House, and paintings by Krauss. The armchairs are slipcovered Marden’s finds. Pieces from Krauss’s collection of wooden, painted folk art have migrated from the couple’s Portland condo to the cottage’s sunroom. Krauss, pictured in the guesthouse. In keeping with the couple’s thrifty approach, Lynn Krauss planted the gardens with two truckloads of perennials from their former home in Cumberland. Next on their to-do list: re-siding the main house (shown) and adding a second screened porch.

Clean, white walls and trim in both spaces create a blank canvas for what Lynn Krauss describes as “a combination of old stuff and my art and other people’s art — it’s a real mishmash of different parts of our lives.” On the screened porch, for instance, a teak dining table Blatt spiffed up is matched with a cross-stitched tablecloth the couple received as a gift and bamboo-and-wicker café chairs they bought at an auction. Nearby, a colorful wooden folk-art cat and parrot peer over a daybed sporting cheery orange-and-fuchsia–striped Sunbrella fabric, and a green-painted vintage bench, found at a junk shop, is topped with a striped cushion and pillows from South Street Linen, the Portland textile business Krauss ran with two partners for 10 years.

Welcoming renters and a slew of family members and friends means the couple, who are now based in Portland, can’t be too precious with their furnishings. Krauss favors distressed-wood tables, flat-woven cotton rugs that can be tossed in the washing machine, thrift-store seats with washable slipcovers, and a less-is-more approach. “It’s a clear backdrop for people moving in,” she says. “You don’t feel like you’re imposing on anybody because your stuff is there.”

Clockwise from top left: A Dutch trunk, pillows their daughter purchased in Mexico, and a painting by Krauss punch up a living-room corner. On the screened porch, a cheerful striped indoor-outdoor rug from Bradford’s Rug Gallery, in Portland, picks up the shades in a painted vintage bench and a cross-stitched tablecloth. The dining-room table — from the returns section of a Massachusetts Pottery Barn — is accompanied by maple chairs Krauss acquired in her 20s and a pair of Gunlocke chairs Blatt brought to the marriage.

That minimalist’s mentality has become even more necessary as the couple’s family has grown. Their three adult children, with their partners and kids, spend as much time as they can at the cottage; 10-year-old grandson Max, who lives in Manhattan, literally counts down the days until he arrives. At its peak last summer, the property slept nine people — seven in the cottage and two in the guesthouse. “You get resourceful, and people rough it,” Krauss says. “And if you really have overflow, you ask neighbors if they can lend you a room.”

Those threads of family and community are visible throughout the property. Origami cranes folded by a renter perch on an upstairs shelf, along with shells and rocks collected over the years by visitors. The couple’s son-in-law does all the cooking when he’s here, and their son recently re-sided the guesthouse. Krauss notes with pride that the next generation doesn’t refer to the cottage as “my parents’ house” or “the island home.” Instead, staking a claim to their share of the family’s history, they call it “our summer place.” “Steve and I bought the place,” Krauss says, “but we bought it for everyone.”

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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