By Meadow Rue Merrill
Photographed by Sarah Szwajkos
From our November 2015 issue[cs_drop_cap letter=”S” color=”#000000″ size=”5em” ]uzie Groton couldn’t see beyond the spruce trees that were overtaking the 10-acre field in Boothbay Harbor, but her husband, Neal, knew it was the perfect setting for their dream home. “I didn’t have the vision,” admits Suzie, a retired flight attendant. “He did.”
Where sheep and cows once grazed on a ridge above the Sheepscot River, the Grotons’ enchanting yellow house with Gothic windows and ornate molding now rises alongside a row of young apple trees. The two-bedroom home, built and designed by Neal, is modeled after a historic carriage house that the Grotons fell in love with years before. On the opposite side of the stone patio and rambling garden is a charming two-story guesthouse that Neal built from lumber milled onsite.
With Neal’s help and inspiration from her stash of magazine clippings, Suzie, a talented painter, painted the main house’s faux stone walls and ornamental floors. She also refinished much of the furniture, a mix of flea-market finds and heirlooms, like the garden room’s swayback chair (that family lore holds is from the Vatican) and the sunroom’s 100-year-old couch (that once belonged to Suzie’s grandparents). The result is a fanciful mix of contemporary comfort and Old World charm, enhanced by antique stained-glass windows, white-marble counters, and Gothic arches, which are recurring elements over windows and portals.
The main entrance opens on the garden room, designed for work with a concrete floor and a soapstone sink that was made in Monson. Simply furnished, it is well used year-round, a place for summer parties and winter yoga practice.
The Grotons’ home feels larger than its 1,700 square feet, thanks to a clean, light palette and uncluttered design.
Unified by a floor of French terracotta tiles, the kitchen and dining area are separated by a small section of cabintry. In addition to framing the cabinets, Neal built the bottom of the built-in buffet, which Suzie painted to look old. Generous wicker chairs surround a narrow farm table. “We love to cook,” says Suzie. “And we love to cook together. We are lucky to live in Maine with so many farms and fresh food.”
Tucked under the slanted ceiling are two balconies, one off a bedroom, the other off an office. A sitting room with white shiplap walls and an earthy sisal rug offers extra space for relaxing and entertaining. “It’s nice sitting out here in the winter when the trees are loaded with snow,” Neal says.
Neal originally designed the guesthouse as a tool shed, but Suzie convinced him that, with a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, it could accommodate friends and family, as well as their lobster dinners and pizza parties. “We open up the doors and crank up the music,” Suzie says, “and everybody loves it.”