A Leap of Faith

A photographer and a painter make an artful home out of a former church.

By Meadow Rue Merrill
Photographed by Erin Little
From the October 2014 issue of Down East magazine

Without a kitchen or full bath, a vacant 162-year-old church on Route 1 in Edgecomb languished on the real estate market for years. But when Erin and Mark Little walked in, they saw the light. “The windows are about 8 feet high, and the ceilings are 17 feet,” says Erin, a photographer and frequent Down East contributor. “It felt so unique and different that I didn’t need to see the rest.”

Because the church had previously been remodeled, first as a store, then as an office, it was already divided into rooms and its heating and plumbing systems had been replaced. All the Littles had to do was paint — 10 hours a day for a month. Fortunately, Mark is a painting contractor as well as a painter of abstract art. The once-dark rooms and floors are now white, except for a single red dining room wall, which showcases Mark’s work. Erin chose the lemony-yellow trim for her daughter Elisabeth’s room, which she says everyone but her husband loves. Other touches of color include the apple-red front door.

“The house is filled with a hodgepodge of stuff from all over,” says Erin. Most of the furniture is secondhand, including the living room’s vintage Eames sofa that Erin found in an antiques shop in Camden while on a photo shoot. The one-sided dice, placed in random order above an old-fashioned record player, are Mark’s creations.

In a nearby nook, Mark stores and displays his favorite art books in a console table with a slanted top. His studio, located just off the steps to the working bell tower, anchors the upstairs. The Littles’ cast-iron bed is squeezed next to a closet.

“People have this vision of a cavernous place that is all dark and pigeons flying around,” says Erin of living in an old church. “It is nothing like that.” But it does have other quirks. According to the 1852 deed, if a Congregationalist or a Baptist shows up to worship, the Littles have to welcome them. “It has yet to happen,” Erin says.