The Mid-Century Home of Bangor Academics Is a Lesson in Thrifty Decorating

The Mid-Century Home of Bangor Academics Is a Lesson in Thrifty Decorating

They tackled one room at a time, often with a budget of just $200–$400.

Hollie Adams and Brian Jansen's Bangor dining room in Benjamin Moore’s Gravel Gray

ABOVE Hollie Adams and Brian Jansen tackled the dining room first, playing up the woodwork with starkly contrasting paint (Benjamin Moore’s Gravel Gray) and a $25 Home Depot ceiling medallion — “the easiest way to add character to a room,” Adams says. A rug from Bangor’s Central Maine Antique Mall grounds a Pier 1 table, Target chairs, and an IKEA patio bench. “I threw on a sheepskin and called it indoor furniture,” Adams says.


From the February 2023 issue of Down East magazine

While searching for a home near their teaching jobs at the University of Maine, Canadian transplants Hollie Adams and Brian Jansen quickly became acquainted with the state’s aging housing stock. “We kept saying, ‘This house is older than our country!’” Adams remembers. (Canada is 156 years young.) “And that would make us a little leery — we’re not the most handy people.” After touring more than 20 places, they found a 1950s Garrison in Bangor whose handy owners had kept it in good shape. Since moving in two years ago, they haven’t had to shell out for major repairs or upgrades. Instead, Adams has focused on decorating one room at a time, often with a budget of just $200–$400. “We didn’t have the money to do everything at once,” she says. “But also, I can’t live in chaos. I like to get one room totally done and move on.”

Brian Jansen’s office, which doubles as a TV room

Jansen’s Office

Adams decorated Jansen’s office, which doubles as a TV room, as a surprise. Going for a Mad Men vibe, she selected mid-century-inspired pieces from Target, including the sofa and a desk, bookcases, and a console table she put together herself. “All the boxes probably said you need two people to do this,” Jansen says. “She’s a good person.” A typography print pops against walls in Benjamin Moore’s Gravel Gray. The ’70s coffee table and faux-leather chair were $25 and free, respectively, on Facebook Marketplace, and, in true Don Draper style, “there’s whiskey in the bookcase,” Adams says.

a blue and white bedroom with a paper globe pendant light

Primary Bedroom

“The words I had in my head here were ‘artsy Parisian apartment,’” says Adams, who swapped an ’80s ceiling fan for a paper globe pendant and hung a framed Matisse print from HomeGoods. A banged-up Facebook Marketplace dresser received coats of black milk paint, and Bar Keepers Friend shined up the tarnished brass hardware. At right is a dress form Adams uses to display vintage clothes she occasionally sells on Etsy.


homeowners Hollie Adams and Brian Jansen


The couple poses in the living room with rescue pups Roland Barks (in Jansen’s arms) and Jessie, whom they inherited from Adams’s artist grandmother, along with the paint supplies displayed on a cart in Adams’s office (below). “When the mood strikes, I’ll paint a canvas,” Adams says. “Nothing good, but I enjoy it.” An old apple ladder holds a vintage rug found on Etsy

first-floor bathroom

Guest Bath

“I’ve never lived in a house with two full bathrooms before!” Adams says. This first-floor one was renovated by the previous owners. Adams simply painted it white and swapped the sconce’s shades for Edison bulbs. The second bath has been clutch when family visits from Canada and when, say, someone contracts Covid, as Adams did last year. “The house is big enough that I could avoid her for a week and not catch it,” Jansen says.


Hollie Adams's office is painted Benjamin Moore’s Essex Green and has a "vintage schoolroom" theme

Adams’s Office

Initially, Adams painted her office white. “Then, I did Brian’s office and got jealous,” she says. Reimagined with Benjamin Moore’s Essex Green on the walls, “it’s cozy, moody, and cool.” Working with a “vintage schoolroom” theme, she brought in a mid-century oak teacher’s desk, found on Facebook Marketplace, and a Stendig calendar, created by Italian designer Massimo Vignelli in 1966. Adams writes to-do lists on a wall-mounted roll of Kraft paper and uses spent sheets (and old calendar pages) to wrap presents.

a painted fireplace in living room filled with house plants

Living Room

The living-room’s pale-gray walls stuck around for a bit while Adams tackled other rooms and “they grew on me,” she says. For contrast, she painted the fireplace’s translucent-white brick a more opaque shade. The 1920s velvet recliner was purchased from a Facebook Marketplace seller who turned out to be a former neighbor. It rests on a rug from Instagram seller @mountainhousevintage, whom Adams jokingly calls “my rug guy” — “I’m really glad I’m in a place in my life where I have a rug guy.”