You are here

Casual, Cheerful Beach Cottage

Casual, sunlit rooms, pops of cheerful color, and a rejuvenating setting make this Maine cottage an irresistible retreat. 

Written by Jan Soults Walker
  • Kritsada

    Interior designer Leslie Rylee is the best kind of friend. She shared her favorite summer getaway community in southeastern coastal Maine with her New York City neighbors. The couple and their three young children fell in love with the area, too, relishing the laid-back lifestyle filled with relaxing days at the beach, long bike rides, and sailing, golf, and tennis lessons for the kids. When Rylee learned the family was searching for their own place there, she quickly called them about a historic 1887 shingle-style charmer newly on the market.

    This late 19th-century shingle-style cottage captured the hearts of a young family, who honored the past while making the interiors bright and family-friendly.

    Field editor: Karin Lidbeck-Brent
    Photography: Kritsada

    Interior design: Leslie Rylee, Leslie Rylee Decorative Arts and Interiors, New York City; 212/473-6306;
    Construction and custom millwork: Wright-Ryan Homes, Portland, Maine; 207/773-3625;

  • Kritsada


    Painting the stair balusters white helped lighten the space and draw out a pretty wave detail at the top of each spindle.

  • Kritsada

    Desk Niche

    An alcove off the entryway provides a perfect spot for a desk to record memories or work on other projects.

  • Kritsada

    Kitchen Dining Area

    “I told them I’d found their next home,” she says. “It had been in the same family forever, and it’s a house I’ve always loved—full of soul and quirky details and just a five-minute bike ride to a gorgeous sandy beach.”

    Bistro chairs, smartly dressed in colorful zigzag stripes, contrast with the antique kitchen dining table. Pale green paint softens the imperfections in the original wood floor.

  • Kritsada

    Burst of Sunshine

    Rylee, along with builder Steve Murphy, came on board to give the home fresh style and function for the young family. “We preserved all the historic details,” says Murphy, who kept the home’s original flooring, windows, doors, and woodwork, then blended in architectural salvage and carefully reproduced millwork where needed.

    The yellow bench was a last-minute find that artfully links window fabric colors to the kitchen.

  • Kritsada

    Cottage Kitchen

    “Even though we set out to make the home look and work for the present day, we didn’t want it to feel slick and suburban,” Rylee says. “Allowing the floors to remain uneven and quirky was one way we kept the home grounded in its history.”

    Removing a wall allowed for a larger kitchen without adding on. Window frames and interior doors dressed in coral help distinguish the work core from the family dining area.

  • Kritsada

    Cottage Kitchen

    Two other original features distinguish the home’s interior spaces: fish-scale shingles lining several walls and a band of sand dollars rimming the living room and entryway. “The previous owners would find sand dollars on the beach and make them part of the house,” Rylee says. “It’s a wonderful bit of tradition that the new family plans to continue.”

    New windows above the vintage-style farm sink were reproduced to match originals.

  • Kritsada

    Special Decorations

    Several generations of one family lovingly collected sand dollars, gluing their treasures to trim boards between ceiling beams—a testimony to summers full of fun adventures.

  • Kritsada

    Bright Living Room

    With the home’s historic character on firm footing, many rooms were updated with crisp white walls. “The house was dark downstairs, with the exception of the porch and kitchen,” Rylee says. “It’s a summer house, so we wanted it to feel summery but at the same time warm. We introduced pops of bright color everywhere so that it’s a house where you want to be in every room.”

    Wrapped in wood shingles, the living room was especially dark. White paint and a white slipcovered sofa brighten the space. French blue on the draperies and a ship’s lantern add a touch of color.


  • Kritsada

    Formal Dining Room

    The homeowners, who love to entertain, host lobster dinners in the dining room, which boasts charming sand dollar-patterned fabric on the windows. Blush pink walls and the checkerboard-painted wood floor help lighten the mood. 

  • Kritsada

    Sitting Porch

    While light walls and floors keep the look airy, beautiful rugs and breezy fabrics in an appealing convergence of crisp geometrics and vintage-inspired florals help soften spaces. A mix of lighting enhances the welcoming vibe. Some fixtures echo the old-house character; others lean toward contemporary style, such as the star-shape fixtures on the porches. “At night, when those three star lights are on, they emit such a beautiful glow,” Rylee says. “It’s a moment that reminds me this house remains full of life and will go on because it has everything the family needs.”

    On the screened porch, vintage wicker furnishings nod to the past while half-hull boat models—hung as a dimensional border near the ceiling—provide nautical charm. 

  • Kritsada

    Master Bedroom

    The homeowners wanted the master bedroom to feel like a serene sanctuary. White walls with accents of lapis blue and yellow-green make the space fresh and inviting. 

  • Kritsada

    Bunk Room

    Custom built-in bunk beds maximize floor space in one odd-shape bedroom, where twin beds just wouldn’t fit.

  • Kritsada

    Pink Bedroom

    In this bedroom adjoining the bunkroom, subdued fabrics suit the older brother. Twin iron beds add vintage charm.

  • Kritsada

    Purple Bedroom

    For a little girl who loves purple, curtains and a rug in soft lavender create the perfect personal space. A Victorian-inspired headboard is a pretty detail that will easily grow with her. 

  • Kritsada

    Sleeping Porch

    Sunshine, breezes, and an enticingly comfortable window seat make this sleeping porch the ideal place for reading with the children.

  • John Bessler