When interior designer Christina Salway and her husband John first laid eyes on what would become their vacation home in Stonington, ME, they thought, “No way!” Yes it was a block from the coast and the price was right, but the home had been abandoned for five years, and time hadn’t been its friend. But with a little help from their talented group of friends and some unmatched dedication, they’ve since turned the abandoned space into a cheery and bright oasis.
The first step in the process was ridding the home of the mounds of trash and leftover junk that occupied it. For three days the couple heaved bags and bags out of the property until all that was left were bare walls… covered in out-there paint colors. One bedroom, for example, had lime walls outlined in pink trim, and the dining area was home to a blinding shade of purple. Even worse, the room destined to be the owners’ suite featured yellow walls with Kelly green trim.
Christina and John quieted these loud touches with coats of warm white paint, effectively creating a backdrop that plays better with many types of decorations. From there, the couple sourced accessories from Craigslist and other secondhand shops. Between the collection of lobster knickknacks waving at guests in the kitchen to the first floor’s wooden sailboats, it’s not hard to find the common thread: the surrounding seaside community.
While daunting, the process of breathing new life into the dilapidated home was made easier by Christina and John’s skillful friends. In exchange for their help fixing up the property, the couple gifted their cohorts with weekends at the home. “Some will be traveling with their young families,” Christina begins, “some will be taking the time as an artist retreat, and some plan to simply go to the beach with friends.” Clearly, this is one home that will be enjoyed by many for many years to come. Scroll down to see the full makeover, and when you’re done check out our coverage of their previous project: Little King Bar. Enjoy! —Garrett
Photography by Christina Salway
Image above: “The first obstacle we encountered was clearing out the house. It had been unoccupied for about five years, and the last tenants had lived hard in the house. There were inches of dog and cat hair, dozens of fish tanks, piles of broken furniture and mattresses… and just so much trash. We filled three dumpsters in three days,” the couple tells us.
The drop ceiling throughout the home was so damaged the family had to have it torn out. Luckily, its removal exposed beautiful wood beams.
Recovering these mismatched antique chairs in the same fabric turned the two disparate pieces into a cohesive set. The space behind them was previously filled with a wall and doorway, but that came down during the renovation.
The carpet throughout the vacation property was torn out. The couple then whitewashed the walls in the living, kitchen and dining areas to break up the rich hue of the wood floor and ceiling.
Instead of patching the hole in between these two windows, Christina and her husband filled it with the exhaust pipe of their wood burning stove – a Craigslist find. “My husband John and I installed the exterior stove pipe together using a series of precarious ladders and a pulley system… and eventually one of our neighbors came over and helped us,” Christina explains.
An antique horse blanket sits on a secondhand Ralph Lauren sofa.
To see more of the kitchen transformation, head to the family’s YouTube page.
The island was created “by topping an antique workbench with a slab of carrara sourced from a local stone yard.”
Christina says she wouldn’t feel right not having lobsters – a Maine staple – somewhere in the vacation home. Here they can be found in the home’s kitchen.
“I really love the transformation of the bathroom. It was so gruesome when we got there. It really looked like an abandoned truck stop bathroom, and now it’s so cheery and bright.” – Christina Salway
John installed the beadboard ceiling in the bathroom, and Christina painted the walls and the checkerboard pattern on the floor.
Christina had a dream about painting the hallway walls. When she awoke, she hunted down a color to match the one she’d envisioned and went to work.
The greatest transformation took place upstairs in this guest room. “We tackled this room by adding horizontal beadboard, new trim and then covering everything in a coat of soft white,” Christina explains.
The headboard cushion is custom and was addd to this antique bed frame to help the room feel a bit softer and more inviting. Check out the transformation from start to finish on the couple’s channel.
Pro Tip: The pair achieved the walls’ hue by using Zinsser shellac-based primer. They say, “It locks in the knot stains in the pine paneling without making the color too opaque.”
In the guest room, a linen curtain acts as a closet door.
This antique rocking chair was discovered in the attic.
The bunk bed in the couple’s son’s room infuses the space with camp vibes.
Vintage watercolors and Woolrich blankets further evoke the feeling of being at a sleepaway camp.
“We painted the walls and ceiling white – Benjamin Moore ‘Chantilly Lace’ – so it didn’t feel quite so [busy], but this guest room hasn’t been properly tackled yet,” Christina shares.
This iron bed frame was found in the attic alongside the other bedroom’s rocking chair.
A coat of warm white paint did wonders for Christina and John’s bedroom.
“When I found this (secondhand chinoiserie bed) online, I literally did cartwheels. I was so thrilled. I loveit!!” Christina exclaims. Above it hangs a chandelier she purchased on Chairish. Before hanging here, it sat unused for years “waiting for the right location to come along.”
The vintage embroidery above the bed reads: “Good Luck.”
The lantern on the dresser was found at the local dump and is part of a set of eight.
White walls throughout – Benjamin Moore “Chantilly Lace”
Kitchen cabinetry paint – Benjamin Moore “Gentleman’s Gray”
Son’s room paint – Benjamin Moore “Quiet Moments”
Son’s gingham bedding – Target
Cabinetry – IKEA
Hallway/bathroom floor paint – Benjamin Moore “Wythe Gold”
Lighting – Leanne Ford for Target
Curtains, bunk bed – IKEA