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Marston House in Vinalhaven: French Vintage Style in Maine

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Marston House in Vinalhaven: French Vintage Style in Maine

November 5, 2018

Long before they were Instagram stars, Sharon and Paul Mrozinski were my family’s favorite source for exceptional antiques. Whenever work or summer vacations took us to Maine, stopping off at their shop in Wiscasset was an absolute must. So you can imagine my horror when a couple of years ago, I heard they were selling Marston House. I believe the subject line in my followup email read, “Nooooooo, say it isn’t so!”

Fortunately for me, my family, and thousands of their fans, Sharon and Paul and their beloved Marston House have not gone away. They have merely downsized and moved down the road a piece, or in this case, across the water, to Vinalhaven, a quaint island off the Maine coast.

Not one to part with tradition, this past summer I took a detour off the Maine Coastal Route to check out Sharon and Paul’s new digs. Though the journey—an absolutely stunning ferry ride—is a little more out of the way, Marston House is still well worth the trip.

Photography by Justine Hand for Remodelista.

sharon and paul&#8\2\17;s deconstructed kitchen is populated with finds fro 9
Above: Sharon and Paul’s deconstructed kitchen is populated with finds from more than 40 years of antiquing together, including a collection of American Shaker baskets.

In 2016, after nearly three decades of running their B&B and store in Wiscasset, Sharon and Paul were looking to downsize but didn’t want to leave Maine altogether. After renting a cottage on Vinalhaven that summer, the couple quickly fell in love with the tight-knit and vibrant island community. On the market at the time was Bridge House, situated over rushing tidal waters on Main Street. Originally a post office on neighboring North Haven, the historic structure had been floated over in 1906 to replace the original “Bridge House,” which had burned down earlier that year.

Paul immediately became enamored with the stunning site, which enjoyed water views an three sides. Sharon, taking in the cramped quarters and the need for extensive renovations, was a little more dubious. After several visits, “always with a measuring tape,” and reassurance from the building inspector that the building was sound, Paul, an architect, was able to draw up some plans that demonstrated to Sharon how they could make the space their own.

sharon and paul were able to bring most of their furniture from wiscasset to po 10
Above: Sharon and Paul were able to bring most of their furniture from Wiscasset to populate their new Vinalhaven home, including the English counter which Sharon has owned from more than 30 years.

Paul’s plan called for a complete gut of the original interiors—taking out all the interiors walls to open up the space; removing wall-, floor-, and ceiling coverings to reveal the original beadboard, wide wooden floors, and beams; and replacing all of the wiring and plumbing. The design established the living quarters on the second story, reserving the ground floor for the store (in front) and their bedroom (in back).

Demolition began the day after the couple closed on the house in October. Two weeks later, Sharon and Paul left for their winter quarters in France. Supervising a renovation via email was a new, and at times nail-biting, experience for Paul, but fortunately he had a great team. Construction was completed by the following summer, with the cabinet maker chipping in to help the carpenter apply the finishing touches and hang the sign just in time for opening day. Then on July 4, 2017, thirty years to the day after opening the original store, Marston House Vinalhaven was open for business.

 meal prep occurs on the center island, an american table that sharon and paul 11
Above: Meal prep occurs on the center island, an American table that Sharon and Paul raised with copper leg extensions.
the couple&#8\2\17;s collection of \19th century american pitchers lines th 12
Above: The couple’s collection of 19th-century American pitchers lines the shelves in the kitchen.
over custom cabinets, sharon and paul placed a wooden slab from tuscany. the sl 13
Above: Over custom cabinets, Sharon and Paul placed a wooden slab from Tuscany. The slate sink were purchased from Portland Architectural Salvage.

A few of the walls of the structure featured original beadboard. Paul continued this historic treatment throughout the entire house, using to new beadboard as well as 1X8 shiplap pine.

the couple repurposed an old english scale weight as a tray. 14
Above: The couple repurposed an old English scale weight as a tray.
a wonderful historic detail: iron support hooks enhance the rustic feel. 15
Above: A wonderful historic detail: iron support hooks enhance the rustic feel.

One of the most unusual and striking features of the new space were the metal support rods, which were discovered during the demo process. Common in many 19th-century barns, rods like these hang from trusses in the roof, and support a beam that runs the length of the house, on which rest the second-story floor boards. “The benefit of having this support system is that you have a clear span on the first floor. No bearing walls or columns are required… This clear span allows an open plan for the first floor.”

next to the sink, a vintage pot houses scrubbing brushes. 16
Above: Next to the sink, a vintage pot houses scrubbing brushes.
thanks to the rod floor supports, the entire kitchen, dining, and living space  17
Above: Thanks to the rod floor supports, the entire kitchen, dining, and living space enjoys an unobstructed view of the bay beyond.

To enhance the open, airy feel of the main living quarters, the coupled painted all of the walls and ceilings in Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint in Pure White, matte, and satin for the bathrooms. The paint, Paul noted, has “no pigment; it is the base that is used before pigment is added to create other colors. The beauty of this color is that it reflects the colors of the outside. Some days the walls are blue, the reflection of the water, some days grey as the fog just outside our windows. The downside to using pure white is the old materials sucked up the paint. We had to use many gallons of paint to get white.”

marston house vinalhaven dining 3
Above: For dining, the couple uses a 19th-century English library table surrounded by reproduction Windsors found at ABC Carpet & Home. The trammel is an American piece, circa 1870, found in New Hampshire in the early 1990s.
marston house vinalhaven candles 2
Above: Sharon and Paul love burning beeswax candles in their collection of candlesticks, which includes American pewter as well as brass sticks that were a gift in the 1970s from Sharon’s dad.
marston house vinalhaven living room
Above: White linen-covered furniture and gold accents give the living room a cozy feel. The top painting on the far right is by an Irish artist, living in Maine. Below is a painting found in France at an antique fair.
marston house vinalhaven fireplace
Above: Sharon and Paul “cannot live in a home without a fireplace,” but they didn’t have room for a deep chimney. Paul solved the the problem with a zero-clearance insert by Majestic, which they had previously used throughout their B&B in Wiscasset.
marston house vinalhaven fireplace tools
Above: American fireplace tools from the 1800s rest on iron standing trivet and an antique stool from Tuscany.
under the attic eves, sharon and paul established rustic, camp like accommodati 23
Above: Under the attic eves, Sharon and Paul established rustic, camp-like accommodations for guests, including this bathroom with custom faucets that Paul fashioned with hardware from a garden supply shop. Note also the use of vintage nightgown as curtain.
a stair leads along the back to the upstairs living area to the bedroom and sho 24
Above: A stair leads along the back to the upstairs living area to the bedroom and shop below. Paul achieved a white-washed look in the floors with watered-down BIN.
on a bed purchased from leonards in rhode island, the couple paired ralph laure 25
Above: On a bed purchased from Leonards in Rhode Island, the couple paired Ralph Lauren bedding with a hand-dyed, linen, top-spread from France.

In the building’s original plan, the two small bedrooms were located at the front of the house on Main Street, the only side without a water view. Paul and Sharon knew they wanted their bedroom to be on the water. Thus they transformed what had been a storage area behind the original store into a bedroom, with master bath, laundry, and closet space.

by positioning the bed close to the windows, the couple takes maximum advantage 26
Above: By positioning the bed close to the windows, the couple takes maximum advantage of both the view and cooling summer breezes.
in the bedroom, an old american spice cabinet houses the couple&#8\2\17;s c 27
Above: In the bedroom, an old American spice cabinet houses the couple’s collection of “old friends,” antique toys collected over the years.
to take in as much of the view as possible, the couple installed floor to ceili 28
Above: To take in as much of the view as possible, the couple installed floor-to-ceiling Anderson 400 Series casement windows along the entire length of the bedroom wall, as well as on the floor above.
in the master bath, a tuscan stand made from old farm boards supports a ceramic 29
Above: In the master bath, a Tuscan stand made from old farm boards supports a ceramic sink found at Baileys Home and Garden in England. The mirror is a striped, early pine ogee frame, circa 1890.
a lucky find: the perfectly sized marble piece was discovered in a tuscany scra 30
Above: A lucky find: the perfectly-sized marble piece was discovered in a Tuscany scrap pile.
a hallway, flanked by the master bath and ample closets, leads from the back be 31
Above: A hallway, flanked by the master bath and ample closets, leads from the back bedroom to the storefront.
inside the marston house shop, vintage textiles, mostly from france, entice vi 32
Above: Inside the Marston House shop, vintage textiles, mostly from France, entice visitors as they pass along Main Street.

In the front of the house, Sharon and Paul maintained the original storefront. Though they look as though they’ve always been there, the generous windows are actually new—part of Paul’s historic restorations that give Marston House an old-fashioned general store feel.

during their winters in france, sharon and paul scour flea markets for their fa 33
Above: During their winters in France, Sharon and Paul scour flea markets for their fabulous finds, including textiles, silverware, baskets, ephemera, and tons of ironstone.
more antique textiles in the shop. 34
Above: More antique textiles in the shop.
parked in front of marston house, paul and sharon&#8\2\17;s wee island car  35
Above: Parked in front of Marston House, Paul and Sharon’s wee island car (note the license plate) fits conveniently in the side garage.
paul and sharon enjoy the sun in the small yard outside their bedroom windows,  36
Above: Paul and Sharon enjoy the sun in the small yard outside their bedroom windows, the future site of the couple’s garden. But that’s a tale for another summer.

More up north:

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