A laidback place to escape to: That’s what brought musicians and artists Sean Spellman and My Larsdotter from Portland, Oregon; California; and Copenhagen to the small seaside town of Westerly, Rhode Island.
“I was touring with my band for many years, and I had decided to leave Portland so that I could roam a little, live on the road for a while, in my van, at friends’, etc.,” Sean wrote to us. He’s in a band called Quiet Life and is a painter and artist (you can spot his minimal, vintage-y work in our feature on Hotel Joaquin in Laguna, CA, among other places); My (pronounced “Me”) is originally from Sweden and is in a band called My Bubba. Between the two of them, it’s been tour after tour. “I wanted to remove myself from city life, since we were always grinding away and traveling for music, to just clear my head a bit and slow down so that when we were off tour I could kind of chill out without distractions,” Sean says. He rented a friend’s guest house in Westerly one summer and was hooked. “The bonus is that my folks live 40 minutes away,” he adds.
Sean and My found a 1936 cape less than a mile from the ocean, bordered by a family farm and preserved forests, and, with the help of friends, set about renovating the place, stripping it down and filling it with Sean’s own art and vintage finds collected over the years. It’s a “live-in gallery” of sorts, he says, and the couple’s artistic backgrounds give the interiors a laidback, distinctly cool feel. Sean started Westerly Sound, a music festival series, and they’re working on getting a couple of artist residencies going, too.
But the couple doesn’t live in the cape itself: They live with their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Sol, in a flat above the garage and let out the house for vacation rentals. (It was recently named one of Conde Nast Traveler’s best Airbnbs within three hours of NYC.) There’s a lush permaculture garden, bikes and soft-top surfboards available, and an outdoor shower, hammock, and lots of records. What more could you need for a little escape?
Here’s a look.
Photography by Nick Ventura, courtesy of Sean Spellman.
In the garden: pawpaw trees, elderberries, and a peach tree that came with the place. “My likes the elderberries because they remind her of her hometown in Sweden,” Sean says.
“I’ve been digging through thrift and antique stores and estate/yard sales for years, so many of the things in and on the house are from places like that,” says Sean. “I spent years on the road with my band and then traveling/living in my van for a while and used to regularly pick up things in my travels.”
In the hallway: “a pine peg rail (not real Shaker), and my favorite Stetson is hanging there,” says Sean. Another painting of his hangs in a thrifted frame.
The mirror was a local find, and the vase is from a “backstage tour” of Heath Ceramics with a friend of Sean’s. “She even let me glaze a piece there. What a place,” he says. “The palm rose I got in the Caribbean over 10 years ago.”
A few more laid-back New England houses we love: