“We like salt air, things a little undone, and just precious enough.”
So reads the Instagram bio of Kate Jones, the designer behind cult favorite jewelry co. Ursa Major. For Kate, re-settled on the coast of Maine after stints in New York and San Francisco, what she calls a style “somewhere between the past and the present” is a way of being—and, naturally, her laidback-meets-sophisticated, unfussy-elegant sensibility translates not just to her subtle, timeless pieces but to her studio and workspace too.
Kate and her husband, Chris Reardon, also a New England transplant, were living in San Francisco in 2015 when they started looking for a place to buy across the country. “I always knew I wanted to move back to Maine but didn’t really expect to so soon. I think we both surprised ourselves with how ready we were. Ultimately, after two years of looking, we found a place on the very same small cove I grew up on in the Damariscotta River. Very serendipitous.”
There was the kismet of returning to a place she knew, and then there was the land itself. “We had two major credentials when looking for property: must have waterfront, but—most importantly—when we drove in the driveway there had to be an aspect of ‘magic.’ Something that grabbed us immediately. A twinkle in the land.” This house and small outbuilding, Kate says, was “located at the end of a very long, densely wooded driveway that winds down a quarter mile, emptying out into an open space with scattered pines and a granite ledge, much of it lichen covered, that sets the horizon line overlooking the cove. The drive in always captivates us, no matter the season.”
But life on the cove quickly took a turn. “In October 2019 a big storm blew through, with unusual winds coming from the east that swept up from the cove,” Kate says. “The winds were only about 60 or 65 miles per hour, but thanks to physics and the ravine, they were probably 80 miles per hour when they hit the house and peeled off the metal roof. The subsequent rain damage was enough to make us rethink our initial plans to renovate the structure and instead build new.
“Ultimately the storm was a great blessing in disguise,” Kate says. “We never thought we wanted to build from the ground up, knowing too well what it would entail. But after having lived on the property for two years, we had such an informed idea of how we would build differently: to build with the land, as opposed to on it. We understood how the light moved across it all times of the year, how we moved across it, and also that we could build better and with the future specifically in mind. It was in keeping with the idea that we are just stewards of this land, but what we do leaves a lasting impact.”
The couple’s new, sustainable house is now in progress, and in the meantime, they’ve designed, together, a small outbuilding on the land to serve as Kate’s studio, with a wood stove, generous windows for “good jewelry-work lighting,” plaster walls, and plenty of places to look for inspiration.
Join us for a look inside (and out).
Photography courtesy of Kate Jones, except where noted.
“Chris was the primary designer (along with myself) and builder for the studio,” says Kate. “His background is in set design/building and commercial photoshoot production, and he excels at understanding efficiency of movement within a space, as well as how light travels within.”
Chris also designed their home-in-progress along with Andrew, who launched Maine-based Croft; the house is “straw insulated, constructed from pre-fabricated panels assembled in Rockland,” Kate says. “It captures 50 tons of carbon! And much of the wood used in the construction is from our own property.”) Andrew helped build the studio, as did Joe Nelson of Croft and the couple’s friend Malcolm Browne. “Our good friend Joe McSwain, a former steeple jack, helped construct the studio cabinets with Chris,” Kate says. “Both places are built by friends, and nothing is quite so lovely as that.”
The studio was finished in January 2020. “Prior to that,” Kate says, “my mother let me borrow her small (and left-handed) studio set up in East Boothbay. Perks included coffee and lunch made by mom, as well as an ocean view, but it wasn’t set up for production and was a tough two years.”
Kate and Chris did the plastering work themselves, “albeit rough and our first time,” Kate notes. “But as Chris always says: It’s a working studio; it shouldn’t be perfect.”
Take a look at Kate’s work via Ursa Major.
N.B.: Featured photograph by Jay Carroll, courtesy of Kate Jones.