Rent a Dream
A Maine family built the vacation hone they'd always wanted — then put it to work.
- By: Meadow Rue Merrill
Peter and Pamela Mullin were living the dream. In 1986, after a first anniversary at a Machiasport B-and-B, they had decided to build a simple vacation cabin on a hill in Jonesport. The decade that followed saw the Cape Elizabeth couple cheerily lugging water (the cabin had no plumbing) and baking blueberry muffins in an old Empress Atlantic wood cookstove (no electricity). But when a friend mentioned a two-acre property overlooking Pleasant Bay near the village of South Addison, they saw the chance to turn their rustic vacation escape into a more practical reality.
“We thought, ‘Well we can’t afford it, but if we do it, let’s [build] it as a rental or maybe a retirement home down the road,’ ” recalls Pamela, a preschool teacher who runs the Appletree School from the couple’s Cape Elizabeth home.
So, in 2001 the Mullins bought the property on Cape Split, just down the road from the summerhouse where painter and printmaker John Marin worked during the 1930s. Peter, a builder who operates the Two Lights Construction Company in southern Maine, loaded his tools and sleeping bag into his truck and headed down to the little cabin in Jonesport for the next two years.
“I was working twelve to fourteen hour days, seven days a week, two or three weeks at a stretch,” says Peter, who regularly made the four-hour drive home to see his family.
“That was a long winter — very lonely.” Without so much as an architect’s sketch, he worked on the house from 2002 to 2004, conjuring the design in his head as he went along.
“We both love architecture,” says Pamela, sitting in an addition in their Cape Elizabeth house, which Peter also built. “We used to drive around even when we were boyfriend and girlfriend and it was, ‘Oh, look at that cute little house!’ Or we’d read architectural magazines.”
Pamela and Peter Mullin met during college while working at the Whistling Oyster in Ogunquit’s Perkins Cove, where Pamela was waiting tables. “He was my busboy,” she remarks, casting a sly glance at Peter. They have two daughters, Isabel and Elsa, now nearly grown. While Peter was working on the new home, Pamela was in her barn workshop, soldering leaded stained glass windows and a dining room chandelier for Peter to install.
In Cape Split, Peter was working almost entirely alone, although he did hire contractors for site work and the foundation, as well as to build a brick fireplace and chimney, add plumbing, and run electrical wires. The result is impressive — a 1,500-square-foot, Shingle-style, two-bedroom home with Victorian-inspired dormers and traditional workmanship throughout. Perched ninety feet above the water in a rural subdivision, the house was designed to take advantage of the view and light.
“The land drops right down to the water,” says Peter. “So when you’re inside [the house], it feels like you’re right over it.” For inspiration, he drew on his wife’s Swedish heritage, reflected in the cedar awning and built-in benches leading to the front door.
“It’s a wonderful place to take off your shoes and enjoy the outdoors,” says Pamela. “I’ll step out there in the morning just to check on my flowers.”
Downstairs revolves around the fireplace (Peter admits it’s still awaiting the finishing mantel), which faces the living room and Tunk Mountain beyond. Opposite is the wood-beamed kitchen and dining area with identical pine-painted corner hutches salvaged from a Colonial house in Massachusetts. A step-in porch off the dining room faces west over the water. Curtain-less windows, recessed lights, and an abundance of natural wood — Douglas fir trim, birch floors and cabinets, and mahogany and Brazilian cherry details to add contrast — all serve to embrace the outdoors.
Whenever possible, Peter even brought the outdoors inside: for the entryway floor, kitchen counters, and fireplace inlay he selected rose and gray granite tiles from nearby quarries.
When not busy with their careers or kids, the Mullins escape to their dream house on Cape Split. At other times, the house is available for rent (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Mullins say about a dozen clients a year seek out the solitude of their Cape Split home.
“It is a little quiet,” admits Donald Myer, a part-time contractor and property manager who lives just down the loop from the Mullins and helps manage their vacation house. “But if you’re into nature, the hiking and kayaking are just incredible.”
- By: Meadow Rue Merrill