Hunkering Down in Georgetown

A family’s Georgetown escape is filled with sumptuous texture—and scores high marks for coziness
Words By Annie P. Quigley
Photos By Erin Little

Interior Designer:

Nicola’s Home

Countertops:

Maine Marble & Granite

Come July, the throngs are drawn north for Maine’s crystalline waters, rocky beaches, and salt air—then pack their bags and drive back over the Piscataqua Bridge come Labor Day. But those who stay in winter know a different Maine: one that’s quieter, hushed; where Mother Nature—deep snow, silent pines, and a dark, cold sea—takes over and looms large outside the windows. In a Maine winter, the indoors becomes a place especially for hunkering down and riding out the season, a warm reward after venturing out into the cold.

New benches flank an original fireplace, and paintings from the Brimfield Antique Flea Market adorn the mantle.

Take this house in the wild woods in Georgetown. When the homeowners—Julie and Chris Ackerman, their teenage daughters, Sydney and Olivia, and Henry, their 9-year-old goldendoodle—first discovered the island, they were visitors, staying with friends. “They have a peaceful and beautiful home in Georgetown,” Julie says, “and we realized that we were spending way too much time in their guesthouse.” So the Ackermans found a place of their own nearby: a fairly newly built house that, they found out, stood on the same ground as Marycliff, a Greek Revival–style mansion built in 1912 that burned down in the nineties. “It’s listed as a landmark on nautical maps,” Julie points out. Mariners traveling the Sheepscot River were once guided by its lights.  

The circa-2006 house that replaced it was somewhat less grand (“Even though it was not that old, the interior felt dated and out of place in Maine,” Julie recalls), but the setting was no less majestic. “It’s amazing to look out over the water and see the wildlife and lobster boats,” says Julie. “It’s obviously beautiful on clear, sunny days, but it is also breathtaking on gray, foggy, and snowy days.” 

A refined chandelier from Visual Comfort contrasts textured window fabric from Cowtan & Tout, accentuating the ocean view.
A fully outfitted bar, made from well-worn wood, is tucked into the lower level. Refrigerator by Sub-Zero.

The Ackermans are based in Chicago, but they set about renovating the interiors—long distance—with the help of designer Nicola Manganello, of Nicola’s Home, and Maguire Construction, both in Yarmouth. And though they wanted a place to spend summer vacations on the island, their design focus also included creating a winter weekend escape. “We told them we wanted warm, inviting spaces with furniture that is comfortable,” says Julie. “We wanted lots of pillows and cozy blankets. They basically did the rest.” 

The rest included some shifts to make the layout of the house work better for the family, who needed to work remotely as well as have guests up for holidays and getaways. “The designs for this house were puzzled together so this family could coexist comfortably,” says Nicola.  

The main problem was the oddly arranged kitchen. “The original layout did not use the space well, nor did it take advantage of the amazing views,” remembers Julie. The team made two simple but major swaps: one, removing the soffit above the cabinets and stretching them to the ceiling, which “really opened up the space and allowed more movement and storage throughout the kitchen,” Nicola says, and two, swapping an in-the-way section of counter for a generous-sized island custom-made by Nicola’s Home, creating a sense of openness. The result was a transformed kitchen—all while cleverly reusing the original cabinets, which got a fresh coat of paint and new hardware. 

Barstool fabric by Perennials complements “a custom island that suits our love of cooking much better,” Julie reports.

Then it was on to the master bath, basement (“Completely unfinished,” Julie recalls), and the home office (“Just an open space,” she says). The finished lower level now features a dark, hangout-ready bar designed by Nicola and Maguire and built with distressed wood. And the light-filled office—fronted by metal-and-glass sliding doors—is now the family’s favorite room (and sure to get lots of use, particularly if the family is able to come to Maine in the midst of the pandemic). Elsewhere, the team added new floors and shiplap wallboard, a nod to the seaworthy cladding used to seal houses tight against the elements. 

It’s in the living areas, though, where the design is particularly snug. Rough-hewn beams, newly added across the ceilings, add coziness, and sumptuous textures cover nearly every surface—from impossibly thick knit blankets and fur-fronted pillows laid on the floor to a stone mantel and wood-clad walls. “There is not a single piece of furniture in the house that is not incredibly comfortable,” Julie reports. Nicola and team swapped the bookcases beside the original stone fireplace for low, comfortable benches with logs stacked under them. “Chris travels a lot for business, and the idea for the logs came from the lobby of a hotel in Seattle that he often stays at,” notes Julie. “That is probably the only design element that we contributed!” Together with the hardy stone fireplace, the log stacks feel like an homage to the Maine forest outside. 

In fact, much of the house does. While the renovation made the house more usable for a family of four’s needs, the design also does something else: It “captures all of Maine’s outdoor natural beauty by bringing it inside,” Nicola says. “All of the stonework, wood, and natural materials were just some aspects we kept in mind when designing this home. It is so important to work with your surroundings.” Especially when creating a space to revel in the quiet and ferocity of winter in Maine.