Design New England

Design unfolds at Secret Cove


A harpsichord from the Museums of Old York collection with a breathtaking pastoral scene painted inside its case lid was a showstopper at the museum’s 24th annual decorator show house open through August 15.

In the July/August issue of Design New England, we feature the cool blue living/dining/kitchen space that Boston interior designer Gerald Pomeroy transformed for last summer’s Museums of Old York Decorator Show House in York, Maine. It whetted our appetite for this year’s show house, which is being staged just down the road from York in Kittery Point, Maine, and is open now through August 15.


It always astounds us that the museums organization, which owns and maintains nine historic buildings and a remarkable collection of furnishings and offers educational programs to more that 3,800 children each year, has managed to stage a show house as one of its major fundraisers for 24 consecutive years. It is no small feat, as many other groups who have given up the show house ghost will attest.

First order of business is finding a house. It has to be large enough to allow a bevy of designers to participate, accessible to the public with hassle-free parking or easy shuttle service, and have an owner willing to hand over the keys and let strangers loose to redecorate. Given all of that, the assiduous staff and volunteers of Old York have not only found good houses, they have found them in some of the loveliest locations on the coast. This year is no exception.



The house at Secret Cove has a screened porch that overlooks the mature gardens and Lawrence Cove.

“Secret Cove” is nestled into a hillside that gently rolls down to the water’s edge on Lawrence Cove in Kittery Point. Built in 1996 by its present owners, Anders and Nancy Albertsen, its gardens were planted by Nancy, a botanical painter. Interspersed with mature trees, the beds are lush with shade-loving, low-maintenance hostas and evergreens that enhance the view to the picture-postcard cove and the town of New Castle, New Hampshire, across the way. Just to sit in one of the many colorful Adirondack chairs scattered on the lawn makes the effort to get here worthwhile. If only we could have taken a dip in the saltwater pool, which, tucked in behind a stone wall and surrounded by thick plantings, looked as close to a natural pond as a manmade pool with Jacuzzi jets can get.



The crescent-shaped saltwater pool seems a natural addition to the landscape.

In this magical setting, the fantasy continues with the first stops on the tour, two whimsical little out-buildings. The rustic Pool House by V. Jorgensen Design LLC is a garden shed turned changing room with windows held open to the saltwater breezes with lobster pot buoys. Furnishings are vintage, textiles are bright and contemporary. The atmosphere is both mysterious and playful.


Vines grow up the latticework of the garden shed turned pool house.

Down the hill, the Guest Cottage sits on the harbor with the water literally lapping under the deck’s floorboards. For this romantic setting, Accent & Design Inc. made a sweet pink and lime-green honeymoon retreat.



A view to the cove that shows the pink awning of the guest house in the upper left corner. New Castle, New Hampshire, is on the far shore.


Pretty in pink, the Guest Cottage is a frothy retreat.

New to the show house this year is Barbara Elza Hirsch of Elza B. Design in Acton, Massachusetts. She turned the double L-shaped back porch into two outdoor living areas, one for sitting and one for dining.


Elza B. Design’s porch dining area becomes one with the landscape. The stone wall on the right is the backdrop for the pool. The Masters chairs are by Phillippe Starck for Kartell.


This year, designers were given access to pieces from the museum’s furniture collection. Meredith Bohn Interior Design took full advantage using antique maple dining chairs and a Windsor bench in the Kitchen/Dining/Sitting Rooms.

York Bohn diningrm 1.jpg

Photo by Eric Roth

Meredith Bohn matched beautiful antique striated-maple chairs from the Museums of Old York collection with an antique farmer’s table in the Kitchen/Dining/Sitting room.


A view of the pool from the kitchen/sitting room window.

A magnificent harpsichord (see sidebar below), the underside of its case lid painted with a vivid yet romantic vintage pastoral coastal scene, is a show stopper in the cozy and comfortable Living Room/Conservatory by Michael Englehardt of Ethan Allen Design Center.

York Finn bedroom 1.jpg


Photo by Eric Roth

In the Master Suite, woven shades hang from ceiling to floor on each side of a support column turning an awkward space into a comfortable compartmentalized suite.

The first-floor Master Bedroom Suite and Porch was transformed into what Patricia Finn of Finn-Martens Design saw as a relaxed hideaway. She turned a problematic column in the middle of the room into an asset by flanking it with woven wood blinds to create a room divider that partitions a cozy sitting area from the bed, which is positioned for waking views to the cove. On the adjacent enclosed porch, clusters of potted plants by Artefact Home|Garden in Belmont, Massachusetts, camouflage the hot tub and add to the flavor of an island retreat, albeit one more Bali than Maine.


In one large room of the house, where once a Montessori School operated, the museum teamed up with the George Marshall Store Gallery in York to create the Gallery of Accord: Museum Treasures & Contemporary Art. The exhibition matches furniture from the museum’s collection with works of art from contemporary regional artists. It gives new meaning to the word timeless.


A Winsor chair and an antique cradle are matched with a contemporary painting by Arthur DiMambro of Durham, New Hampshire.

The dramatic piece, custom made by Wolfgang Kater of Montreal in 1978, is a replica of the 1747 instrument by Johannes Danie Dulcken in the Smithsonian Collection. When Steven Mallory, a former intern at Museums of Old York, found it in ruins in 2005, it been seen less than gently handing by students in the music department of the University of South Caroline and later had spent 20 years in a faculty member’s private home. It was, says Mallory, “in a state of structural collapse.”
With guidance from Glen Giuttari of the Harpsichord Clearing House in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, Mallory began restoring the piece. He did all the structural repairs and built the correct stand. He then painted the outer case in hand-ground Prussian Blue in linseed oil over a venetian red bole. The faux marbre is copied from the Italian sienna marble “Vaughn mantel” at Mount Vernon. He painted the lid scene, based on two scenes of New York Harbor by Pierre Charles Canot, c. 1768, in the Hudson River School style. All of the gilding is 23-karat gold leaf.
The restoration is not yet done, says Mallory. The soundboard rosette and the four-foot stop jacks are still to come. He will consider offers of purchase and would finish the work before releasing it.

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