Easy going

Comfort is always in style at this Maine family retreat.

By Elizabeth Gehrman
May 9, 2010

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Some things are worth the effort – like Randi Williams and Dale Watchowski’s 1984 “cottage” in Ocean Point, Maine. When the couple bought the 3,000-square-foot house in 2001, it could reasonably have been considered a tear-down. “The spruce floors downstairs were so rotted that a worker went right through the floorboards,” says Williams. The roof leaked, the windows needed to be replaced, and the house was infested with carpenter ants.

Then there’s the commute. The couple and their daughter, 17-year-old Elizabeth Watchowski, live in Birmingham, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Most people who live near several Great Lakes and want a vacation place would just buy a lakefront home and be done with it. But having lived in York Harbor, Maine, before her marriage and spent summers since in Nantucket, Williams longed for a house by the sea. “We both wanted the vista, with lots of sailboats and cabin cruisers and the tall ships when they come in,” she says. “The view from inside the house is like being on a ship because you can’t see any land, only water.”

The renovation took more than two years, in part because the house isn’t winterized, so the work proceeded seasonally, and in part because Williams, who did both the interior design and decorating (she’s a graphic designer; Watchowski works in commercial real estate), was managing the project by computer most of the time. She had workers take down a couple of walls and move some things around, but didn’t add any new construction. “The original design was functional but didn’t really capitalize on the wide-open view of the water,” she says.

For the decor, she combed area antique shops and supplemented her finds with furniture and linens from “comfort” catalogs like Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel. She painted both the inside and outside of the house Martha Stewart French Ivory white. “I call it a ‘fugitive’ white because it reflects sunrises and sunsets and the color of whatever’s in the room,” she says.

The couple call the house, and the 36-foot Hinckley picnic boat they keep there, the Happy Clam. “It’s a house that everybody goes to to be happy,” says Williams. “The whole place just has good vibes.”

Elizabeth Gehrman writes the On the Block column for the Globe Magazine. Send comments to

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