This Southern Maine Cape Is “Colorful, Chaotic, and a Little Strange”

Creepy collections and vibrant, gardeny shades converge in a floral designer’s southern Maine Cape.

A wool IKEA rug establishes the kitchen’s rainbow palette, reiterated on a bookshelf and photo gallery wall.

Above: A wool IKEA rug establishes the kitchen’s rainbow palette, reiterated on a bookshelf and photo gallery wall. Wilson bought the oak table at a yard sale when she was 15; the metal chairs are a Craigslist find.

By Sara Anne Donnelly
Photos by Rachel Sieben
From the Fall 2023 issue of Maine Homes by Down East

“I’ve always been drawn to odd, Edward Scissorhandsy things, and this house felt like a place where my things fit,” floral designer Anika Wilson says, referring to the “lived-in” Cape she and her husband, Giles Healey, bought in 2015. Built in 1816, on land bequeathed to the original owner by King George III, the home sits at the end of a long dirt drive behind a stand of old-growth trees that shields it from a busy road just outside of Portland. Wilson keeps chickens, ducks, geese, peafowl, and sheep on the 34-acre property, which includes her flower garden and a swath of dense forest. Inside, “the windowsills and doors are caked with so much paint they feel kind of bumpy. The stairs are steep and creaky. Nothing’s perfect,” she says. “And to me, that’s what a house is.”

Clockwise from top left: An entry staircase in Behr’s Drama Queen picks up the shades in acrylic-and-ink abstracts by Portland’s Victor Stewart; on the radiator are woodblock prints by Japanese artist Tetsuo Aoki. In Anika Wilson and Giles Healey’s living room, a bouquet by Wilson, who owns Bad Rabbit Flowers, and a bull skull set off the granite fireplace. In the living room, a whimsical nuLOOM rug complements linen pillows from Etsy that read like abstract art and a cherry coffee table with a pair of golden hands by Wilson’s grandfather, artist William Wilson.

When they bought the place, Wilson, who traveled the world working as a scuba instructor for nearly a decade, had amassed a Pinterest board of decorating ideas and was ready to put down roots. “I’d lived out of a suitcase for most of my life since I left home, so it was a weird nesting thing,” she says. First, she and Healey redesigned the kitchen, knocking down a wall to open up the space and replacing old upper cabinets with wood shelving. Fresh white paint on the walls provides a clean backdrop for the floral and produce bounty she hauls in from the garden; in the adjoining dining area, tone-on-tone grays on walls and wainscoting set off a prolific liquor collection that includes homemade infusions. Elsewhere, electric accents, like bright coral on the entryway trim and stairs and marigold on doors and dining chairs, rebel against the Scandinavian minimalism of her childhood home in New York, where her Swedish mother’s palette “was like a thousand shades of white.”

From left: The Cape’s front door, in Benjamin Moore’s Citrus Blast, radiates against clapboards in the company’s Deep Space. Healey and Wilson, pictured with their chickens and Babydoll sheep, Oskar.

When the refurbishing was complete, Wilson unboxed her things. Since childhood, she has amassed art, trinkets, and oddities from thrift stores and family members. Her collection to date is too large to display at once, so she constantly rotates pieces in and out. Among them: cross-eyed doll heads, vintage globes, gold horse figurines, resin human skulls, big-game skulls, a glass menagerie, and her grandfather’s wooden sculptures of giant tools poking out of rough-hewn bases. Many of the items are creepy, though Wilson prefers the term mysterious. “I like a little bit of darkness,” she says, pointing to inspiration from her grandfather’s macabre art, her father’s animal-skeleton collection, showcased in the living room when she was growing up, and her mother’s book of illustrated Scandinavian fairy tales, where glowing fairies hovered over mist-covered glens and trolls lurked under stones at the bottom of waterfalls. “It was not the classic fairy tales of princes and princesses,” Wilson says. “It was darker and more deep than that, and I loved it.”

Clockwise from top left: Wilson is writing a book on homemade liquor infusions, and her research library is stored in the dining room above a mid-century-style sideboard from Craigslist. In the entry, a psychedelic bath mat, gifted by Wilson’s mother, lightens the mood, while a theatrical gravity rules the dining room, with its walls in Behr’s Asphalt Gray and antique portraits of doleful strangers bought at an estate sale. In the primary bedroom, monochromatic bedding from English Bed Linen Company mellows out a lively Boho rug from Safavieh.

One might easily feel unsettled in a home where severed wooden hands grip the ends of the living-room coffee table — another of Wilson’s grandfather’s creations. But the experience here is playful, even life-affirming. “I don’t want my house to feel overly intentional or stuffy, just fun,” Wilson says. “It’s a reflection of me, so it’s colorful, chaotic, and a little strange.” On a recent afternoon, she and Healey relaxed in the living room beneath a hollow-eyed longhorn-bull skull mounted over the fireplace and a half dozen unblinking doll heads arrayed on shelves. Outside, their Babydoll sheep, Oskar and Elmo, grazed placidly in the gathering mist. Soon, they’ll try to come in, Wilson said, because they’re convinced they’re dogs. It’s weird, she knows, but that’s to be expected.

November 2023 cover of Down East magazine

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