From Bunkhouse to Family Home

A college professor takes on the project of his dreams when he remodels a former Coast Guard bunkhouse into a rustic, modern home for his family of four.
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Robert Vettese with his wife Tayla and sons Miles, 5, and Gus, 2

By: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

For Robert Vettese, the passion for remodeling started with a dream home set right next to a lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. His family unexpectedly fell into their dream home after selling their first house really fast (in only 10 days!). Once the contract was signed, they looked at just five homes. Their current home was the last house they saw, and it was beyond their budget. “The first thing I remember noticing about the home was the loud, crashing sound of the ocean,” says Robert. The house sits right next to Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. “I couldn't even fathom in that first showing that we might live in a home where the ocean was our soundtrack.” As luck would have it, after a few weeks of going back and forth, they settled on a price with the owner and finalized a purchase and sale agreement. “It’s still unbelievable that it worked out for us,” says Robert.

From Bunkhouse to Dream Home

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The Old Dining Room

A Much-Used Dining Room

From Tile to Drywall

Painting as a Family

Separate Dining Space

Cabin-Style Bedroom

The Old Fireplace

Fireplace Demo

Installing a Window Seat

Mixing Up the Woods

Built-in Bookshelves

Pop of Red

Gather 'Round the Fire

Added Storage Space

A Spacious Feeling

The Old Kitchen

Installing Modern Upgrades

Lucky Find

Making It Personal

Hide-Away Trash

Pretty in Poplar

Chopping on Wood

Matching Maple

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Tayla spends most mornings sitting in the window seat with a cup of coffee looking for deer or other wildlife.

The house is about 70 years old and has gone through several big changes. Originally, the house was a bunkhouse for the Coast Guard station that monitored the two lighthouses in the neighborhood. “From what my neighbors tell me, the house was about a quarter mile away from its current location,” says Robert. “The Federal Government sold the lots in the neighborhood in the ‘40s or ‘50s, and whoever bought the lot also bought the bunkhouse and eventually had it moved to the lot.”

Besides the location, the house offered one big bonus. Robert and his wife, Tayla, felt the house was ideal in that they could live there and slowly do renovations. Robert, an associate professor, worked on all of these projects during semester breaks and odd weekends. One obvious place to remodel was the kitchen. Robert’s full-time job is at a local community college teaching literature and writing, but before becoming a teacher, Robert worked as a cook in Alaska about 15 years ago. “I learned not only how to cook, but also what a functional and fun kitchen needed to be,” he says. Robert wanted to make the kitchen a space that’s easy to cook in with the remodeling projects he tackled. “The personal touches are elements that reflect this cooking experience in my life.” The big space change in the kitchen was adding more countertops and built-ins. The general space has stayed the same but it functions better as a kitchen. The galley-style kitchen leads to their dining area. “It was important to us to have the kitchen and dining room close to one another,” he says. The remodeling in the dining room made the room a distinct separate space, with a fresh updated style. The living room was the real star of Robert’s remodeling work, as that space started with the removal of a fireplace and ended with the addition of a well-loved custom-built window seat and set of bookshelves.

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The remodeling in the dining room made the room a distinct separate space, with a fresh updated style.

Robert was inspired to remodel by looking at the amazing places his friends and family have created for themselves. “Thinking that we could do that with our own home was motivating,” says Robert. As with most DIY remodels, another motivating factor was budget concerns. Materials can be quite expensive, so doing the work yourself lowers the cost of any remodeling project. “I am just interested in things,” says Robert. “I get excited to learn new skills and ideas. All of the projects we completed have been amazing learning processes, in both their successes and failures.”

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