Design inspiration & framing tips from a cozy-chic guest house in Maine
by Framebrige Editorial
October 08, 2023
5 min read
Sean Litchfield isn’t a trained designer, but his professional background gave him an edge when it came time to decorate his home in Maine. As an interiors photographer, he’s been inside hundreds of gorgeous homes, so Litchfield knows what makes a great interior tick. “I get to see all these fabulous homes of all different styles,” he says. “I love seeing it all high and low and everything in between.” His husband Zach Violette is trained as an architectural historian, a boon for their circa 1839 Greek Revival house. After tackling the main house, which was in good condition, the couple set to work renovating and decorating the attached guest suite, which they now rent as a vacation home named The Ell. A trove of antique finds and framed ephemera created the camp-inspired vibe they were after, but the success of the design is all in the mix.
Here, Litchfied shares his advice for mixing old with new, framing your favorite finds, and creating a well-framed space for guests.
Always start with vintage pieces
Litchfield’s home is mostly filled with antiques. “I feel like buying new is such a defeat,” he says. “What I can afford buying new is not going to be as good as an antique for the same price.” Pointing to the bed in his guest suite, Litchfield says, “I think we paid $700 for it: What bed could you get for $700 that's solid mahogany or walnut?”
With his busy schedule, Litchfield tries to avoid investing in antique items that need large-scale reupholstering or significant repairs and refinishing. “For the most part we're just buying things that are ready to go,” he says. “Unless they're lamps, which I love rewiring.” Another exception: Art to be framed.
Weave in a few modern touches
Even though Litchfield loves antiques, he says every room needs something with a modern edge. “I've stayed in Airbnbs where it's all kinds of old antiques, which I love, but then it's like, there's nothing modern in here.” In Litchfield’s guest suite, modern wall sconces and contemporary frames, including our mustard Agra and coral red Kyoto, add a pop of now.
Go bold in your guest room
“It's different when you’re designing for a rental or a guest room,” says Litchfield. “It can be a little bit more special. People are only staying here for a few days, and I want it to be memorable.” His solution? Lots of green in the guest suite’s bedroom. Litchfield says that friends at first thought they’d gone overboard. “But once we layered it with the drapery and the artwork, you hardly even notice it.”
Art doesn’t have to be, well, art
“If you look closely, none of the art is really art,” says Litchfield. “One of my favorite pieces is this 1930s roadmap of Maine that we had framed. On its own it's totally worthless, it was something we found in a drawer,” he says. “It just takes a little bit of vision. Russell at the Boston Framebridge store was like, ‘We can match the frame color and the mat color.’ It looks so cool, I’m obsessed with it.” For the roadmap, Litchfield chose the bright red Madrid frame with a blue mat.
Envision everything in a frame
Litchfield found an old watercolor in a messy pile of papers, and saw its potential when he imagined it framed. “A lot of my art really looked like kind of nothing pieces,” he says. “When I brought them to Framebridge they were all crumbled and kind of folded, but I knew once they were framed, they’d really pop.” As for that old watercolor? He had it framed in the Walnut (Wide) frame with a white mat, and it hangs in the guest room.
Don’t dismiss small pieces
When Litchfield discovered a stash of local antique postcards, he knew that they would look amazing framed together as a group (in our Richmond frames). “We wanted a big statement piece for a little nook,” he says. “They're so perfect there–we get so many comments on them.”
Float mount your quirky pieces
For his postcard installation, Litchfield opted for float mounting. “I really wanted them to feel like physical objects,” he says. “I wanted the raised or torn edges to be seen, I wanted them to feel like they're old.” The end result, he adds, looks elevated and inviting. “I feel like the framing really encourages people to get up close.”
Elevate vintage photos with a mat
If you’re hoping to conceal any wear and tear, Litchfield says a mat is the way to go–especially with vintage images. “I feel like a photograph is supposed to be presented in a nicely elevated way,” he says. “It honors the image.”