Kitchen of the Week: A Couple’s Summer Kitchen in a Former Lobster Shack
Last summer, arriving for a weekend stay in a small cottage built over an inlet in Harpswell, Maine, our host, Lili Liu, took my partner and I on a tour of the cluster of buildings—former lobstering shacks—at the water’s edge. At the end she showed us to our cottage and excused herself to clean up after a dinner party. “This is the summer kitchen,” she told us as she ducked into a sixth small building with exposed wood walls, windows looking out at the inlet, and a long table down the center, strewn with empty wineglasses and oyster shells, the remnants of a good party.
Today we’re taking a tour of this, the summer cook space of Lili, a designer, and Blake Civiello, an architect (and Maine native). The couple were living in Los Angeles in 2018 (where Lili is from) when they started to think about taking a break from city living—and Blake began “obsessively looking” (his words) for a spot to land. “This particular property showed up overnight and was discovered very early in the morning, Pacific time,” he says. “I was so excited to see an old commercial lobster pound that had been well preserved and was charmingly odd. I decided to take a chance and wake Lili up with the photos (she’s not a morning person). Luckily, she was as excited as I was. The photos showed the epitome of patina from the decades of hard use and love.”
The 100-year-old property was, long ago, a popular ferry destination for day-trippers from Portland, some 40 miles south (by land). What’s now the summer kitchen—or the Galley, as Blake and Lili call it—was previously a commercial lobster and clam business called Ben’s Lobsters, then an art gallery. Since buying the property and relocating cross-country, from LA to Harpswell, the couple have revived the classic Maine buildings—and turned the lobster pound-turned-gallery into a simple but no less magical space for long, languid summer dinners.
Join us for a look.
Photography courtesy of Blake Civiello and Lili Liu, except where noted.
“Originally, this was the actual lobster pound building with a large wooden tank in the center,” Blake says. “Ben’s Lobsters used a pump to circulate fresh ocean water through the tank, and we heard from Ben’s adult grandson about the yearly tank maintenance he had to do growing up. It was also pointed out to us that the tank imprint can still be seen in the floor today.” Around 2000, another owner purchased the property. “He made various buildings into watercolor painting studios, matting production, and storage. The ‘Galley,’ as we call it, was actually his ‘Gallery’ for selling a few paintings as a side gig. In fact, the ‘open’ signs still inside the Galley were from his small art business.”
Above: “The kitchen really extends out into the surrounds,” says Blake: setting up a wok on the front step, grilling by the water, “or collecting fresh ocean water for the traditional lobster boil. The outdoors become indoors.” Here, the couple harvests seafood off the dock for a summer meal. Photograph by Tide to Pine, courtesy of Blake Civiello and Lili Liu.
Above: The view in the Maine fog, and fresh-caught oysters beside fresh-picked Maine blooms. Photograph by Tide to Pine, courtesy of Blake Civiello and Lili Liu.
“Leaving the kitchen each season makes us miss and appreciate the space even more,” says Blake. “The excitement of reopening in the spring is energizing and a lovely feeling, like working in the garden on the first beautiful spring day.”
N.B. We’re featuring Maine homes, destinations, and design details all week to celebrate the release of our new book, Remodelista in Maine. For more favorites, see: