Shop Visit: Rusticator

June 28, 2021

A family-run interiors shop in Seal Harbor, Maine, merges a sense of place with a new take on timeless design.

Text by Lisa H. Speidel    Photography by Sean Litchfield

First interior designer Laura Keeler fell for Vassar Pierce, then she fell—hard—for Mount Desert Island. Pierce’s family had been vacationing in Northeast Harbor, a summer community on the southern end of the Maine island, for generations; in fact, his thrice great-grandfather was one of the founders of nearby Acadia National Park.

“It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world,” Keeler Pierce says. “Because the mountains meet the sea, it has a unique topography for New England; it completely captivates you.”

The now-married couple started looking for a vacation home on the island—and a reason to spend more time there. They inquired with their realtor about commercial space; a seasonal home furnishings shop would be an ideal complement to Keeler Pierce’s Boston-based interior design firm, Keeler & Co. Turns out, a former general store on Main Street that had sat empty for two decades had hit the market. Keeler Pierce jumped on a Cape Air flight from Boston to Bar Harbor to confirm her gut feeling. “I said to my husband, ‘We have to do this,’ ” she remembers. The building even had two apartments, so the Pierces could stay in one while they hunted for a more permanent place.

Rusticator, a warm and inviting shop, officially opened in 2020, and it’s a family affair: the couple or Keeler Pierce’s mom, Helen Keeler, are usually behind the counter. Smitten by the island—no surprise!—the designer’s parents bought their own cottage. You’ll find Dad overseeing shipping and inventory and “anything related to the basement.”

Rusticator brims with beautiful textiles, artisan-made goods, and custom furnishings. The curated mix is enchanting: cribbage and serving boards from Aronson Woodworks; hand-turned bowls from Millpond Bob; drink-drops, etageres, and dining tables from Dunes and Duchess; toasty-warm blankets from Paulette Rollo; and summer-entertaining-ready table linens from Summerill & Bishop.

Keeler Pierce artfully balances her desire to showcase New England vendors with her love for a layered English sensibility. And, of course, her wish to celebrate a special place. The shop’s name pays homage to the days when people would pack up their households for the summer and decamp to the island to recharge. “They would call themselves ‘rusticators,’ ” explains Keeler Pierce, “and return again and again…it’s like coming home.”

With the shop up and running, the only thing missing now is that perfect vacation retreat for the couple to call home.

Rusticator, Seal Harbor, Maine, rusticatorshop.com