Interiorssneak peeks

In Nova Scotia, A Family Inn & Cafe Steeped in Seaside Nostalgia

by Kelli Kehler

Cousins Sarabeth Drover and Caitlyn Purcell grew up spending their childhood summers seaside, playing and collecting shells together along the picturesque shore in on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. Their nostalgia for those early days is so embedded into their lives, that working in business together surrounded by those same haunts seemed like their destiny. Now, located just a five-minute stroll from their favorite beach and viewpoint from those blissful summers sits Salty Rose’s and the Periwinkle Cafe, the cafe/inn/shop where Sarabeth is the cafe- and innkeeper Caitlyn curates and runs the art & craft shop.

“We are proud of our island upbringing and feel strongly connected to Ingonish, where we spent all of summers growing up,” they tell us. “After leaving the island to go to school, travel and work we found ourselves always drawn back. Ingonish is magnetic for us. Caitlyn is an accomplished jeweler and made the move back to Cape Breton over eight years ago. She opened the original Salty Rose’s, a beautiful and airy art and craft shop. Sarabeth had been working in customer service and the restaurant industry for many years. We soon began daydreaming of a business that could combine both our talents and our shared interests. When the building that now houses our business came up for sale, we knew it was the one. It is practically a stone’s throw from our family’s property and was full of potential and charm. Our inspiration for the business comes from the sea, the sun and working side-by-side with each other.”

Sarabeth and Caitlyn went about renovating the 1900s Victorian Style Farm Homestead in the small town of Ingonish on the famous Cabot Trail, and opened their doors for business in July 2016. “It had the potential to house a shop, a studio, a cafe AND an inn,” they recall. “An inn had never been part of our original vision, but hosting interesting people from all over the world has become one of our favorite aspects of our business! The building was an inn or guest house for transport workers in the 60s and 70s. At this time the Cabot Trail was still a one-lane dirt road, so deliveries would take days to make and drivers would need a place to rest and eat breakfast. It’s kind of special to us to be continuing this service now, just in a different way.”

Salty Rose’s & The Periwinkle Cafe is comprised of 15 rooms spread over 3,000 square feet and two floors — the main floor houses the shop, cafe, gallery, inn entry and a sitting room; the second floor has three guest rooms, the Daisy, Dandelion and Lily Rooms, a guest washroom and a hallway. The Rose’s Apartment on the second floor has a bedroom with a kitchenette and a private bathroom.

With months of dedicated renovation work behind them and the business headed into its fourth season, their own young children can now be found running around the cafe and inn, making memories together near the sea — a full-circle dream realized for Sarabeth and Caitlyn.

“Despite the demands of running a busy, seasonal business, it still feels a bit like a dream when we walk through the front door on a sunny morning,” the cousins say. “We are still in awe of how the space turned out and are very grateful to all the hands that helped us achieve it. Our partners, families and friends really came through and used their very special talents to make our business look and feel the way it does today. Our hearts still skip a beat when we see just how much our customers and guests enjoy our humble spot. The feeling is so, so gratifying and we don’t think it will ever get old!” —Kelli

Photography by Brittany MacLeod / @brittanymacleod

Image above: Sarabeth and Caitlyn share, “We had been dreaming of opening a business together for some time. We knew if we wanted to have a successful and well attended business in Ingonish (located in rural Cape Breton), then it had to be right on the Cabot Trail. We were just kind of waiting for the perfect place to come up but truthfully we weren’t actively searching. When this old homestead appeared we knew it was the one.”


Sarabeth and Caitlyn share, “This room was once BURGANDY! The amount of white paint we went through during the renovation of this building was unbelievable. We sanded the mantel, painted the bricks white and black, and Caitlyn’s partner Josh MacDonald made us the log insert to cover the exposed insulation in the fireplace and really bring the look to the next level. We were incredibly lucky to find a talented woman on the secondhand buy and sell website Kijiji that refinished all our café chairs and even the aqua table. She also happened to have these perfect vintage light fixtures rolling around her work table one day when Sarabeth popped by. The wooden tables were made from reclaimed wood by Sarabeth’s husband, Anthony Callahan. The antique hutch in the corner is the perfect home for a water station, tourist info and antique tea pots. This room is usually a sitting area for inn and café guests but has doubled as a concert hall, a pop-up shop and even a wedding venue.”


“When we first laid eyes on this hallway there was already fantastic wallpaper. The print was of big daisies with purples, pinks and greens and alas, it looked like a cat had been removing it with its claws. It was very old and we were able to remove it with only a damp cloth. We managed to salvage and frame a bit of the original paper and set out to find another that would look as good as the original. After much hunting we found this awesome vintage wallpaper online at Hannah’s Treasures. It is consistently commented on, and we love admiring it ourselves, so we think we made the right choice. The banister is original and was sanded by us.”


“Salty Rose’s Art & Craft existed as a successful and sweet shop, founded by Caitlyn, for five years before [we] found the right spot to go into business together. This hand-cut wooden rose sign was painted by our close pal and talented artist Sarah Burwash and was the previous shop’s original sign. It has found new life on a whitewashed wall behind the new shop’s cash register.”


“We may have gotten this antique hutch for free, it’s hard to remember but it was most definitely a great find. It makes a nice home for our water station equipped with vintage enamel trays for our mason jar glasses and water jugs.  We use it to display some of the North Mountain Coffee beans and teas we have for sale and to showcase some tea and coffee collectables we had in our collections.”


“Our main café sitting area. This past year we refinished an old pew from a local church to pair with the tables that were handmade with reclaimed wood by Sarabeth’s husband, Anthony Callahan. The walls of the café and shop are decorated with the locally made artwork we have for sale. Before the renovations this room was carpeted and had wainscoting on the walls with a dish-rail and ornate wallpaper. We stripped it all away to reveal the beautifully rustic tongue and groove wall boards which create a much better backdrop for displaying art and craft,” Sarabeth and Caitlyn tell us.


“View of our service counter and bright kitchen. We opened up the kitchen and painted everything white! Believe it or not, there was once a tiny galley kitchen in this space and a very dated paint job. It was the first room to get ripped apart! We love how Anthony‘s bar-front utilized the cedar boards which were once the ceiling.”


“The main café room with a beautiful original oil painting by our neighbor Chris Gorey featuring King’s Point (one of our favorite summer beach spots) and an original abstract by another local painter, Celeste Friesen-Nikkel.


Custom built shelving displays local pottery and prints for sale. Top shelf: Nancy McLean framed original watercolor, Brenna Phillips pottery. Middle shelves: Que Sera Pottery, Bread and Butter Pottery. Bottom shelf: Meredith MacDonald paper collages, Union Studio merchild print, Cape Brooklyn cup print.


“A play on words original by funny friend and artist Sojourner Truth-Parsons. We find this one to be a conversation starter and is one of the few art pieces not for sale.”

We wanted the space to feel clean, bright, beachy and relaxing.


“An old shelf from our favorite antique shop Myles From Nowhere makes a great home for locally made pottery by Toomy & Trovo, along with TNT Candles from Seaforth, Nova Scotia.”


Another shop view. The cousins say, “Here you can see where an exterior window frame would have once been before an extension was added to the house in the 1940s. We tried our best to feature anything interesting we revealed as we tore away the layers of the building. We often point this out to guests inquiring about the building’s history. Above, Sarah Burwash and Kat Frick Miller prints framed in Wood Salt Sun. Wooden spoons made in Cape Breton by Terron Dodd. Pottery by Brenna Phillips. Below, Chris Gorey reproduction and our favorite self-care products from Barre Natural.”


“Caitlyn went to university at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is a talented jeweler and loves being part of the Nova Scotian art & craft community. Both of us are very proud to sell the work of over 35 local craftspeople at our small business. Above, abstract paintings by Sarah Gibeault, pottery by Toomy & Trovo. Below, paintings by Sarah Burwash framed in Wood Salt Sun and more abstracts by Sarah Gibeault.”


“The crisp and hoppy goodness of Big Spruce on tap in the cafe. We strive to use local whenever possible and love Big Spruce Beer, which is organic and brewed just an hour away from us. Our Kombucha is made by our multi-talented kitchen manager and fermentation queen Brenna Phillips, who started her company Punch & Jingles in 2017.”


Sarabeth and Caitlyn share, “Salty Rose and Periwinkle Baby, the first. This happy little gal is lovingly nicknamed ‘the boss’ by café staff and has already had one song written about her by some sweet guests. Born the winter after our first season, she spent the first 6 months of her life working in the café with her mother Sarabeth. She was pretty delighted to have new little guy Sandy’s company (Caitlyn’s son) in the third season but these two, now toddlers, can cause a bit of chaos in the cookie or pottery sections of the business.”


“This is the room we would most like to sleep in! These beautiful blonde soft wood floors were once covered in layers of paint, a subfloor with plastic tiles AND a layer of old carpet. The lovely bay window was a challenge to dress but we came up with the idea of bending a copper pipe to make the stylish and functional curtain rod. The driftwood wreath above the bed was lovingly glued together by Caitlyn and her sister, Mora. The dresser, bedside chair, vintage lamp and wool blanket are all secondhand gems. We find IKEA great for neutral basics like the bed frame and all-white cotton linens, and even found these light-blocking velvet curtains there.”


The blue and green zig-zag accent pillow was found on sale at Wicker Emporium, and the handprinted wave pillow was made by friend and bookkeeper Natalie Slater.


The cousins share, “This bright, airy bathroom didn’t always look like this! Like much of the building, many layers had to be torn away to rebuild it but we are beyond thrilled with how it looks now. We had large white glossy tile installed halfway up the wall and Sarabeth’s husband Anthony built this large counter from just one piece of reclaimed wood. The vintage round mirror was found at Urban Cottage Antiques in Halifax and the light fixtures were found in a shed somewhere and spray painted before installation. You can see the custom-made copper shower curtain rod by master blacksmith John MacDonald reflected in the mirror. The sink and faucet are from Home Depot Canada and the TP holder is made from pipe from the local plumbing shop.”


Sleek tiles, bright peachy-pink paint and original fixtures like the crystal doorknob create a delightful combination.


An antique shelf hanging in the guest hallway displays treasures plucked from the sea and nearby.


“The wee Daisy Room may be the smallest and have the most slanted floors (seriously, don’t drop anything round), but it has the most fantastic light and views of all our rooms,” the cousins share. “It’s perfect for a couple traveling on a dime or the solo traveler. We always like to feature something handmade in our spaces and these handprinted canvas accent pillows were made by our friend Natalie Slater and add the perfect touch. The curtains and circle mirror are vintage finds collected before we had the inn.”


“This once laundry room and closet were transformed into our bright customer bathroom. Here we found another opportunity to pair reclaimed wood with a modern sink to create a sleek counter area. The lower portion was created from the thin cedar planks that were once the ceiling of the first floor, here we left them unfinished.” The vintage mirror reflects a unique design touch…


Sarabeth and Caitlyn explain, “This newspaper, dating from 1938 – 1943, was found in great shape on the walls in a room that was to become our customer washroom. Newspaper was used as insulation in that era and now it makes for great loo reading material. There are articles on the war, ads for women’s undergarments, and even a story of a bar fight over a bottle of ketchup. After some experimenting, we used wood varnish to protect it. As far as the treasures we’ve found whilst renovating this old homestead, this well-preserved newspaper is first on the list!”


“It was only appropriate for us to reuse the original bathroom door on the guest bath because of its antique brass lock and glass door knob. We relocated the brass shell towel rack from another original door and think they all look so darn good together.”


“We have the best next-door neighbors at Groovy Goat Farm & Soap Company. They have a super fun shop and petting farm and make the best goat milk soap. We love to offer our guests that little bit extra and these custom-made rose soaps from Groovy Goat help us do that.”


“The beautiful exterior of the business freshly shingled in cedar by Two Churches Carpentry. After we renovated the interior we knew that the beige vinyl on the outside of the building had to go! Many hours were spent studying shingle patterns before we chose mermaid scales and diamonds for our accent shingles. It is so satisfying seeing the finished product and we can’t wait to see how the shingles age and complement the wildflowers and gardens of summer.”


Sarabeth with Effie (16 months) and Caitlyn with Sandy (6 months).


“We love our logo! It was designed by our very talented friend Sarah Burwash. Sarah’s folk-art style of writing and the crest created by seaweed and a tiny shell encompass our seaside feel. Another friend, Montreal-based Emma Senft, created this hand-carved sign using our logo when she was just starting out in her craft as a woodworker. We still admire this collaborative piece every time we walk past it.”


The cousins share, “Just a few minutes walk from the property is this lobster wharf, view of the surrounding highlands and our favorite beach on earth. Three generations of our family have spent their summers frequenting this spot and I think we can feel that. We love sending our guests for a gentle swim or evening walk here.”


Sarabeth (right) and Caitlyn (left): cousins, best friends and business partners. “We were brought up by creative, talented and strong women and are so grateful for the endless support of our large Cape Breton family.”

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  • This is such a gorgeous spot. Everything is so well renovated… I love how you’ve kept so much of the old touches but stripped it all down so it feels clean and fresh. Every room looks so bright and happy. But the outside of the building, despite the wonderful cedar, isn’t reflecting the cheeriness that awaits within! Adding color to those 2 exterior doors would make such a big difference. Paint those doors!

  • Nova Scotia is one of my favorite places on earth . I love what these two cousins were able to accomplish together – I also need that indigo shawl/wrap – beautiful!

  • This post took me home to Nova Scotia! Seeing some of my favourite producers in your shop (North Mountain Coffee, Big Spruce Brewing!) and the light, airy, seaside vibe that is unmistakably Nova Scotia made my day. I’ll be back for you Nova Scotia, there’s no place like home.

  • Love revisiting this! My wife and I stopped by on our Cabot Trail road trip a few summers ago and bought a tiny abstract painting from the shop — one of my all time favorite souvenirs. We wondered what the inn was like, and no surprise it’s as charming as this!

  • I love it! My sister Maureen lives in Dartmouth and we will surely visit the next time I go up to N.S..I am sure she already knows about your delightful gem!

  • Beautiful! I live in Nova Scotia and have been to the Highlands a few times – it’s probably the most beautiful place I’ve been to. I’ll have to go here next time I’m around the Trail.

  • This is a really great article. I am really impressed that how you have kept your old memories. I really like all of your rooms it’s clean and tidy which really impressed me. So thanks for sharing such an awesome article.

  • Truly lovely…have been there briefly…grew up in Ingonish Beach so is great to see a lovely old home “saved”…a window box
    below some of the ground floor windows would be a lovely cheerful asset but perhaps more “busy” work for two hard
    working owners! perhaps painting the doors might be a compromise for making the building look more “homey/inviting”.. as suggested above…living in PEI since 2000 have seldom been to CB but certainly hope to make it soon…very best to you in your ongoing work (ps delighted you had my cousin Iron John of Big Baddeck formerly of Ingonish Beach, do the rod-making for one of the bathrooms!) smiling, judy dw march 3, 2019