Paper Covers Rockport

The coastal town of Rockport, Massachusetts is a tourist trap for good reason. Find ocean views, summer cottages, and the Gorton’s Seafood factory at the heart. Also, legitimate salt water taffy. But we didn’t go to Rockport for the traditional sights, we went for something a bit weirder. Actually, a whole lot weirder.


Front view of The Paper House

The Paper House was a passion project created by engineer Elis F. Stenman. He started it in 1922 as a summer home. Collected newspapers from neighbors and friends were first used as insulation, but when Elis realized how strong the paper was when layered, he took it to another level by making furniture. The project lasted twenty years.


Paper dining. The only way to indulge.


Paper lamp. I wonder how long it took to make?


If I didn’t respect Stenman’s dedication, I would have taken a nap on the firm paper bed.

Open to the public since the 1930s, The Paper House had been a relic Natalie and I have wanted to visit for some time now. It sounded almost mythic when I first heard about it. Walking inside felt surreal, and we were careful not to lean or touch anything even though we really wanted to.


The clock that Natalie is posing next to was made with newspapers from all 48 states at the time.


Stenman used wire with a loop on the end of it to twist and roll the paper before gluing it.


Photo of the living decor back in the 20s.


I wanted to, but I didn’t. I still dream of tickling those keys.


Stenman used a marine grade varnish to preserve the walls and it is treated yearly by the caretakers.


A painting of Elis and Esther Steanman above the fireplace. As you can see the base is brick, not paper.

The Paper House is very bizarre, but it’s also a remarkable feat. Elis Stenman’s hobby morphed into a goal he eventually achieved. Turning practically nothing into something. Paper into a suitable home. This might have been just another strange adventure for us, but it was also an example of someone putting his heart and soul into his work.


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