A Sparkling Sanctuary

June 2009

by Rebecca Falzano
Photography Trent Bell

If we listen closely, houses will sometimes speak to us. Queen Annes overlooking brick-lined streets share secrets of the past. Farmhouses lining snowy country roads whisper of the warmth within. Rustic camps beside glassy lakes exude the promise of tranquility. At the north end of three-mile-long Goose Rocks Beach, on a secluded peninsula of rock and sand where the Little River meets the Atlantic, the Temerlin home speaks quietly of a sparkling solitude punctuated only by the quintessential summer hum of peepers. The sight and sound are mesmerizing.

The house and its stunning location first spoke to Liener Temerlin many years ago when he was walking on the beach below it. On first sight he told a friend who was with him, “That house has my name on it.” After renting in Maine for several years, Liener and his wife, Karla, felt it was time to find a summer residence of their own that would offer refuge from the unyielding heat of their home state of Texas. After a fateful phone call to a realtor and a stroke of good timing, the house was soon theirs, just as Liener had hoped it would be.

The home’s breathtaking setting—perhaps the most stunning site in one of the most sought-after summer destinations in Maine—is matched only by the beautiful story that lies within it. It is a family story rich in history and pride that is told, interestingly enough, in the basement. Through a “hidden” door in the floor of the dining room, one descends to the underground level as if into the bowels of a ship. Here, on the basement’s inner walls, a virtual photo album of family treasures is on display. Because of the numerous windows admitting sunlight and waterfront views to the floors above, this underground level was the most suitable place in the home to showcase the photos. Mementos of the family’s daughters and grandchildren, friends and dignitaries, occupy every square inch of wall space. Highlights include momentous occasions such as the grand opening of the Meyerson Symphony Hall for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and a granddaughter’s 21st birthday celebration at the White House. “Liener always says that people leave photographs in boxes and never really enjoy them,” explains Karla. “We kept getting more and more pictures that we loved and we really wanted to show off what was inside the frames—things that mean something to us,” she says.

Amid the hundreds of matted frames, a special place has been reserved for one of the family’s most meaningful mementos: a small burlap bag that once held the possessions of Liener’s father, Pincus Temerlin, when he emigrated from Russia to the United States in the early 1900s. “That bag with a few family photos inside is all he had with him when he arrived in Galveston. That was the treasure he started with. We have it framed among our treasures now because it is so meaningful,” says Karla. The bag represents so much to the Temerlins, who built their success on hard work and determination and the support of family. Hanging in the heart of their home, it is a poignant reminder of where they came from. Like his father so many decades before him, Liener cherishes these pieces of his family history.

Above the basement, the Temerlin’s story continues in the carefully crafted redesign of their home. Situated on a “once-in-a-lifetime” site, the original 1960s structure did not take full advantage of its surroundings. “We felt like we had to give it a fresh start,” says Karla. Dallas-based architect Elby Martin was given the task of expanding the home without making it bigger, while also reviving the structure in a way that was respectful of the sensitive ecological and architectural heritage of the Maine coast. “The challenge was to take a dark, closed-in, somewhat introverted building and turn it into a bright, open, engaging piece of the shoreline,” says Martin. A second-story addition was built to accommodate two bedrooms, two baths, and an attic. Keith Cole of Cole Construction in Kennebunk was brought in to finalize the Temerlins’ vision.

With spectacular waterfront vistas on three sides, the house needed a clean interior design that would accentuate the views, not compete with them. The Temerlins brought much of their furniture from a second home in Austin and enlisted the help of Mary Louise Norton of M L Norton/Windemere Studios and Brett Johnson of Maine Street Design to “spiff up” the interiors. “I really wanted a minimalist design,” says Karla. “I didn’t want a lot of clutter. I wanted the space to feel soothing.”

Norton and Johnson designed classic, comfortable club chairs for the living room and porch, which they outfitted in blue Henry Calvin fabric with white piping to create a nautical effect. Norton and Johnson worked with Troy Delano of Alfred’s Upholstery in East Waterboro to select all the upholstery used throughout the house. “The goal was to make the interior sharp and clear to let the view shine through. The view is what this home is really all about,” explains Norton.

In the dining room, glass on three sides lets in even more of the waterfront. Here, Norton and Johnson designed a glass dining room table and French chairs that are covered, again, in blueberry fabric by Henry Calvin. In addition, the home’s three bedrooms are outfitted in bright, airy yellows and blues to offset the sky and water. Throughout the house, large paintings of indigenous Maine flowers by Chilean artist German Flores decorate the walls. Liener sent old botanical prints to Flores, who then reproduced them on a larger scale without ever having seen the flowers in person.

Norton and Johnson’s interior design is a classic example of how small touches can have a big impact. “The house really started to sparkle when we met them—they brought a lot of it together,” says Karla of Norton and Johnson. “When you are using what you have, you wind up with a mix of solids and prints—but ML and Brett made it cohesive and brought a sense of calm to it,” says Karla. “Sparkle” is a word used often when discussing the Temerlin home, but Norton also applies it to the homeowners themselves. “I believe houses should look like the people who live in them. This house does—it just sparkles and so do the Temerlins,” says the designer.

Just beyond the house, a row of large rocks separate the sand from the velvety grass and offer a place to sit in front of the water. Sculptor William Royall carved the boulders into seats and lounges for the Temerlins to enjoy the views. Smaller rocks in between are inscribed with the grandchildren’s names—each has his or her own special spot, just steps away from where their grandfather first gave in to the house’s beckoning. “We brought those rocks with our grandchildren’s names on them all the way from our house in Texas,” says Karla.

Like the generations before them, the Temerlins will always find a special place for the treasures of family.

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