Architects A List Nov 2011



FEATURE-November/December 2010

By Susan Grisanti

Architecture’s A-List

Incredible things are happening in Maine architecture. Here at Maine Home+Design, we know about these extraordinary designs because we uncover them, photograph them, write about them, and share them with you, our reader. By now, we hope you are well aware of the innovative and beautiful designs being created in Maine. Yet in this issue, for the first time, we present a wide-ranging selection of architectural styles in one feature story. On the following pages, you will find some of the best design in the region—or, for that matter, anywhere.















Kaplan Thompson coined this project “Double Thick Walls on the Dime,” as a reference both to the homeowner’s favorite punk rock album (by The Minutemen) and to the wall construction of this LEED Platinum-certified home—constructed with double-thick walls, triple-glazed windows, and innovative detailing throughout. The superior thermodynamic performance created by this building system, along with solar tubes on the roof, allowed the occupants to significantly downsize their mechanical system. The home requires no furnace, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, and was built at a cost that is less than that of many typical custom-built homes.

This house, which abuts the Gilsland Farm Audubon land in Falmouth, has become the prototype in a line of houses designed by Kaplan Thompson Architects called Modular Zero Homes. Constructed by Keiser Homes and starting at $205,000, these fully net-zero capable homes represent a radically innovative approach to architectural design—not only in Maine, but nationwide.
The design uses simple, traditional forms—with thoughtfully placed windows and overhangs that can take advantage of views—to create a livable, open floor plan. Three Modular Zero Homes are slated for construction on Peaks Island by the end of the year, pending the City of Portland’s final approval.

KAPLAN THOMPSON ARCHITECTS | Builder: Kolbert Building




















The approach to this home is a long gravel road through the woods. A courtyard is crossed to reach the recessed front door. From the center of the courtyard, thefull expanse of the home can be taken in—on the left, the garage connects to the combination laundry room and mudroom that leads to the kitchen wing; the two-story main house sits in the center; and then, to the far right, is the bedroom wing. Through the front entrance, the open two-story living room is directly ahead, across the transverse hallway. Leading out from the living room is a covered stone sitting porch with views of the sunset. The home is located on a northern peninsula of a large island, and the house is sited to maximize views of the water.

The lines of the house become increasingly long and thin as they move away from the spacious center, making full use of the site. The landscape is designed with small garden areas—herbs near the kitchen, ornamentals in the courtyard. The exterior materials and palette are inspired by the landscape. Natural, untreated cedar shingles are left to weather. The trim is the dark green of the spruce and foliage. The interior walls are painted white or cream to contrast with the custom cherry doors and staircase. Floors are either varnished hardwood or stone, which pick up the light pouring into every room from the home’s numerous windows. The ceiling of the master bedroom is pickled fir. The wood-shingled roofline is designed with groupings of hips merging together and with large hipped dormers. A Silverio design signature,  the wide, sharp-angled soffit is without any fascia or eave detail.

Builders: Richard Eaton, Ken Wiberg, and Raymond Wiberg




Caleb Johnson designed this 1,250-square-foot structure for himself and his family on a wooded seven-acre lot close to the Saco River in Biddeford. After spending eight years living in the city’s dense downtown neighborhoods, Johnson planned his design so that his three children could spend a maximum amount of time outdoors—making the lawn and landscape as accessible to the living space as an adjoining room.

Because of his and his wife’s love of naturally weathering raw materials, he chose locally harvested eastern white cedar siding for the exterior, which requires little to no maintenance, and left all of the interior beams and concrete floors exposed. The steel details throughout the house were also left unfinished. Many materials, from the cabinet knobs to the refinished antique doors, were sourced locally. Derek Preble built cabinets throughout the house—the kitchen was done in maple and the bathroom in walnut.

Eventually this structure will be used as a guesthouse and in-laws apartment for Johnson’s parents, who spend part of the year in Maine. For now, while the children are young, Johnson says, “Living in close quarters is preferable to us, and it feels right not to be taking up more space than we need. Our previous house was a beautiful six-bedroom brick colonial with four fireplaces, three bathrooms, and a large heating bill. This is a property that will grow with the family. We’re seeking an appropriate way to have three, maybe four, generations here.”

Builder: CJA Construction




When John Scholz and Meg Barclay were enlisted to rehabilitate the design of this third-generation, nineteenth-century home, the midcoast farmhouse was a venerable structure with beautiful original features but with complex design issues related to its age.

The original stone foundation had deteriorated, and portions of the structure were in a severe state of decay, so the decision was made to create a concrete foundation several hundred feet farther back from the road on a knoll overlooking a valley. The house and barn were moved to the location, and the exposed foundation was faced with granite to mirror the original.

The shed between the house and barn was too deteriorated to save, but its wood was salvaged and used to repair the barn and incorporated into a kitchen table crafted by cabinetmaker David Powell. In place of the shed, a new residential addition houses a dining room, screened-in porch, and master bedroom suite. A former front porch was removed, revealing the original Greek Revival façade, and a side porch was added to the kitchen wing. The refurbished kitchen features period-appropriate cabinets and slate sinks, modern appliances, and an antique combination gas and wood stove.

A highlight of the renovation, accomplished with longtime collaborators R.A. Lane Construction, is the barn, a large and airy space that has become a three-season venue for concerts, dances, and art shows. Some half-dozen years after completion, this complex project still gives the designers satisfaction. As the landscaping, including a small orchard, develops, “You would never know the house hadn’t always been there,” says Barclay.

Builder: R.A. Lane Construction





This 4,400-square-foot shingle-style residence perched high above Rockport Harbor was built for a boutique hotelier and his artist wife, both avid art collectors. The interior—with a classic imperial staircase and maple flooring—was designed with a contemporary, almost museum-like character to accentuate the homeowner’s art collection. The field-weathered granite for the custom fireplace was selected on-site, fabricated by Rockers, and installed by Hilt Masonry.

The property’s setback requirements, in conjunction with the steepness of the in-town lot, made the siting of the house a challenge. A stone retaining wall was constructed across the waterside of the site to maximize the level plateau. A small stone cottage was added at a later date as an extension of the retaining wall. Nestled into the hillside, it provides a quiet retreat for summer guests.
Architect John Gillespie worked closely with the wife, a designer and artist in her own right, who had also attended architecture school. Being Chinese, she requested that the house be built in accordance with the principles of feng shui. “They were wonderful and exceptional people to work with and, to a large extent, the reason why the house is so successful,” Gillespie recalls.The influence of traditional Asian architecture can be seen in the home’s entry, which incorporates Japanese idiom into the shingle style.

Builder: Omni Construction
Structural Engineering: Swift Engineering




The EMMC Lafayette Family Cancer Center is home to Cancer Care of Maine, which provides state-of-the-art care in central Maine in a comfortable environment. The architects at SMRT were influenced by evidence-based design studies that indicate a well-designed facility can facilitate the healing process.

Based on Maine’s strong connection to nature, the design concept was inspired by “glacial erratics,” the errant rocks deposited in this region by glaciers ages ago. Freshwater Stone worked with the design team on the fireplace. “We wanted to represent Maine in this focal point of the lobby,” says Paul Lewandowski. “The stone on the fireplace is actually four types of Maine granite: Freshwater Pearl, Deer Isle, Jonesborough, and Quarry Hill. And the other stone used is Norumbega stone—not granite, but still Maine.”

The curved stair is another dramatic design element in the welcoming, light-filled space of the lobby atrium. The risers are perforated metal, and the handrails are stainless steel. Holden Cabinet & Millwork milled the walnut treads, and Accidental Anomalies fabricated the curved glass guardrails. The colored glass elements in the exterior glazing are meant to be positive distractions; they provide colored shadows that move through the space over the course of the day. Every effort was made to provide light and views to the outdoors for the clients and staff of the facility. The native Maine materials also help individuals stay connected with the outside environment.

Builder: Barr & Barr



Eric Chase was hired to design an unobtrusive, four-season residence on a small piece of property close to downtown Blue Hill and across the road from the harbor. The client had specific ideas for her house, including low maintenance, understated interiors, and a desire for single-floor living.

Yet a single-story house that could accommodate the client’s active social and professional life conflicted with the small footprint of the site and its rocky topography. Trying to turn a liability into an asset, Chase and his team decided to capitalize on an unlikely part of the site: a pocket in the ledge between a meadow and the view. The pocket was just large enough for a small walkout basement, while the surrounding ledge allowed level access to the front and back of the main floor.

By nestling the house as low as possible, the designers kept the profile unobtrusive, and the home’s low walls and hipped roof echo the slight rise of the ledges. The light brown stucco and cedar-shingled roof, not to mention the carefully preserved lichens and flora on the ledge, give the impression that the house grew organically from the surrounding landscape.

Inside, the design follows a simple layout, with solid-strip, red-birch hardwood flooring, cherry cabinetry, and Absolute Black granite countertops. The exterior attests to the client’s love of gardening. A visitor, upon entering the house for the first time, commented happily, “Oh, a grown-up’s house!”

ERIC A CHASE ARCHITECTURE | Builder: Details, Inc. | Landscape Design: Diane Blair




A three-quarter-mile driveway leads to a meadow with views of the Camden Hills. The coast wraps around the site, creating the impression of a peninsula with a steep, sloping ledge. The open   meadow presented Elliott + Elliot Architecture with the opportunity to allow light to penetrate deep into the house. The house was designed, both aesthetically and functionally, around a three-story core that encases a stairway and elevator. The core divides the floor plan into two main sections. The first section contains the living room, dining room, kitchen, and library on the main level, with the master bedroom above it and two guest bedrooms below it. The second section contains the garage, screened-in porch, and resistance pool on the main level, an office and media room below, and another office space above. The frosted glass stairway and floor are located between the two sections. This “in between” space is made of channel glass, which catches natural light and directs it into all areas of the house.

The steel frame projects out over its surroundings on an exposed concrete foundation. The siding on the house is a custom-milled mahogany, treated with a weathering stain, and the sliding glass doors are also framed in mahogany. The home’s north façade is shielded from the elements and the driveway, while the south façade opens to the sun and views. The east and west façades stretch down the sloped site to the sea.

Builder: John Altman Builders




An interest in modern design was what brought together the client and architects for this project in a small Maine town. The challenge was to incorporate modern elements in a thoughtful way, especially given the fact that architectural modernism was not common in the area. As construction progressed, early local opinions were mixed. But on completion, and after being able to experience the home both inside and out, many neighbors became modernist design converts.

The clients had spent summers in the original house—a simple eighteenth-century Cape located on a peaceful setting along Chauncey Creek in Kittery Point. But with an eye toward full-time life in Maine, they realized that additional space would be needed. ARQ worked with the homeowners to create a barn-like addition that gave the existing house new life. The addition became the primary living space, while the original Cape became a comfortable place for guests and grown children.

The juxtaposition of form and materials is intended to recall the rambling extended farmhouses that dot the countryside of New England. The new “barn” section uses traditional materials such as white-cedar shingles and native stone. While complementary to the old house, the differences in materials are intentional and tell the story of the property’s evolution. By carefully positioning the larger addition as a backdrop behind the existing structure, the modest Cape has remained the focal point of the design, and both sections of the home offer views of the creek.

The vaulted open-concept interior allows the main living spaces to intersect with the kitchen, emphasizing the centrality of cooking in the life of the home. A restrained material palette features plaster walls and stained-concrete and floating-wood floors over a radiant heated slab. The sliding interior barn doors made of cedar mimic the barn-like exterior and allow openness or privacy when desired.

Builder: Chase Construction | Structural Engineer: Alex Ott




Summer cottages in Maine often present contradictory demands. Like other cottage designs, this house needed to be large enough for extended family and guests, yet small enough to fit a limited budget and a small site. It needed a large room where the family could gather and entertain, as well as intimate spaces where a person could curl up with a Kindle. The kids wanted their own place to hang out, and the parents would occasionally need privacy. The house had to be open to the Maine environment yet energy efficient. And finally, the clients wanted it to fit gracefully into an established community, yet feel fresh and nontraditional.

An open deck separates the master bedroom and guest bedroom from the main house, which allows the owners to experience the elements in evening but not hear the kids playing ping-pong in the main basement. The fireplace is brick and block covered by a coat of rough mortar. The team of Mennonite masons who built the fireplace intended to add a final smooth coat, but the owners decided they liked the look of the rough finish. The dramatic ceiling ties are both decorative and structural. Splayed to recall a boat’s frame, they slide out every 16 inches between 3¼-inch-wide pickled pine boards spaced to coincide with the 2- by 12-inch rafters.
The path to the front door winds through a vine-covered lattice and under a downspout that channels rain into a rock-lined pool. A terraced garden made completely from rocks and fill found on-site supports beach roses and, once a year when a reggae band sets up on the lowest level, makes a wonderful party spot.

Builder: R. W. Stevens




This new 3,400-square-foot residence is located in a historic waterfront community, where design guidelines mandated a shingle-style design. The house takes advantage of water views in several directions and easily accommodates families and guests. The house sits in—not on—the site and, despite being a new construction, feels as if it truly belongs.

On the first floor, the rooms are carefully arranged to maximize views and offer a blend of public and private spaces—the living, dining, and cooking spaces can accommodate large groups; the breakfast nook, study, and sunroom are suitable for smaller gatherings. The best views are to the west and northwest, so the stairway is located on the south side to bring sunlight deep into the house. A protected porch on the west side is ideal for viewing sunsets, while also shading the interior from the afternoon sun. The sunporch is more open and gathers breezes from multiple directions.

Five bedrooms provide flexibility. There is a bedroom and bath on the first floor for guests who have difficulty with stairs. On the second floor, four bedrooms and three bathrooms offer a variety of sleeping arrangements. Each bedroom has its own character, based on rooflines and orientation. The bunkroom on the third floor, with its built-in beds and storage, gives children and young visitors their own territory.

Because of additional insulation and careful construction, the house is energy efficient. Solar collectors for domestic hot water also supplement the radiant in-floor heating system. And windows were carefully located to provide multiple opportunities for natural ventilation.

Builder: Wright-Ryan Construction
Structural Engineers: Becker Structural Engineers













The original “camp” on the property was in a state of deterioration—the garage on cedar posts was leaning to one side, and the tall, skinny house had a mold problem. Yet while the house and its narrow, steep site certainly presented living challenges, the home also boasted one of the most beautiful views on the East Coast. The resilient and good-natured homeowners lived in the old house, enjoyed the view, and dreamed about one day building a new home. When they eventually asked Roc Caivano to design a new home on their heirloom site, their vision and desires were clear.

The building envelope was grandfathered, and only a small percentage of existing volume could be expanded, away from the water. The site is steep and too close to the road, making it vulnerable to noise. Caivano and the clients decided that the ideal solution would be the new garage with guest suite above that would act as a buffer between the house and the road. In a separate building, the spacious living room, dining room, and kitchen areas above provide views out to sea, and two bedroom suites in the quiet space below offer access to garden paths on the lower grade. Two bridges were created. The first, an auto bridge, provides easier access to the site and separates the residence from the road above. The second, pedestrian bridge brings the visitors from their car to the front entrance.

Zoning required the new structure to be compacted into an area defined by rigorous setback limits, which would have made for a box-like structure if it were not for some innovative design. Caivano and his team embraced the challenge by molding the house into its leafy site, breaking the structure’s spine to open the waterside rooms to the view, and crimping the uphill roofline into an eyebrow over the main entrance. Large walls of dark green lattice were added as vertical dividers, dividing the shingled expanse of the home into a series of smaller elements. Interior designer Sara Bengar was born on Mount Desert Island, and now works from her studio in New York City. The warm-colored painted-panel interior spaces are direct references to the older shingled homes along Maine’s coast. And the views from every room are to die for.

Builder: E.L. Shea Construction Co. | Lighting Designer: Peter Knuppel
Interior Designer: Sara Bengur Interiors















Melavilla’s primary resident is Jessica, a twenty-nine-year-old quadriplegic. She lives in a small, accessible house built in 2003 to support her independent living. The purpose of the “barn” is to provide space for activities and pursuits not supported by Jessica’s small house. The eighteen-acre, south-sloping site in Bucksport gently falls toward the Penobscot River. Jessica leads a very social life, but due to the inherent difficulties of mobility she often hosts gatherings of family and friends. And doing so in her small house had been difficult. The barn now provides this gathering space, mostly in its large main room, which contains a gas stove, living area, and pool table. The tall ceilings and windows provide a bright, airy space. The clear-span roof is constructed of Douglas fir trusses built on-site. The added strut from collar-tie to wall creates an “implied” gambrel roof on the interior.

The barn provides space for Jessica’s physical therapy—there is room for an upper-body weight machine and mat table. Having her equipment nearby promotes a healthier lifestyle. The inclusion of a sauna adds therapeutic value for Jessica who is often cold, providing a welcome “warm-up,” especially during Maine’s winters.

Builder: Nichols Construction LLC




Initially the clients hoped to place this home as close to the ocean setback line as possible, but the site sat in a hollow, with a

spruce-covered ledge obscuring the ocean view to the east, and even more ledge and forest on the inland side to the west. Siting the home away from the ocean and on the crest of a ridge allowed for more expansive views of the shoreline in multiple directions.

The clients’ driving concern was to balance a need for privacy while creating an easy flow between the interior and exterior public spaces. Architect Dominic Mercadante organized the house as three separate structures. The central core contains the primary entertaining and service spaces. On the south end, the guest suite houses two bedrooms with a shared sitting room and bath. The north end contains the master suite. Placing the structures along the natural curve of the ridge meant that each would be turned slightly away from its neighbors, creating a sense of privacy and a unique ocean view.

The 2,500-square-foot building feels at once intimate and expansive, embracing the natural environment and the unique geometry of the ridge.

Builder: Michael Hewes & Company | Lighting Design: Peter Knuppel
Landscape Architecture: Bruce John Riddell




The Van Dam design team had already worked on a small main house and barn on this island property when the clients contacted them to work on a third structure. Known as the “Cook House,” this building is designed to sleep two families and host large family dinners. The uppermost level has two master bedrooms, two children’s bedrooms with bunks, three bathrooms, and a small sitting area.

The main level includes a large cooking, living, and dining area that leads out to a cantilevered deck. A long dining table, which is designed to break down into smaller tables for use throughout the house, follows the line of the building. The elongated axis also points to a view of the ocean through the trees. The lowest level houses a concrete utility room and the stairs that lead to a path descending to the ocean. The site was chosen for its separation from the main house, its ocean view, and proximity to a path leading to a small beach.

As the owners already lived on-site, they asked that the building be designed to minimize construction time and disruption to the land. To accommodate this request, the structure was largely prefabricated on the mainland, using a steel frame, insulated structural panels for floors and roof, precut wooden roof trusses, and copper roof panels. The insulated structural panels were clad with horizontal cypress boards. Panel joints are expressed with different-colored vertical cypress battens.

Builder: Cold Mountain Builders
Interior Design: Karin Thomas
Structural Engineering: Becker Structural Engineers
Lighting Design: J & M Lighting Design    
Landscape Architecture: Walker Kluesing Design Group


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