The Long View

The granite pier marks the marine entrance to the property and serves as a reminder that the state’s earliest European settlers established their homes and farms first on the islands; the ocean was their road to Maine.

The reimagined island carriage house, the pool house, and the pool are nestled in stone terraces with walls like fanciful outcroppings, all designed by landscape architect Bruce John Riddell. The round windows in the gables are one of the simple and effective gestures that architect Christian Fasoldt used to tie the old and new structures together.

A new stone fireplace warms the dining terrace with its Weatherend table and chairs. An outdoor kitchen that seems to emerge from artfully placed boulders is tucked under a pergola that Chris Falsoldt designed to pick up on the straightforward post-and-beam construction of the carriage house. Bruce John Riddell designed the terrace with rhythmic spaces between the paving stones for planting creeping thyme and other fragrant ground covers.

A coat of paint updated a little desk set in the eaves of one of the guest rooms. It provides a perfect spot to sketch the view from the window or write in a journal.

In the kitchen, the original horizontal paneling was refreshed and pickled a bright white. The glass-paned transom above the kitchen pass-through is echoed over most of the doors, another small detail that unifies the old and the new. Wooden floors and paneling throughout the house are by A.E. Sampson of Warren; the stove and hood are by Bosch. The kitchen floor cloth is by Diane Cothern and David Rubel, and rag rugs were woven by Sara Hotchkiss of Waldoboro. Replacing a prefabricated stainlesssteel fireplace from an earlier renovation, the fireplace mantel in the living room was was carved by Valdemar Skov of Waldoboro, who also carved the mantels in the master bedroom and the study.

In a guest bedroom, the existing wood-paneled walls were pickled a pale peach. Interior designer Karin Thomas recycled the beds and nightstand that came with the house, keeping them crisp and summery with a coat of fresh white paint. Throughout the house, the couple has hung paintings by Maine artists, including Michael Reese and Frederic Kellogg, that they had collected over the years.

A bright and delicate antique quilt accents the bed in the master bedroom, whose beams echo the beams in the original living room. The door opens onto the terrace that ties the pool house and the pool to the main building, and it offers the owners easy access to the outdoor shower built into the wall of the pool house. The bedroom rug is by Country Swedish.

A skylight and banks of tall windows let in the light in the morning room. Fasoldt added windows everywhere, and Thomas designed the understated interiors to showcase the stunning views from almost all the rooms. The rugs are by Country Swedish, and a David Dewey watercolor hangs over the sofa. Tim Rousseau of Appleton built a custom dining room table, and the coffee table and the table in front of the window were built by John Murphy of Belfast.

FEATURE-June 2012

by Deborah Weisgall  | Photography François Gagné

A couple transforms an island carriage house with respect for the past and an eye to the future.


The place was a surprise birthday gift: 47 acres on the western tip of a Maine island where the couple had spent many happy times over the years. They had often sailed past the beautiful point of land jutting south into Penobscot Bay, and the husband announced his gift by presenting his wife with a baseball cap embroidered with the name of the point.

“I took a deep breath and said, ‘Here we go,’” the wife remembers. The first thing she did was to persuade her friend, the interior designer Karin Thomas, to come out of retirement. Thomas said she would, as long as Christian Fasoldt, an architect with whom she had often collaborated, worked on the remodeling with her. After seeing his work at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, the owners asked Bruce John Riddell to design the landscape. Most of the land was already protected by a conservation easement, and the couple immediately cleared and improved the public trails through the property. “They got the island’s seal of approval,” says Fasoldt.
The couple wanted the point to become their retreat, and they wanted to keep things simple: retain the existing structures—a carriage house and a garage that had been built around 1910 as outbuildings of a large estate whose main house burned down long ago. They understood the importance of the past on this island. First they fixed up the garage and turned its attic into a small apartment where they stayed during the four years of planning and construction. “We put a lot of thought and love into this home,” the wife says.

The carriage house had been remodeled once before, its interior walls sheathed with horizontal tongue-and-groove wooden siding. In the living room, a freestanding stainless-steel fireplace blocked the view west to the hills on the mainland. But simply pulling it out was not an option. “We are the king and queen of fireplaces,” says the wife. The couple was also playful and wanted the house to reflect that. And they had very high standards.

“Karin had told me that they really wanted to get a fireplace,” Fasoldt says, recalling his first meeting with the clients. “But they kept going: ‘Where can we get a library? And the bedroom’s too small. And let’s get a swimming pool.’ They saved as much as possible of the original building and then added to it. It was clear that they really wanted to make sure that everything they did was top-notch.”

More than anything, the couple wanted the house to connect to the land, with its spectacular views and fields that slope to the water on the east and the west. Fasoldt found an elegant, understated solution. He added a library to the western side of the house, widened the east-facing bedroom, and turned a narrow hallway leading to the master suite into a gallery with doors opening on an axis with the library doors. He also finished and enclosed a porch off the kitchen, turning it into a morning room. “It opened the house up in two directions,” Fasoldt explains.
And it created opportunities for fireplaces. One went in on the north wall of the library, where it shares a chimney with an outdoor stone fireplace that warms the western patio. The original living room got its own fireplace to replace the prefabricated one, and the expanded master bedroom got one, too. Hand-carved mantels add refinement to the simple interiors, and the hearths anchor the house, while the banks of doors give it a quality of transparency. From almost everywhere you can see the water, and the arc of the sun—rising through the windows of the morning room and setting outside the library—marks the progress of each day.

If the house seems as if it’s always been here, it’s because Thomas, Fasoldt, and Chris Stone, the contractor, respected the feeling of the original as much as they could. “The most fun thing,” says the wife, “was keeping the main room. Christian Fasoldt adapted the old to the new.” Fasoldt adds: “We left the kitchen pretty much as it was and redid the counters and appliances and left the three bedrooms on the second floor.” Everything got a face lift: they painted woodwork, pickled the tongue-and-groove walls and ceilings in the bedrooms and living room a creamy white, and retiled showers and bathtubs.

Thomas even reclaimed some of the furniture. She had overstuffed armchairs and sofas reupholstered, though she jokes that she drew the line at salvaging the mattresses in the upstairs bedrooms. She kept the palette subdued. “The interiors are very low key,” she says. “The emphasis is always on the spectacular views outside.” Muted blues, gray greens, and pale chintzes pick up the colors of the fields, flowers, sky, and water. In one of the bathrooms, an artist painted the silhouettes of island birds.

Rag rugs made in Wiscasset cover the floors, and Thomas mixed the refurbished pieces with antiques, including a tall clock, a merry-go-round horse, and bright quilts. Custom furniture—such as a round dining table big enough for the couple, their children, and their spouses—adds a contemporary edge. The couple collects Maine art and hung many landscapes in the cottage; they also hung watercolors by the husband. The paintings seem like little mirrors echoing the views outside.

If the interiors are quiet, Riddell’s landscape of stonework and plantings acts as a dramatic counterpoint to those views. The design qualifies as a geological phenomenon. The house seems to rise from a magical outcropping, not from a field. Essentially, Riddell built two large terraces, one that looks west, between the new library and the old living room and kitchen, and another, looking east, that surrounds the pool and stretches to the morning room and master bedroom. Everything is constructed with gray Norumbega stone quarried in the town of Washington, shipped to the island by barge, and cut on-site.

As in old stone walls, each rock fits like a piece of a puzzle, but Riddell, not the forces of nature, has determined the shape of each piece. Square paving stones near the house flow into random patterns toward the edges of the patio, and serpentine spaces between the paving stones are filled with swaths of low-growing thyme. Vertical boulders mark entrances and steps, and the pool, which starts out at the level of the house, ends in a waterfall spilling over an artful cliff.

A stone bench rings a terrace that faces the mainland, and Riddell scribed the tops of the stones forming the back of the bench to mimic the ridgeline of the hills along the horizon. He played with a similar conceit at the base of the pool wall: washes of wild blue geraniums and white snow-in-summer echo with flowers the foaming waves splashing against the rocky shore.
Riddell, too, honored the house’s history and the history of the island. “We did as much as we could without destroying the feeling of how it began,” he explains. Cottage flowers—lavender, daylilies, and echinacea—bloom outside the morning room, and native plants like blueberry and hay-scented ferns mark the boundaries between garden and field.

“Most of the trees we planted were beech trees,” Riddell continues. Beeches are slow growing and can live for a century or more. “Once they catch on they do pretty well. We were planting for the future.”