A Family Home
A modern farmhouse in Falmouth evolves with its owners
Chris and Brandi Hau take their time with choices. They were living in Boston when, expecting their first child, they decided to move to Maine. “We thought, ‘We want more.’ We wanted land we wanted a place for him to play outside,” says Brandi. Chris is from the West Coast, but Brandi convinced him that her native state was a better choice: “I won the battle of Maine versus California, somehow.” Decision made, they spent two years driving around southern Maine, looking at school systems in range of the Portland airport, which enables Chris’s professional travel. Eventually they found a lot in Falmouth, but a week before closing they found themselves gazing out over the neighboring fields and woods. “It would be nice to have that,” they thought, imagining their kids crossing the fields on snowmobiles. They reached out to the owner and made a deal.
Then the architectural process began. “We spent a year when, if we saw a room size that we liked in somebody’s house, we’d measure it,” says Brandi. Working with architectural designer Travis Kinney, they hammered stakes into the site to mark room layouts while their son, Max, played in the grass. “Typically, when I’m doing design work for someone it starts with the site,” says Kinney. “We spend time standing on the site, looking at what the best views are and, conversely, what you don’t want to look at, what rooms will get what light.” Informed by the file of clippings the Haus had gathered from magazines, Kinney designed a modern farmhouse with Greek revival details—a wraparound porch, deep roof overhangs, wide frieze boards—and a large barn-style garage that can accommodate two cars as well as a fleet of snowmobiles and four-wheelers.
The building process took another year. “We came here every day,” recalls Chris, “just to spend time. We would measure stuff out in our current house and say, ‘Is this going to work? Let’s open the oven; is there enough room around it to feel comfortable?’” After a disappointing experience with a builder, the Haus took on the general contracting role themselves. “They both have business backgrounds, so they both have a good intuitive sense for how to manage work, whether it’s a business thing or a construction,” says Kinney, who designed the interior millwork as well as the structure of the house. “This was right up my alley for architecture I love to do,” he says. “I love getting into the interior design—not the soft goods but anything that’s nailed into place. I like figuring out what’s going on every wall, every floor, every ceiling, all the millwork, and making sure it’s all knitted together really well.” The interior of the home is unified by oak flooring from Brandi’s family company, Cousineau Wood Products in North Anson, and by walnut built-in cabinets designed by Kinney and built by Gilbert Miller of Maine Custom Kitchens. Many walls feature wood paneling—a mix of vertical and horizontal nickel-gap poplar—and the ceiling of the foyer is covered in wood panels. “There’s a richness to the comfort of all that wood,” says Kinney. “It’s not cold.”
The interior layout was designed for a close, active family. “We tried to make it so we could all stay together,” says Brandi. “We kept it an open floor plan so you can hear the kids when they’re talking upstairs.” The main floor is centered on the kitchen, which has a cathedral ceiling that lets light and sound travel from the second floor. Dining spaces include a bar and break- fast nook in the kitchen as well as a formal dining room wrapped in windows that look out over the surrounding fields and farms. A comfortable living room is set up for Sunday football watching, and also includes Chris’s home office; Brandi’s office is an elegant room off the entry hall. Both parents have arranged their desks so they can look out at the yard where their three boys play. The second floor features an extra-wide hall that is a room in itself, with a sitting area and built-in bookshelves surrounding the balcony that looks over the reclaimed rafters of the kitchen. The hall leads to the three boys’ bedrooms (where the decor celebrates the Patriots and the Celtics), a boys’ bath, and a laundry room on one end, and the owners’ suite on the other.
The Haus moved into their house on New Year’s Eve 2009, two years after they bought the property. By then their son Dominic had joined the family, and Alex would be born the next year. (The boys are now 14, 11, and 9 and making full use of the property’s fields and woods for football, snowmobiling, and “just being kids,” as Chris says.) The interior design developed gradually, with the help of Deb Kingry of Foreside Design. “We started very slowly with some basic decorating,” says Kingry. (“Deb’s been very patient with us,” says Chris, laughing.) She offered guidance on paint colors, then the kitchen backsplash, then rugs, then Brandi’s office.
“This story is unique because it was a house that love built,” says Kingry. “There was never any urgency to get this project finished. The house grew with the family—we built rooms around living room forts with plenty of space for make-believe. It was a family home that gradually turned into a show home.”
The home has changed in many small ways over time, but last year brought a bigger shift, when the boys no longer wanted to share bedrooms and the guest suite had to be moved to the basement. Working with Sylvain and Sevigny Custom Builders, the Haus took the basement renovation as an opportunity to create new spaces. Now the daylight basement includes a large room for the boys to enjoy themselves, furnished with a table-tennis table and television as well as an insulated ceiling to keep the noise below ground. There’s also a wine cellar, which holds special bottles from each child’s birth year, and an exercise room as well as a bedroom and bath for visitors. Kingry says that the look of the basement shows the home’s growth. With Moroccan tile, iron accents, and moody shades of gray, “It’s more modern, sleeker, grown up, more sophisticated, but still with that farmhouse warm feel.”
The experience of the home doesn’t end at the walls, and neither does its design evolution. The Haus recently engaged Soren deNiord Design Studio and Craig Wright of Coastal Landscaping to revise the site, adding a fence, install- ing plantings, and reshaping the drive- way. “These were clients who knew what they wanted. After living in the house for a while they knew what wasn’t working,” says deNiord. “The spaces were a little disjointed, so we were trying to really work with circulation and trying to create more intimate spaces, while at the same time not obstructing the sunset views.” Now a clean grid of paving stones forms a patio that complements tall feather reed grasses, while hydrangeas, ever- greens, and beds of perennials provide year-round interest. “The patio is the best thing we’ve ever done. It’s wonderful,” says Brandi. “There’s a pink sky five nights out of seven,” Chris confirms. “The willows give some privacy, and the grasses sway in the wind. It moves—it’s not the ocean, but it has that same movement.”
After ten years of growing and chang- ing with their home, the Haus have no regrets. “Sometimes people end up saying, ‘I wish I would’ve,’ but we really love the design, and we love the way it came out. It feels like it’s ours. We use every single space on a daily basis,” says Brandi. But they’re not done yet. “We were decently young when we built it,” says Chris. “We wanted to make it a home. Every year we try to do a little more. We are growing with the property. It’s fun to keep improving it and keep making it ours.”