Business In The Front, Party On The Deck
A nomadic family settles down in a backward yet modern Kennebunk Cape
It happens often to homebuilders, especially first-timers. You’ll go into a project knowing exactly what you want, with big hopes and big dreams and maybe even a big floor plan. Then the budget issues you a harsh dose of reality. Lumber prices are rising, the foundation is going to be more complicated to construct than you ever imagined, and those perfectly imperfect tiles you loved? They don’t come cheap.
But Paige Parkhill Gott and her husband, Erin Gott, didn’t slam on the brakes when obstacles began to appear in their path. They were flexible; they were used to living in small spaces. Sure, they had thought about building a spacious house with a detached garage. but why not just live in the garage? For years, the couple and their two boys had lived out of a trailer parked on Erin’s parents’ property in Kennebunk. “We spent our summers here and we would travel for the winter,” explains Paige. “My husband ran his parents’ bed-and-breakfast, which allowed us the freedom to travel.” As an accountant, Paige was able to work from virtually anywhere, but their most common off-season destination was Mexico. “I’d love to build a big white stucco house with a courtyard; maybe that would be my dream house,” she says. “But we’re in Maine. I couldn’t do that.”
They could build something, however, because Erin’s parents were willing to sell them a piece of the family land, and Paige knew an architect: Kristi Kenney of KW Architects was one of her clients. “We went through three plans before we settled on this,” Kenney says. The Cape rings in at a little over 2,000 square feet and features two separate living spaces—one upstairs, where Paige and Erin live with their boys, and one downstairs, where a friend of the couple is currently staying. (“It’s a trial run,” says Paige. “They’re here for a month, and so far it’s working!”) “We scaled back the project a lot,” adds Kenney. “I think that’s one of the biggest challenges. When you build a house with a homeowner, you have their dreams and wishes in your hands, but you’re trying to keep it within a budget they’re looking for.” And yet, she says, sometimes that’s also the best part. A project with clear parameters is a project that requires creative thinking and problem-solving. It asks you to work harder and smarter to make something that, well, works.
No corners were cut in the making of this Cape. Built by Scott Raymond, the house features natural wood siding, a large second-story deck, oversized Andersen windows, radiant-heat flooring, and white GE appliances (“a splurge,” reveals Paige). At first, she wanted the house to be painted black, but the couple decided it would look lighter and fresher with a pale stain that will eventually weather to gray. Raymond hadn’t done vertical siding before, but he loved how it turned out. “They chose a white cedar siding that was milled up in Gray. Since then, I’ve done a couple of houses in that white cedar. It looks nice; I’d use it on my house.” It doesn’t make as much of a statement as a black house would, but the natural hues do help the house look a little more like the Floats, which Kenney explains was the “very first picture” her clients sent as a reference. “I don’t even know if they remember it,” she says. “But they loved that building—it has such classic New England style.”
If you’re not familiar, the Floats is a historic boathouse located in Kennebunkport. It’s now a museum, but it was once a retreat for author Booth Tarkington and his crew. The waterfront structure is much grander than Erin and Paige’s place, yet you can see the imprint it left on Kenney and the couple. Both buildings have the same rectangular shape, the same pitched roof, the same minimalist forms, and the same restrained color palette. “They loved the second-floor deck,” says Kenney. This deck helped make the “reverse floor plan” feel more spacious than its small footprint. It opens out from the main living area, giving the second-floor residents a bit of indoor–outdoor living.
“Our house is kind of backward,” explains Paige. The kitchen and living room are both upstairs, as are the parents’ room and the boys’ shared bedroom. “We’re not real fancy people,” says Paige. “We’re pretty simple. We don’t need a lot of space, and we kept the design simple, too. No frills.” The minimalist deck with its wire railings allows the family to spend time together outside while visually expanding their living quarters. (The oversized Andersen windows perform a similar function, as does the cathedral ceiling.) “Since we’re on this long dirt road, we wanted to be up high, for privacy,” adds Paige. Their road isn’t busy, but the couple thinks someday it might be, especially if they decide to open up a restaurant on their first floor. “We have dreams of someday putting an oyster bar down there,” says the “serial entrepreneur.” Their home has been zoned commercially, which means the downstairs space will likely stay a rental or become an eatery.
That dream is still a distance away, but it would make sense to invite the public into their Cape for seafood and drinks. Erin is the owner of an oyster farming business, Pope’s Creek Oysters, which operates out of Wells Harbor, and the family has always enjoyed meeting new people, making new friends, and sharing their space. After all, that’s what happens when you travel. To make the space as multiuse as possible, Kenney and the Gotts selected easy-to-clean finishes, like the polished concrete floor. “I really liked working on that nice big gathering room they have downstairs,” says Raymond. “That’s something not a lot of houses have, and I could see that working well for a business.” Like the second story, the first floor was designed to open up to the lot. While they don’t currently have a canopy, it would be easy to add an outdoor dining space where people could come to eat, drink, and linger. Even Raymond, who says he “would not put an oyster in [his] mouth,” plans to come back if this happens. “It’s quite intriguing what they do. The Gotts, I’ll tell you what: I get really lucky with my customers. I’m only by word of mouth. The Gotts were really nice to work for; they’re excellent people.”
Kenney, too, speaks highly of her former clients. “They are the most free-spirited people I’ve ever met,” she says. “They just love life. They live in the moment. I think it’s so wonderful.” Perhaps this is why everyone seemed to be so pleased to be working on the tidy design with its budget-conscious choices. It’s not a super luxe space—it’s a house that’s meant to be used and (mildly) abused. “We wanted one simple roof and four walls,” says Paige. “And to bring a lot of sunlight into the house.” This approach makes it easy for the family to keep their rooms feeling bright, clean, and cozy. Surrounded by antique finds from the Portland Flea-for-All, old IKEA purchases from their previous home, and souvenirs from their travels, the Gotts can live comfortably in a compact space. And there’s plenty of space outside for their dreams. They recently added a chicken coop, and have plans to build a sauna on their compound, plus they’re going to lay a brick patio this summer. As Paige says, “We’re not really done. I don’t know if it will ever feel done. But I love seeing it evolve with our blood, sweat, and tears.” She adds, “We’re just super blessed.”