A shingle-style home merges complex architecture with modern simplicity
When Michael and Janelle Maka bought their Kennebunkport property in 2014, they knew the 1960s executive ranch that occupied it would need some changes. Working with architect Brian Beaudette of Kennebunk they designed modifications to create a space that would better suit themselves and their two daughters, now 14 and 10, and that would comfortably accommodate extended family and friends who gather in Kennebunkport throughout the year. Then they decided to start over. Michael says he thought, “This is the one time in our life we’re going to build a vacation house. I’m going to own this house forever, and I want my kids to have it.” He adds, “It was worth spending a lot of time on it and getting it right.”
By tearing down the old ranch and building new, Beaudette realized, the house could be relocated to the higher part of the property, maximizing ocean views. “Now the house sits very proudly on that hill,” he says. “The whole idea was to capture as many of those views as possible. It really became an ocean lot.” Beaudette worked closely with project manager Jason Moody of Richard Moody and Sons Construction in Wells to create a classic shingle-style home that offers glimpses of the ocean around every turn and combines a bright, open layout with plenty of privacy for the family and their guests. The hill that enables the water views also created some challenges for the design. To fit the building into the landscape, Beaudette came up with a multilevel floor plan. At the lowest level are the garage and daylight basement, with the main floor a half-story up from the garage. At the back of the house a stairway leads to a bright landing that’s also a parting of the ways: a half-flight to the left leads to the guest wing over the garage, while the right stair goes up a full flight to the family bedrooms. “It’s really nice to have two distinct areas, a guest wing and our wing,” says Janelle. “There’s not a lot of crossover.”
While the upper floors are designed for privacy, the main level is open, inviting gatherings of groups large and small. “You walk in and you have that openness, those windows leading off the dining room,” says Moody. “I love how bright and airy the house is.” Sitting and dining spaces are marked by square white columns that provide structure without interrupting the flow of the house. The dining area is defined by a pine and fir farmhouse table made by the homeowners’ friend Beth Bawell of BB Designs in Amherst, New Hampshire (Bawell also contributed a matching side table and a wooden sign with the home’s geographic coordinates).
The Makas did the interior decor themselves, and they can express their design principles in one word: simplicity. The home is unified by floors of Bella Cera’s Villa Borghese French oak in a soft gray color that the couple found at Nashua Wallpaper and Design Center in New Hampshire. With the exception of the white bathrooms, all the walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Stonington Gray, a gentle neutral that seems to shift from warm to cool as light and shadows fall on it. To this calm foundation cheerful accents are added by blue, red, and orange textiles on the sofas, rugs, and pillows. Custom white millwork with decorative accents from Richard Moody and Sons offers textural interest and provides spaces to display family treasures and nautical objects. The wall decor is minimal, and all of it has personal meaning for the family. Photographs recall the family’s history in Kennebunkport, including the Cape Porpoise home of Michael’s grandparents, and just inside the front door is an enormous enlargement of a municipal sewage bond, a winking reference to Michael’s work in financial services.
On the other side of the kitchen is the sunroom, which features a stone floor-to-ceiling fireplace flanked by built-in bookshelves and cabinets. V-groove paneling on the ceiling adds to the warm atmosphere. While it is surrounded by windows on all sides, the sunroom’s location at the back of the house creates a retreat from what can be an ex- posed location, and its narrow shape offers a cozy contrast to the spaciousness of the main living area. It has become the “main hangout” for the family. “When we have company we’re in the big space,” says Janelle, “but when it’s just us, we’re in here.”
In addition to allowing the structure to fit gracefully into the sloping lot, the complex lines of the house create a wealth of special nooks and useful storage areas. A small space on the stair landing holds the girls’ craft supplies, and an area under the eave of the girls’ suite has been walled off to provide a private place to hide away with a book. A happy surprise in the building process was a space that has become Janelle’s personal room (Michael has his own space to work or relax near the bed-rooms). “As the design was unfolding they realized there was going to be a third-floor space with the main gable, and that the views would be exceptional,” Beaudette explains. “We carved out space for an office area at the highest point of the house. They never guessed when they first bought that house that they’d have views like that.”
Other special areas link the house with the outdoors. A deck off the owners’ bedroom features half-walls for privacy and chaise lounges for enjoying the view in comfort. “I love it in the morning,” says Janelle, then adds, “I love it in the afternoon. I love it always.” From the dining area, four-panel sliding glass doors open onto a bluestone patio; in summer the doors can be opened to create a seamless transition between inside and outside. On the higher side of the lot, the patio has a fresh, elevated feel; the landscape team, CL Design and Landscape, led by Carol Laboissonniere, raised the level of the yard so that railings aren’t necessary. (When I visit, the patio is occupied by the homeowners’ mothers, enjoying a late-afternoon glass of wine while chatting with their granddaughters.) The stone steps that lead to the front door are a striking aspect of the exterior, rising nearly half a flight from the driveway to a recessed landing. “It’s a very sculptural piece,” says Beaudette, who praises Bill Walsh of Walsh Engineering Associates in Westbrook for creating a “gracious” driveway and front yard on the challenging lot.
The Makas’ choice to rebuild rather than renovate allowed them to create a home that is better suited to both the lot and the family’s needs, but it had another benefit, too. Involving themselves in the design and construction from the beginning gave the whole family a special connection with their new home. Throughout the building process, they traveled to Kennebunkport from their New Hampshire home on weekends, booking hotel rooms so that they could watch the house go up. “It was great to see the project, and to see the kids see the project,” says Michael. He documented each stage, from demolition to landscaping, in photographs, which he assembled in a hardcover book as a birthday gift to Janelle. She keeps it in the sunroom and is happy to pull it down to show a curious visitor. “It’s not like, we bought a house,” she says, turning the pages. “It’s our house.”