Magazine

Design Wire October 2021

Straight out of the Mad Men era, legendary American furniture and industrial designer PAUL MCCOBB’s most popular pieces, including case goods, seating, and lighting, have been put back into production for the first time in 50 years. Sold exclusively at CB2, the midcentury designs include classics like the canvas lounge chair, seen in the June 1953 issue of House and Garden; a series of brass pendant lights, with each major component being a custom design unique to Paul McCobb lighting; and the designer’s famous wingback chairs. Known for creating fine-quality furnishings at a reasonable price, McCobb was arguably responsible for the introduction of modern design into middle-class American households. Of course, as furniture companies revive McCobb, they are aiming at a more prosperous clientele than the families in postwar subdivisions that McCobb had in mind, but it is safe to say that many of these elegant pieces are still within reach.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

THE DEVELOPERS COLLABORATIVE, a local association of real estate developers located on Commercial Street in Portland whose philosophy is based on “common sense applied to land use,” is moving forward with plans to build 140 senior condos in the Deering Center neighborhood. The four market-rate five-story buildings would be located at the former Catherine McAuley High School, between Stevens Avenue and Baxter Woods. The buildings, which cater to folks over 55, would contain a mix of two- and three-bedroom units, which KEVIN BUNKER, a principal at Developers Collaborative, says is to meet a strong demand for larger units than in the previously built 21-unit building. The original proposal met with considerable opposition, but according to the Portland Press Herald, Bunker and Christine Grimando, the city’s urban planning and development director, are hopeful that the need for diverse, off-peninsula housing will bring people on board. Bunker said he hopes to break ground on the approximately $71 million project in the spring of 2022.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

DAB MOTORS, a French motorcycle manufacturer based in Bayonne, France, has developed its first electric motorcycle, the CONCEPT-E. With a minimalist, lightweight silhouette that’s meant to ride more like an electric bicycle than a traditional gas-powered vehicle, CONCEPT-E was conceived in partnership with OUTERCRAFT, a project team with previous experience designing the Coleen E-Bike. DAB Motors describes the super stylish cycle as “a high-tech mobility tool” that is easily driven after a few hours of training. With a 10 kW motor and 51.8 V lithium-ion battery, the DAB Concept-E claims to have a range of around 68 miles, more than enough for most daily commutes. The company, which ships worldwide, says they will build “the bike of your dreams” within two to four months.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

A new (affordable) paint brand has entered the design market. DREW BARRYMORE’S FLOWER HOME COLLECTION, which launched at WALMART.COM in 2019, just added a curated set of indoor paints. Conceived with the Flower Home wallpapers in mind, the collection comprises 27 colors that retail for $39 per gallon, with shades ranging from the dark and moody Library Green to the understated Bohemian Peach to the bright Orange Poppy. The paint is both a paint and a primer, and the cans are made from 100 percent postconsumer recycled plastic. According to House Beautiful, Barrymore was inspired by her personal style when selecting the shades. Her main piece of advice when choosing between these complementary colors? Have fun!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

A plan by SACO ISLAND VENTURES has been approved four-to-one by the Saco Planning Board to build 24 three-bedroom townhouses on the east side of SACO ISLAND, a six-acre parcel that has been vacant for decades. Also known as Factory Island, the land is situated in the Saco River and links Biddeford and Saco’s historic mill districts, which over the past decade have been revamped to include housing as well as hip commercial spaces. Edward “Ted” Moore, owner of the property and a principal of Saco Island Ventures, told the Portland Press Herald last July that his company’s goal is to increase residential and commercial vibrancy on the island to support nearby businesses. The land currently generates $8,000 a year in property taxes for Saco and, according to Moore, after completion it is expected to generate over $200,000.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

A new community solar project in Belfast is now live, with 880 residential and small commercial customers receiving discounted electricity. The project—a partnership among POWERMARKET, a Brooklyn, New York–based solar management company, REWILD RENEWABLES, and solar energy developers SUNRAISE INVESTMENTS—gives subscribed customers renewable energy credits that go toward their regular electric bill, with a discount of up to 15 percent depending on the project. The Belfast array covers roughly 20 acres of a former hay field and, according to PATRICK JACKSON, cofounder of SunRaise, the developers are planting a local-pollinator seed mix to increase biodiversity on-site, and they intend to have nearby sheep graze at the farm.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

THE ZILLMAN ART MUSEUM (ZAM), formerly the University of Maine Museum of Art, is celebrating the grand opening of five new galleries this fall. Education leaders and arts supporters DONALD AND LINDA ZILLMAN pledged a $1.3 million gift to help finance the construction of the new galleries, which will showcase the museum’s collection of over 4,000 works. Located in the heart of downtown Bangor, ZAM is Maine’s only collecting institution devoted solely to exhibiting and collecting contemporary art. The new exhibitions will include works by San Francisco–based artist Sidney Russell, who paints patterns on canvas then cuts and then sews the pieces into gigantic garments, as seen here in Hawaiian Shirt.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

The nonprofit FIRST AMENDMENT MUSEUM (FAM) in Augusta, a new nonpartisan museum focused on educating and inspiring individuals to exercise their First Amendment rights, has made plans to restore their historic Guy P. Gannett House and to complete a 5,000-square-foot addition, which would double the museum’s size. In CEO Christian Cotz’s words, the addition will “allow the completed building
to function as a modern, accessible, interactive museum space focused on inspiring civic engagement.” Working in close collaboration with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, the Maine Capitol Planning Commission, and the Augusta Planning Board, the museum was recently awarded a $249,500 grant from the INSTITUTE OF MUSEUM AND LIBRARY SERVICES’ Museums for America program to complete the permanent exhibition design by architect Amanda Austin of 2A Architects in Rockport.

New Country Classic styled room

New Country Classic

Comfortable, classic American style is what comes to mind when I think of Ashley Whittaker’s interiors,” writes cult-status designer Christopher Spitzmiller in his foreword to Whittaker’s first book, The Well-Loved House: Creating Homes with Color, Comfort, City-based “neo-traditionalist” interior designer who founded her own firm in 2007, says that every space she conceives stems from a love of home. Houses should be beautiful, welcoming places we return to at the end of each day, but they should also be lived in and enjoyed: “If the sofa arms are not worn through and the rugs are still pristine after ten years, then I have not done my job,” she writes in the book’s foreword. “But when the rooms show the marks of family life over time, I know I have achieved my goal: a house lived in and well loved.” For this eighteenth-century, Federal-style farmhouse in Millbrook, New York, the clients, who had just moved out of Manhattan, wanted a true country house, not a city house transplanted to the country. “We wanted to respect the past, but create living spaces that would be comfortable, inviting, and family-centric,” Whittaker writes. This view of the enfilade from the sitting room to the living room and pantry beyond captures a snapshot of the eccentric floor plan, typical of a house that has grown over centuries. Whittaker plays with color and mixes patterns with lacquered red walls, India block prints, and leaves gathered from the garden. Here’s our attempt to recreate Whittaker’s room.

1. Shelburne Vase in Medium Simon Pearce // simonpearce.com
2. American Flamingo by Soicher Marin Perigold //perigold.com
3. Pleated Daun Cotton Lampshade in Indigo OKA // oka.com
4. Carlotta Red Side Table The Socialite Family // thesocialitefamily.com
5. Shiloh Spool Ottoman in Biff Leaf InsideOut Ballard Designs // ballarddesigns.com
6. One Light Wall Sconce in Aged Brass by Hudson Valley from the Logan Collection Fogg Lighting // fogglighting. com
7. Breckenridge II in Flow Bradfords Rug Gallery // bradfordsruggallery.com
8. Morningside Pillow Cover in Wild Rose/Terracotta Serena & Lily // serenaandlily.com 9. Cochin in Blue Red on Oyster Bennison Fabrics // bennisonfabrics.com

Lindsay Stone

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

“I want to create objects that are haunting with sentiment for my viewer to hopefully feel too.”

MH+D ASKS STONE TO TELL US MORE.

Q. What is the biggest driver for your art?

A. It’s expressing a feeling or emotion that there are no words for. I hope for my art to be read as a poem: a simple gathering of words/objects left for the reader/viewer to interpret. My concepts tend to lean more somber, ethereal, and tender.

Q. What inspired your series Ashes to Ashes?

A. Ashes to Ashes is a series of thrifted figurines I bound together and covered in layers of ash. The ash eventually obscures the identity of these figurines, giving the illusion of something lost to time. Like a relic. This series began when I found myself equally fascinated and overwhelmed at Goodwill by the shelves full of perhaps once cherished objects, now brightly lit under fluorescent bulbs, and stuck with a price tag. I started collecting groupings of these figurines, specifically trying to tell a story of who the previous owner could have been. I’m very tactile and have always identified as a sculptor, but over the past few years my work has shifted into my sculptures existing through photography. For example, each form from the Ashes to Ashes series is a sculpture, but I ultimately wanted them to be viewed as a photograph. I collaborated with a local photographer, Erin Little. Erin had the brilliant idea to shoot these against black velvet, and I am in love with the black abyss that surrounds these relics.

Q. And of course we have to ask: what inspired the series Dust to Dust?

A. Dust to Dust began over ten years ago when I was on a several months’ long hiking trip. On my hike I began collecting fallen butterfly and moth wings and pressing them between the pages of my journal. I recently uncovered them and photographed them individually and in clusters. I’m fascinated by the way they’re torn in some places and transparent in others from losing their dust. Each time I handle them, little colorful fibers fall off and they become more weathered. In the final presentation of these photographs, I layered vellum over a few wings as an ode to time and the decay that will finally make them fade away.

Q. How does your art influence your living space?

A. My husband, Forrest, and I are both makers. It’s been a dream of ours to have our studios, a metal shop, and a wood shop all be part of our home. We were finally able to make that happen two years ago.
We are always creating, whether they’re our own personal projects, something for a client, or objects for our space. My favorite part about our home is that we get to live with art and furniture that we would never be able to afford, but because we made it, or a friend did a trade with us, we get to live among really meaningful and unique objects with a story. I am always inspired by my surroundings and am constantly collecting and gathering natural materials. For example, I’ve been collecting my cat’s whiskers when I find them on the ground. And right now I’m experimenting with making pigments using the plants that surround our house.

MH+D IS PROUD TO PARTNER WITH ACCLAIMED ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHER TRENT BELL ON HIS ARCHITECTURE, DESIGN, AND PHOTOGRAPHY PODCAST. TO HEAR BELL’S CONVERSATION WITH STONE, PLEASE VISIT TRENTBELL.COM/PODCAST

Eames Leg Splint

Eames Leg Splint

 

The Eames lounge chair is probably one of the most recognized chairs of the twentieth century, but it wouldn’t exist without the Eames leg splint.

In the early 1940s, Charles and Ray Eames would spend their evenings experimenting with plywood in the guestroom of their home they had converted into a workshop. Their trials used what they called the “Kazam! machine.” The homemade contraption was made using wood scraps and spare bicycle parts with a hinged and bolted curved plaster mold fitted with electrical coils running through to provide excessive heat. They would place a piece of veneer (a thin plane of wood—the “ply’” in plywood) in the mold and add a layer of glue on top. This process was repeated up to eleven times, resulting in a glued sandwich of veneers. The layers were pushed against the mold by a membrane (balloon) that was manually inflated by a bicycle pump. “A la Kazam!”—like magic, bent wood. The first innovation of the Kazam! machine was the molded plywood splint.

In the early days of World War II, the U.S. military used metal leg splints. The metal caused uncomfortable vibrations to the injured appendage; the splints were also heavy, and there was a shortage of suitable metal for fabricating them. The Eameses were called to work on the problem by Wendell G. Scott, a fully trained medical doctor and lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves. He was a friend of Charles Eames from St. Louis and had heard about his experiments with plywood.

The Eameses secured a contract with the U.S. Navy in November 1942 and set to work on producing splints in great numbers. They partnered with a giant U.S. company in the wood products industry, the Evans Products Company. Evans was able to provide limitless supplies of material, labor, and funding. They developed a molded-plywood splint that conformed to the shape of the human leg (Charles’s leg was used as the model, which was apparently an extremely painful process, since removing the cast ripped out all of his hair.). As their grandson Eames Demetrios notes in his guide to his grandparents’ legacy, the symmetrical holes in the splint relieved the stress of the bent plywood while giving the medic a place to thread bandages and wrappings.

The splint would go on to be a great success, and it is estimated that 150,000 may have been produced. Evans, in collaboration with Charles, also made many other wartime prototypes including a body litter, arm splint, pilot seat, and even plane flaps. Vintage splints today can sell for over $6,900 with the original box. Each of these splints bears an ink stamp with the words “Eames Process.” The biomorphic design of this plywood splint led to the development of the couple’s subsequent renowned plywood furniture designs, including the iconic lounge chair.

Midnight Shades

Many of us love a room bursting with color, but sometimes we also crave the depth and contrast that black brings to a space. Used sparingly, black can be the finishing touch to a room. Employed in abundance, black has the power to change the entire feeling of a space (hello, enveloping black powder room!).

Black is also a famously versatile shade (think of the proverbial little black dress). It looks as at home in a midcentury modern interior as in a pre-Revolutionary War home. However, despite its flexibility, black is often intimidating to use. “People are afraid of black. I’ll propose it, and my clients will worry it’s too dark or depressing,” says Grant K. Gibson, an interior designer who has recently relocated to Castine. “I think when you pair it with other patterns and colors, black actually balances things out. It grounds a space.”

When using black, the trick is to harness its best qualities and avoid its skewing too austere or gothic. We asked designers and color experts to share their best advice for weaving this midnight hue into your home; here’s how to explore your dark side.

Black and white is always right.

Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams, says that classic black and white feel fresh after the long-running gray trend in recent years. “Gray came out of the recession in 2008; after that it was ten years of gray,” she says. Now Wadden sees homeowners ditching gray in favor of the components of gray: black and white.

But warm it up with wood.

A purely black and white scheme can read cold, but natural elements take away the chilly feeling. “I think it’s lovely to be able to bring a wooden element in with black,” Gibson says, noting he briefly considered a black and white floor for his Castine kitchen, but ended up going with a hickory-hued stained wood instead.

Soften black’s harshness.

To avoid black’s feeling too austere, Chloe Kregling, senior architectural and interior designer at Knickerbocker Group in Boothbay, suggests playing with different tactile qualities in your black elements. “Texture brings black down and makes it feel a little bit more organic,” she says. Think grasscloth wallpaper, wood grain visible through a black stain, black tile with some sheen to the finish, or nubby bouclé fabric.

Surround black with texture.

When working with black, Kregling says, “adjacencies should be all about texture.” For example, in a recent project, Kregling paired black with reclaimed oak and a rough coat of natural plaster on the walls, which she says add layers of texture and warmth.

Be aware of paint sheens.
When it comes to wall color, “sheen is really important,” cautions Wadden. “A little bit of shine in the paint can show every imperfection.” Instead, Wadden encourages a matte or eggshell finish, which she says “looks really beautiful on the wall without highlighting all the dents.” If you’re dying for a lacquered or glossy look, you’ll need to invest time and effort into wall preparation before you paint.

Zero in on your undertones.

While black is often thought of as the absence of color, most black paints have a hint of color in their undertones: blue, green, and even purple (which is one undertone our experts said to avoid). Consider the other elements in your room and match your black to them.

Play up contrast.

If you do opt to use black in a big way, consider contrasting it with lighter-colored elements like curtains and sofas so that it doesn’t end up feeling heavy.

Match it with almost any color.

Black is the ultimate neutral. “Any color can work— absolutely anything,” says Gibson. However, he notes, in Maine he finds himself drawn to colors that would be found in the landscape. Kregling says she leans toward browns, taupe, muted greens, and earthy olive. Wadden suggests mixing blacks with light grays, whites, khaki, and camel. For a bolder pairing, Wadden points to Sherwin-Williams’s Argyle green or a clean teal.

But tread carefully with near blacks.

When creating interior color schemes, think twice about using black with colors that are similar to black, like deep navy or dark green, says Wadden. Black loses its graphic boldness in this context, and too many deep hues can make a room feel dark.

Use black as a backdrop to nature.

“I chose black for my kitchen cabinets so you focus out there on the view of the bay,” says Gibson of the Decora cabinetry at his Castine home. “When you’re sitting at the kitchen dining table, the black kind of recedes.” Knickerbocker’s Kregling echoes this sentiment when describing a recent project that used black. “We were very tuned in to the landscape, so we were working with a black and neutral palette in order to capitalize on the exterior views,” she says.

Try adding tiny touches of black.

Some decorators argue that every room needs at least a touch of black. In his column for the Financial Times, the celebrated English designer Luke Edward Hall recently suggested adding “small touches” of black, saying, “I particularly like black vases and lampshades, especially when lined in gold paper (you don’t get much light from a black shade, naturally, so a bit of gold will create a good glow).”

Weave in black to hide utilitarian elements.

Black often pops up in the workaday parts of our home, like TV screens, oven doors, and other bits of appliances, but your eye will be less likely to zero in on these less-than-lovely black moments if you pepper black throughout the room. Hanging black frames near a TV is an especially effective tactic.

Black Houses Are Back

Scroll through Instagram or a home design magazine and you will notice an awful lot of black exteriors. In the past decade, black has become surprisingly popular. At MH+D we’ve featured eight homes with black exteriors in the past year alone. While black is a current trend, houses have been painted black (or near black) for centuries. Historically, black was often a practical choice. In northern climates like Maine’s, homes were painted dark colors as a budget heating method: a black home will absorb more heat from the sun. Likewise, some traditional methods of preserving and protecting wood naturally result in a blackened look. The Japanese yakisugi process involves charring wood to leave a carbonized layer on one side of the lumber, rendering the wood pest-, fire-, and weather-resistant. The technique dates back to the eighteenth century but is enjoying a resurgence today among high-end architectural practices. In Scandinavia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries wood was coated in a combination of tar and linseed oil, which acted as a natural sealant that just happened to be black. Tom Lane, an architect at Portland’s Whitten Architects, used a black stain on a portion of the exterior of the firm’s Loon Lake Retreat (recently honored in the 2021 AIA Maine Design Awards). Lane says he sees today’s interest in dark and black exteriors as part of an ongoing search for equilibrium with the environment. Says Lane, “After spending working hours in a sterile, digital environment, a home with depth, shadow, and patina is a welcomed link back to physical reality and the natural world.”

Vantablack is the world’s darkest material. Absorbing 99.965% of light, it makes any surface it covers look like a void.

Palette Picks

From Paint to Print

 

“I loved working on this room for the daughter of interior architect and founder of Salon Design Amanda Pratt. The mural, which is titled Lily’s View, was inspired by the view from the family’s home on the beach in Scarborough. The ocean means a lot to the three of us. I taught Amanda to surf on that beach. We love to be out on the water as the sun rises to watch the color change and the beauty; it is an incredible way to start the day.

“Lily, who is the youngest of three girls and is what Amanda would describe as ‘very preco-cious,’ was eight when she came to her mom and said, ‘I feel like my room does not represent who I really am as a person!’ She said she wanted to make something with me, so we started thinking about what we could do that would represent Lily and make her feel truly at home in her room. We proposed trying to capture the sunrise and sunset in front of the house and turning it into a mural. I created two colorways, dawn and dusk. Lily was drawn to the colors reminiscent of the setting sun, so she chose dusk.

“Amanda sent me photographs, and I used those to paint several versions of the view. I have also been to the house many times, and the ink paintings depict the feeling of being there in the summer and fall.

“After completing several paintings, I collaged them on the computer to create one large mural, which includes suns, moons, the ocean, and the brush, and the pine trees edging the sand. The artwork was then digitally enlarged and printed on wallpaper panels. I always use ink to paint, and I love using water to get the inks to bleed into one another to create an ethereal feel.

“Lily absolutely loves how the mural turned out. We had it installed while she was away, so she came home to a brand-new room and now feels like she has a space that is completely her own. We printed the mural onto fabric as well, so she has pillows on her bed that match the wallpaper. It is such a special thing to allow a child to feel like they are part of the creative pro-cess. COVID has been so hard on kids, so this was such a fun way to make being stuck at home feel special.”

—Shanan Campanaro, founder and creative director of Eskayel

Past Perfect

The first 12 summers of designer Kate Davis’s life were some of her best. At the start of each season, she and her parents would migrate from Manhattan to the southeastern shore of Mount Desert Island, Maine. Once there, they settled into Passage West, a six-bedroom, shingle-style cottage built in 1922 atop Ox Hill in Seal Harbor. When her parents divorced, Davis and her mom continued summering in Seal Harbor, renting various places until her mother purchased a house on the edge of Acadia National Park. Still, Davis’s fondest memories hail from her early childhood at Passage West.

In 2019 Davis, the founder of Manhattan-based Davis Designs, learned that Passage West was for sale. She and her husband, who own another historic property on Ox Hill, purchased the decaying 3,665 square foot cottage, which Davis restored for their adult children. “I knew I could bring it back to the home I remembered from my childhood,” says the designer, who feels passionately about saving old houses.

Davis describes the renovation, during which the crew peeled the three-story structure down to the studs, as a two-year labor of love. “Anyone else would have torn it down,” says Keith Higgins of EL Higgins Building and Remodeling. “We spent a lot of time restoring whatever we could—windows with wavy glass, doors that needed to be squared up, reclaimed maple floors—to retain the old character,” he says.

The team also replaced the crumbling stone pillars that hold up the back of the house with steel beams. “The house was literally sinking,” Davis says. “The floor on one side of the [southernmost] bedroom was almost seven inches higher than on the other. The prior owners had taken to propping furniture up on blocks to make it look even!”

The cottage came full of furnishings, including many that Davis remembers from her childhood. As a designer who favors reusing pieces over getting rid of them—she often stores items unwanted by one client to reappropriate for another—Davis challenged herself to use as many of Passage West’s contents as possible. According to her mother, she even put the same faded books back on the sunroom shelves.

Architectural designer Todd Stanley, founder of Downeast Home Design, collaborated with Davis to increase functionality and improve flow throughout the home. The most significant changes on the first floor were to the kitchen, where an ancient stove jutted into the space and oddly angled countertops did little to ease circulation. Finding enough square footage to add the center island was a priority. “We bumped back a wall to steal about a foot of space from the dining room,” Stanley says. The new island provides an expansive work surface, additional storage, and a spot for a single stool at one end.

High-end appliances (“Everything works now!” her mom exclaimed.) and simple white cabinetry with sturdy pulls are obviously updated but not slick or suburban. Granite countertops sourced at a quarry on nearby Swans Island lend a rustic feel and tie to the landscape. “When you look out the kitchen window, you see a big granite mountainside,” Davis says.

In the formal dining room, lobster wallpaper by Abnormals Anonymous references Maine summer-time fare. “We sat down to dinner together every night as a family, either here or on the back porch,” Davis says. “We boiled lobsters, shucked corn, and shelled fresh peas.” Gold fretwork chairs harken back to New Englanders’ taste for Chinese Chippendale style, though these have durable, faux leather seats. The lacquered table on bamboo legs by designer Miles Redd for Ballard Designs is a similar nod, and budget-friendly to boot. “I like to mix in fun catalog pieces,” Davis says.

Original antique side tables and chairs, plus a pair of Asian imported lamps, connect the living room to its roots, while the saturated teal trim infuses a summer-house sensibility and enlivens the mantel. “I have vivid memories of roasting marshmallows in this fireplace,” Davis says. Another mainstay was the old foghorn Davis and her friends used to blow (and drive her parents crazy). Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be found. “I am desperate to reclaim it,” she says.

The sunroom, with its Serena and Lily sectional upholstered in awning stripe performance fabric and its flat-screen television, is outfitted for twenty-first- century families. “There were no TVs in Seal Harbor when I was growing up; they were practically illegal,” Davis laughs. The model ships that the designer returned to the windowsill inspired her choice of wallpaper: St. Tropez by Lee Jofa, featuring oversized sails. “I raced 420 [sailboats] in college and have been waiting forever to use it,” she says.

On the second and third floors, Davis and Stanley rejiggered the layouts in order to create five well-appointed bathrooms. Each have a distinct personality; some retain the original cast-iron tubs. When she was a kid, old-fashioned baths were a point of pride in Seal Harbor. “Houses only had clawfoot tubs; putting in a shower was frowned upon,” Davis explains. That said, at 5:30 p.m., “I’ll be back in 20 minutes,” was a common refrain. “Everyone from the Hill would descend upon the tennis club to shower in the locker room,” she recalls.

The new layouts comfortably accommodate two families. The second floor boasts two suites with his-and-hers closets and attached baths. One has a soothing, seafoam green palette, a gas fireplace, and an original spindle back settee. The other is wrapped in a fuchsia jute wallcovering. Here, Davis paired a mirrored desk with an existing faux bamboo chair that she adorned with a velvet cushion. “I love the juxtaposition of a humble antique against something extravagant,” she says.

“Tibet tiger” wallpaper by Clarence House lines Davis’s old childhood room, where she sometimes spent the night on the attached sleeping porch. Kids who stay here still use the hall bath, a storybook space with pink grapefruit wallpaper and its original cast-iron tub.

There are three additional bedrooms and two baths on the third floor. In the boldly patterned blue bedroom with bright red accents, Davis tucked a float-ing shelf into a niche beside an original iron daybed. Clarence House wallpaper with painterly, multihued trees cocoons the bedroom next door, where she nestled a pair of original iron beds under the eaves. Opposite the beds, a skirted table flanked by original Chippendale-style rattan armchairs accentuates the home’s “generation-after-generation summered here” vibe.

Unused attic space on that level became a cozy twin bedroom lined with wallpaper picturing silly dogs atop blue and white stripes. The headboards, upholstered in a Lilly Pulitzer print, hail from Davis’s stepson’s former bedroom in New York. One of her sons created the paintings over the beds. “Using children’s artwork is effortless,” the designer says. “If you frame it with a mat, it looks like a Matisse print.”

Davis reinvigorated the cottage, making it fun while maintaining its essence. Although the Passage West of her youth had painted, not papered, walls and rag rugs instead of sisal mats, the timeless patterns and the natural materials mixed with time-worn furniture and unfussy fixtures maintain the aura of the almost 100-year-old Maine cottage. “It’s still the Passage West that we rented, just fresher,” Davis’s mother says. “And, when you walk in, you immediately know it’s Maine.”

Bringing It All Together

Some home design trends that have been taken for granted over the past few decades are starting to shift. Nationwide, the square footage of new builds is a bit lower; lot size is going down. Open plans are losing steam (perhaps working from home has reminded us of the value of walls—and doors that close). And the people designing and building homes are changing too, as more women enter the male-dominated building trades. One could say that Nesting Ground, a Cumberland-based collaborative of three women who focus on highly efficient, small-footprint homes, is out in front of these trends, but as the group’s members describe it, they’re actually bringing back an old-fashioned emphasis on site-specific, community-based design.

Nesting Ground consists of developer and builder Patrice Cappelletti, architect Emily Mottram, and landscape architect Kerry Lewis. As Nesting Ground, they seek to design communities from the ground up, starting with Solar Way, a five-home community in Cumberland that includes Cappelletti’s and Lewis’s homes. “Building efficient structures is one thing, but to build the community, you have to build from the inside out, and from the outside in,” says Mottram. “Thoughtful development that starts on the outside and brings it full-circle is really missing from the building industry. What people want, especially in the last year and a half, is a renewed sense of community. Over and over, we hear from people who wander into the neighborhood: ‘This is what we wanted, but it didn’t exist.’”

The Cumberland neighborhood is situated on 25 acres, much of it wetland and conserved forest, with walking trails where residents are likely to cross paths. “For the approvals, we had to call it a subdivision, but it’s a community,” says Cappelletti. The first structure she built on what was formerly an “irresponsibly harvested” logging property was a yurt, which still functions as a neighborhood hub. Regular community dinners and firepit gatherings augment the unplanned interactions of the homeowners who have chosen to live in this conservation-minded development. Lewis tells me that she and the neighbors across the gravel road leave their porch lights on until they go to bed. “I like knowing that someone is there,” she says. The porches, too, are intentional; “As Patrice always says, we want to bring back front-porch sitting,” Mottram says. “The porches have a reason to be there. It’s not just the traditional vernacular of Maine; we want to make them functional for the energy performance of the home.” The porch roofs and windows are configured to let in light and heat from the low-angled winter sun while keeping out the higher beams of summer.

The three agree that Lewis’s home, called Copper Farmhouse, epitomizes the group’s approach. It was the first collaboration of the three, begun in 2018 after Lewis (a longtime friend of Cappelletti’s) decided to move to Maine from Massachusetts. “It doesn’t work as well without each of us,” says Mottram, who had collaborated with Cappelletti before Lewis joined the team. “We were good at solar orientation, siting the houses, making approachable houses. But Kerry Lewis, as a landscape professional, knows how to bring the outdoors back in.” Cappelletti agrees: “The outside is really important, the feel of how you live outside and inside. Before the design process begins, you must consider the connections between the land, site, and natural surroundings.”

A conventional approach, says Mottram, is to transform the site to enable easier construction. “The excavation contractors want to bring in a lot of fill and build up the land to the house. Kerry says, ‘Why scrape away the natural landscape and bring in fill?’” “It starts with siting the house in the land,” says Lewis. “Where’s the driveway going? What are the views we can create beyond the property that will make the property feel bigger? Picking your head up from the ground so you can see what is beyond is super important. The way we do it is more complicated; it takes more thought, but that’s why the houses feel connected to the land.”

The team’s thoughtful, personalized method is apparent in Lewis’s home, which was designed to serve three purposes in a compact space. For most of the year, she lives there with her dog, Hudson; in the summers she’s joined by her parents; it’s also her year-round workspace (she shares her office with Mottram). “You can optimize small space if you plan for all the things you’re going to do in the space,” says Mottram. Designing a natural flow toward outdoor spaces also makes the home feel larger.

To accommodate aging in place, the home’s entrances are low to the ground: the front door is approached by just two shallow stone steps, and the back patio and gardens are terraced for a gradual descent toward the back of the site. From the front entrance, there is a clear view to a large window at the end of the house, creating a sense of light and space in cozy quarters. The first-floor owner’s suite looks out over raised-bed vegetable gardens (they are tight to the house, says Lewis, so the deer don’t bother them) toward a huge, ancient apple tree at the edge of the woods. It’s just a few steps down the hall, past a small laundry room, to the airy great room. The farmhouse kitchen looks out over the pollinator gardens at the front of the house, while a sleek woodstove anchors the living area at the back. Upstairs, there’s an in-law suite for Lewis’s parents on the west end, and a large office and studio space on the east; separate stairways lend privacy to each space. The home’s energy is provided by a solar panel array located on the garage roof, while heat pumps heat and cool the space and an energy recovery ventilator provides continuous fresh air for the home. The home has everything it needs and nothing it doesn’t. Rather than minimalist or spare, it feels lived-in and comfortable, with the owner’s personality and taste built into every corner.

While they celebrate the success of Copper Farmhouse and the Solar Way neighborhood, the Nesting Ground team isn’t resting on its laurels. They’re currently working on a future neighborhood with the potential for three or four houses, using what they learned from the Solar Way project to be more clear about their aesthetic vision from the beginning. In the future they’d like to build a larger community—perhaps ten homes. In addition, they want to keep shrinking the size, aiming to create comfortable homes in under 1,700 square feet. Their approach requires careful thought, but it’s also, Cappelletti says, instinctive: “Every time I look out, birds’ nests have appeared in the framing, and I just watch them. Those birds knew instinctively where to place their nest, what materials to find, where their eggs are sitting, so their family is safe in the nest. As women, I think we typically have a bit more instinct to create nesting.” Personal and connected living spaces emerge from close attention to the world outside as well as the people who will live indoors. And, between the nests, the invisible bonds of community spread and grow.

Outsiders

Shopping for my toddler daughter is hard. So much of the children’s clothing available is extremely gendered, with hot pink sparkles and crown patterns on the “girls” clothes and trucks, footballs, and monsters covering the “boys” clothes. I’m always looking for sweet, fun, colorful kids’ gear—things that aren’t too dissimilar to my favorite weekend outfits. Artist Rachel Gloria Adams understands this conundrum. She’s a mom, too. “I started Tachee,” she explains of her Portland-based clothing line, “because I knew I was either going to do stuff for myself or for my girls.”

I met Adams in the large space she’s currently using at Speedwell Studios on Forest Avenue. “I don’t take the fact that I have this residency for granted,” she says. “I feel pretty good about it, and I want to make the most of it.” We’re surrounded by examples of Adams’s work in various states of completion. There are black-and-white drawings of flowers in vases taped to the wall, samples of fabric printed with crabgrass green and emerald leaves hung from nails, mural-sized paintings, and a table strewn with kids’ clothes and fabric dolls. Her graphic, cheerful style lends the bare-bones room some joyful warmth, a feeling that is further emphasized by Rachel herself. Dressed in her own hand-painted overalls with a patchwork pattern on the bib, bare arms decorated with tattoos, and her curly hair pulled up into a bun, Adams looks every bit the artist-slash-model-slash-designer that she is.

However, this multi-hyphenate existence is rather new. Up until June 2021, Adams was working a corporate job while her husband, muralist Ryan Adams, made the leap to the artist lifestyle. As a graduate of Maine College of Art and a longtime resident of Portland, she’s not exactly a newcomer. She’s been around, practicing art for years, but only recently has her work been getting more exposure. “As a female, as a mother, and as a person of color, I can see how people like myself could be overlooked,” she says. “But after I had my second child, I decided I wasn’t going to get into a rut.” Over the past year, Adams has been pushing her artistic practice and seizing opportunities that are suddenly bubbling up, from designing panels for a Portland Museum of Art party to modeling underwear, clogs, and apparel. She’s working to increase her visibility, save money for future endeavors, and generally create a sense of freedom and stability in her creative life. “I don’t want to feel pressure to get another corporate job,” she says.

She describes her work right now as “controlled chaos” and her decisions as “strategic.” Adams is branching out in many different directions, but the end goal is always clear. She wants to create. “Painting is my generation activity,” she says. It’s where she finds her best ideas, and it’s been part of her life since she was a little kid. Adams grew up in Massachusetts in a house decorated with framed African mud cloths on the walls and Swedish textiles on the beds. Her mother, Sharon Chandler Correnty, is also a textile artist, but when Adams was young Correnty worked as a middle school art teacher. “When it came time to figure out what I wanted to do with my time, she gave me a stack of art supplies. I haven’t stopped since,” she says.

Although the two women have their own styles, you can see the influence they have on each other. Adams says, “Even now, whenever I need a creative spark, I turn to my mom.” The two of them are doing the Speedwell residency together, which gives them even more incentive than usual to collaborate. In late summer, the mother–daughter team turned Speedwell into a pop-up shop, giving residents of Portland and visitors from away a chance to buy small-batch T-shirts, sweatshirts, bibs, and rattles. Some are adorned with butterflies and rabbits, while others feature abstract linear prints in punchy colors. “My goal is to figure out what I want to wear, and what I want my girls to wear,” she says. “Right now, the studio is a test kitchen for me.”

While Adams plans to continue releasing new seasonal designs for Tachee, she’s also interested in expanding into home goods—just as soon as she finds the right fabric. “This is good, but I think people would prefer cotton,” she says, holding up a printed piece of poly-blend that features a pattern of teal and blue flowers. The print looks like Warhol’s flowers went to Finland for a cold-water swim with Marimekko. It’s bright, modern, and quite Maine. I tell her that I’d buy a pillow with that fabric, and she looks thoughtful. “I hope people like it.” She’ll have to consider it a bit further before she starts manufacturing them for sale.

Visiting Adams in her studio, I feel a bit like I am witnessing a diver about to plunge or a bird about to take flight. A self-described “outsider” to the local arts scene, Adams strikes me as ready for an even bigger audience. The attention has been coming fast and furious lately, and she seems perfectly capable of keeping up. She’s filled with plans—to start quilting, to turn a series of quilts into a series of paintings, to launch a line of clothes for women, to start exhibiting in galleries, to sell baby quilts, to make dolls. She explains that she’s never had a problem melding her fine art, craft, and commerce. To her, it’s all part of the practice. “My brain is always looking for improvements,” she says. “It’s all about smooth systems, and financial success would help facilitate that.” She’s always in motion, always planning her next step. She’s still learning how to say no to opportunities that aren’t a good fit.

But this, too, is exciting. Adams doesn’t want to be “everywhere.” She wants to build something relatively modest: a business that can support a family. I ask her what her big goal is, thinking I’ll hear about her wildest dreams, her pie-in-the-sky ambitions. “My goal is to do this,” she says, looking around. “And only this.” I have a strong suspicion she’ll get there soon.

Adventurer in the Arts | Marsden Hartley

Unlike so many artists drawn to Maine for its arresting landscapes and jagged coastline, the pioneering modernist Marsden Hartley (1877–1943) was born here. A Lewiston native, Hartley had a complicated relationship with his home. Bleak occurrences—his mother dying when he was eight, his sisters leaving him alone to live with their father and stepmother, his 14th year spent working in a shoe factory—caused him to look back on his childhood as a time of great difficulty and loneliness. In a letter to the preeminent photographer Alfred Stieglitz, Hartley once described the sensation of hearing a New England accent as “a sad recollection [that] rushed into my very flesh like sharpened knives.”

Perhaps because of this, Hartley became a lifelong wanderer. “He never spent more than 13 months in one place his entire adult life,” says Bill Low, co-curator of the new show Marsden Hartley: Adventurer in the Arts, which opened at the Bates College Museum of Art on September 20 and runs through November 19. “He loved New York, he hated New York. He loved being in Maine, he detested Maine and its provinciality,” says Low. “He’d go somewhere new and be excited about his work and how things were going, and then a few weeks later he would be despairing and depressed.”

Hartley was also gay, which would have played a part in his conflicted feelings about his place of origin, a conservative mill town where it would not have been acceptable to lead an out gay life. “You see him wrestling with that relationship over the course of his career,” says Randall Griffey, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in a digital interview about the museum’s 2017 exhibition Marsden Hartley’s Maine. “He had a wonderfully rich but complicated and sometimes contradictory relationship with Maine, and I think that’s an experience that so many people can identify with, especially if you’re from one place, you leave it, and you try to come back.”

Developed in collaboration with lead curator Emily Navratil of the Vilcek Foundation in New York City, which houses a collection of wide-ranging Hartley paintings, this new exhibition traces the artist’s lifelong search for inspiration and invention. Thirty-five paintings and drawings are presented alongside a selection of Hartley’s personal effects—luggage tags, photographs from throughout his life, his palette and paint box—as well as memorabilia he collected in his worldwide travels, articles that were either gifted to Bates by Hartley’s estate upon his death or, later in the 1950s, by Norma Berger, Hartley’s niece and closest confidante. The objects, like a cigarette case monogrammed in Berlin, pre-Columbian artifacts Hartley collected while in Mexico, and edelweiss and heather flowers he gathered and pressed in Germany, add context to the works of art, bringing an intimacy to the portrayal of this peripatetic, mercurial artist.

“Hartley lived in Maine, but he also lived in Berlin, in Aix-en-Provence, Santa Fe, California, Bermuda,” says Low. “All of these places and the artists he engaged with impacted Hartley’s work and style.” In her essay “Marsden Hartley and the Circus: A Vagabond Family,” Schuchardt Navratil reflects, “As he was a man without a home, the places to which he traveled and the objects that he collected took on an enormous significance for Hartley.”

Over the years, Hartley’s work has become more appreciated, and the Marsden Hartley Memorial Collection at Bates is in increasing demand by modernist scholars and American art historians who come to learn more about the self-proclaimed “painter from Maine.” Like other truly innovative artists, Low says Hartley’s work was challenging for most people in his lifetime. “People had a hard time understanding his frequent stylistic shifts,” he says. “With the increased perspective that we have now, we can connect the dots and better appreciate the evolution of this modernist’s often radical approaches and techniques.” The exhibition will travel to the Vilcek Foundation in New York City in fall 2022.

Stay in touch!

Join our email list to stay updated on all things Maine; food & drink, events & festivals, home & garden and much more!

X