A Labor of Lumber
A Freeport home combines summertime nostalgia, elements of surprise, and eye-catching wood details
Like the famous Blue Swede song goes, builder Kirk Goddard was hooked on a feeling. It originated from boyhood summers spent at an 1800s-era camp on Squam Lake in New Hampshire. It was a recollection of childhood—a combination of nostalgia, the outdoors, and summertime magic—that Kirk carried with him until one day when the memory began to manifest itself into reality. It all began when he was out hunting on Wolfe’s Neck peninsula in Freeport. Chasing a deer across an estuary of the Harraseeket River, Kirk came upon a steep ravine filled with ferns and oldgrowth trees, where sunlight filtered down through thick hemlock branches and an old logging road wound for almost a mile. Enchanted with the spot, Kirk promptly drafted a letter to the landowner, eventually convincing her to sell him 50 acres.
At first, Kirk left the waterfront spot untouched and built a home higher up the hill. He and his wife, Kathy, who have two grown daughters, thought they would eventually build a summer cabin closer to the estuary. But after thinking about it more, Kathy suggested making the cabin a place they could live year-round and then selling the first home. With those plans in place, Kirk designed a 2,000-squarefoot home with three bedrooms and two baths. Its waterfront location, toward the bottom of the ravine, meant having to blast a steep driveway. As a visitor, descending the steep pitch has a transporting effect. “It always reminds me of going back in time, because it’s old growth and there’s nothing here but nature,” says Kirk. Also adding to the feeling of its remoteness was the fact that Kirk spent hours on ladders and climbing trees, scoping out the ideal elevation to best capture views of the estuary with nary another house in sight. Now the cedar-shingled home seems neatly settled into an untouched landscape. “When we were finished doing the excavation, we wanted everything to go back to what it looked like in the beginning,” Kirk says. “We even saved most of the ferns and created a garden with them.”
While the main goal of the home was to celebrate its setting (“The nature is the real wow,” says Kirk), a secondary goal was that guests would be pulled from room to room by continuous “wow” moments. The first of these happens immediately upon entering the home. The foyer features 8-inch square tiles, not in porcelain or ceramic, but—rather surprisingly—in wood. The end-grain tiles were made from 4-foot-long, 12-inch-square white and red oak beams that Kirk salvaged from a shipyard, where they supported submarines that were under construction. The planks were then milled by Fat Andy’s, and Andy Walsh of Custom Interiors did the design and installation of the tile. (Walsh consulted on all the woodwork in the home.) “We took the planks and ran them through a band saw, slicing off the ends instead of the side like you would normally do to make lumber,” he explains. “The ingrain tile is real tricky to do, because the wood shrinks. I had to cut it, stick it all, and let it dry for months. Then I had to go back and recut it, because when the wood dries, it warps, so it’s not square anymore.” The resulting effect was well worth the effort. The tile is a rich chestnut color that feels warm and textured underfoot, almost like well-worn leather.
Off the foyer is the kitchen, where “wow” moments include cast-zinc countertops and cabinetry inset with birch bark. Birch cut from the property also appears on the stairway off the kitchen and as columns between the dining and living areas. (The trick to preserving the bark, Walsh explains, is cutting the logs in the winter when the tree is dormant.) “The birch logs give it a historical vibe even though it’s a modern build,” says Kirk. “While there are a lot of artistic components in the house, these feel like they’ve always been here.”
Additional artistic elements include two adjacent feature walls in the living area, each with a distinct look. On one, Kevin Wright, an artisan who works for the Heritage Company, wrapped the fireplace surround in hammered copper from the floor to ceiling. It also includes a niche for storing wood—a functional addition that adds warmth and sparkle. On the other wall, above a built-in that holds the television is a three-dimensional wall collage that uses the same salvaged shipyard wood. Designed by Kirk and Tom Esty of Ian Smith Custom Carpentry, the textural installation feels like a Brutalist piece of sculpture. Other “wow” moments around the home include an outdoor shower tucked behind an upended tree root, industrial glass pendants (also salvaged from the shipyard) on the porch, and live-edge, western red cedar clapboards reverse shingled on a hip ceiling in the office, creating the effect of looking up at an inverted pyramid built of wood.
With so many eye-catching details, Kirk didn’t want them to wind up feeling disparate. Walsh suggested going with wood walls and ceilings that had minimal grain as a clean, simple backdrop. While knotty pine—named for its numerous knots—is typically found in a traditional camp, it’s visually busy. “Knotty pine tends to grab your eyes, and you cannot look away from it,” says Walsh. “We went with clear pine because it allows you to see the other stuff.” Even more unconventional are the home’s ceilings. Typical cabin ceilings are made with edge-and-center bead or V-match pine paneling, but that wasn’t the vision that Kirk was after. He wanted something sleeker, something less rustic. Walsh had the novel idea to use flooring on the ceiling, including Douglas fir, Australian cypress, and clear maple. The look is seamless, without any sort of groove between the panels. “It made it dramatic but clean,” says Kirk. “Even though it’s a camp, it’s a modern camp.”
Like most camps, its purpose is to enjoy the outdoors. To that end, Kirk designed a wraparound screened porch and deck. At 840 square feet, it’s almost half the size of the entire home, and because it’s off the downstairs living area, it creates an easy sense of indoor–outdoor living. (Besides being the location of numerous corn hole games, the deck was designed to be strong and large enough to double as a dance floor for 50 people at the upcoming wedding of the couple’s younger daughter.) Given his focus on the outdoors, it’s no surprise that the screened porch is Kirk’s favorite room in the house. “Even when you’re inside you’re outside,” he says.
And while new memories are constantly being created—the couple enjoys playing fetch in the water with their daughter and son-in-law’s Labrador and taking their boat out at high tide—before all this was here, there was another memorable moment. This one happened when Kirk and Kathy were living in the house higher up the hill. Out the window one morning, they watched as a trio of deer ambled by, not far from where the deer had led Kirk years earlier. This time, what caught their eye was that one of the deer was white with spots (“It might as well have been neon,” says Kirk), a type of deer known as a piebald. Seeing one is a rare occurrence, the stuff of myth and legend. Some sort of sign perhaps? Kirk doesn’t begin to muse, but he did find ample inspiration in the sighting. The name they’ve given to their rustic-modern home? Piebald Point Cabin.