Built to Scale

Whitten Architects has designed a modest addition to a vintage cape in Unity for Erin French and Michael Dutton of the Lost Kitchen in Freedom. It was the hope of the owners, and design team, that the addition did not detract from the iconically Maine traditional cape. The design replaces an existing addition that no longer meets the clients’ needs and includes a new mudroom, kitchen, dining space, and second-story bedroom suite. This site-specific proposal provides a comfortable chef’s kitchen connected to full-sun gardens, with ample outdoor space to entertain. The new structure honors the existing architecture by matching its simplicity and stature while bringing the home closer to the outdoors. During the design phase, Whitten Architects focused on fostering a sense of continuity from inside to out, creating a dining room within the landscape. Under a pergola and surrounded by raised garden beds, this space takes advantage of the southern light, crafting a perfect summer evening.

Location: Unity
Architect: Whitten Architects
Construction start: Spring 2021
Construction complete: Spring 2022

An Architect Grows in Brooklin

One summer day, the New York architect Gil Scha – fer happened upon this house—an unremarkable modified A-frame in Brooklin. It had red-painted shingles on the outside and orange-stained wood throughout the interior. Still, it was in an extraordinary setting, an irresistible seven acres on Blue Hill Bay looking out to Mount Desert Island, and both the land and the view fortuitously were protected by strict conservation easements. Schafer bought it. “It’s not the house I’d dreamed of, but it was sort of architecturally muted,” he says. And yet he thought, “I can do something with it.”

His lifelong connection to Maine was a powerful lure. He spent summers here as a child and returned again and again over the years, as a renter with his interior designer wife, Courtnay Daniels, and her two teenagers, his stepchildren. “I’d long wanted to get Maine back into my life,” he says, though he had been satisfied with renting—that is, until he found the house he has dubbed Eastwater. “Suddenly my later-in-life plan to spend August in Maine became a mid-life plan,” he says.

Built in 1992, the house did not boast any specific architectural inclination. “It was sort of barnlike if you want any refer – ence,” he says. The design, if you could call it that, contradicted almost all that makes up Schafer’s highly regarded body of work. He is widely known for his refined and elegant historicism, renowned for designing new classical houses and restoring important works of early American architecture.

Here was a challenge, he says, a house “that was not even from a century I work with.” Any misgivings were momentary, however. He knew he could lift it up. Plus, there was the bay, and the view, and seven acres that would offer quietude and even seclusion.

Schafer is particularly known for his ability to adapt the principles of traditional architecture to today’s lifestyle, an approach that is both pragmatic and philosophical. His work has always elevated less tangible architectural values of comfort, custom, connection, and memory as well as more measurable ones such as scale, proportion, and detail—a philosophical approach outlined in the two books he has written on the subject, A Place to Call Home and The Great American House.

Achieving all that was a challenge, both inside and out. The parameters of conservation easements meant that Scha – fer could not increase Eastwater’s footprint, but that did not daunt him. With some deft moves he made the house more compatible with the landscape and gave it a more spacious feel inside.

With the help of the British colorist and designer Eve Ashcraft, Schafer selected a perfect color for the house, and the offending red shingles were replaced with wide-plank clapboard siding painted a far more muted “piney olive green” in the spirit of the Rusticators, who built cottages and camps along the coast of Maine a century ago. As a nod to both modernism and his architectural education (not to mention his love of color), Schafer painted the front door “vermilion-orange-red,” a shade by Farrow and Ball called Charlotte’s Locks that reminded him of the brighthued carpet in Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building at Yale University. Railings on the outside deck (and repeated inside) provide a nautical reference, further connecting the house to its coastal location.

Inside, he painted the ubiquitous (and to Schafer, an eyesore) orange-stained trim work Sea Pearl from Benjamin Moore, a soft and luminous shade of white, transforming what had seemed heavy-handed into an exuberant expression of architecture and structure. He removed the drywall that covered the walls, cladding most of them in white-painted tongue-and-groove board. A lover of bold color, Schafer held back in this house, opting instead for muted hues of beige (C2 Paint’s Paddywack) and blue-gray (C2 Paint’s Dorian Gray). Throughout, the floors are two-inch strips of maple, which were stained. “It made the whole house look like a basketball court,” Schafer says. In consultation with Ashcraft, he painted them the same Sea Pearl white.

Schafer was also able to insert dormer windows on the second floor, opening it up enough to add a small study and create a comfortable guest bedroom. He replaced the inexplicably low windows with much taller ones, infusing the house with light and opening to the intimate yet long views of the bay.

The second-floor guest bedroom, which is tucked into the new dormers, has fabric-covered walls, in a linen print by the British designer Penny Morrison, fitted between the beams “to make it all feel cozy and a little softer.” For the study, Schafer found a skilled refinisher who turned the plywood paneling into faux dry oak intended to look “like it’s been exposed to the weather a bit and has warmth and character,” he says.

Downstairs he opened up the floor plan, creating a great room that flows from living space to cooking and dining. The trussed and beamed great room features two seating areas— one that looks out to the water while the other cozies up to a fireplace. The spacious kitchen has granite countertops, a nod to New England, and bronze cupboard pulls, which like the railings reference the seaside location of the house.

When it came to furnishings, Schafer’s world of Americana just did not feel right. His goal was to be sure the house was “not overdone, not overdecorated” and to “fill it with eclectic, quirky furniture.” He opted for a restrained Danish-inflected midcentury look with moments of eccentricity and some surprises in the mix. Other pieces, many of them of his own design, were new and often made especially for the house. “I thought that, if I’m going to spend every August in Maine, I want it to be a completely different environment.”

He began looking around, sourcing vintage furniture from antiques dealers and auction houses far and wide. Closer to home, an idiosyncratic painted twig chair came from Hudson, New York, as did a midcentury rattan chaise that Schafer discovered at Arenskjold Antiques Art. A high-backed twentieth-century chair and a mirror in the style of Nakashima both came from East Hampton. Still other pieces came from some of the venerable midcentury design dealers to be found in Los Angeles, among them JF Chen, Blackman Cruz, and Orange Furniture. “I love shopping in LA,” says Schafer.

At Blackman Cruz, he found a pair of wicker and chrome chairs from the 1970s with a distinctive look but no known provenance. And from Orange he acquired a 1960s vintage Italian settee. Schafer bought six vintage Wishbone chairs designed in 1944 by Hans Wegner at JF Chen. He was planning to pair them with a handsome, sturdy contemporary table from Crate and Barrel. To his chagrin, he discovered that the older Wishbone chairs were too short for the table (in the past 75 years, almost everything has gotten bigger). Schafer’s solution was to lower the table. Along the way, he discovered that the Wishbone chairs sold now are indeed scaled larger, but to Schafer they were not the same. “I love old things,” he says. “I love knowing that I have something that has been used and cared for by others. Otherwise it doesn’t feel like there’s soul to it.”

At Eastwater, the old is mixed with the new, carefully selected and lovingly positioned. And one thing is for sure: there is no shortage of soul.

By Mountains High

There’s a part of Maine, the part where I live, where it’s not Katahdin that is king. No, down here in the Sebago region, Mount Washington looms large. The New Hampshire peak that towers over 6,000 feet above sea level looms on the horizon, blue and stately, distant and domineering. It’s no wonder that artists have been entranced by its form, but it’s not every day that you see a house designed with the mountain in mind.

Yet that’s what Frank Klepitsch wanted to do for his clients, Don and Mary Ellen Patton. The first time he saw the site, it was December, and there was snow in the air and on the ground. “I didn’t think my plane would land,” says the Chicago-based architect. But it did, and he drove out to the site in the dark, spending the night at a house on the neighboring plot. “When we woke up in the morning, I looked across the lake and saw Mount Washington. I saw the peaks that seemed to dance on the horizon line,” he recalls. Klepitsch turned to Don and asked, “How would you like your roofline to dance with the peaks of the mountains across the lake?” According to him, Don replied, “That would be awesome.” This was back in 2017. It wasn’t until September 2018 that they began construction on the lodge-inspired lake home. First the Pattons had to assemble a team, which included Klepitsch, of Graceline Architecture, Josh Morrison of R.P. Morrison Builders, Jenny Morrison of Morrison Design House, and Mike Corsie of Terrapin Landscapes. From the start, the roofline was a head-scratcher. “The curved roof was the first challenge we saw,” says Josh Morrison. “It was a fun learning process to get the boards to bend the long way.” The answer? Heat. “We were heating the boards until they were like play dough,” he recalls. “It had to be a certain temperature. Too hot and it would be too bendable, not hot enough and it wouldn’t be flexible.” The Goldilocks boards were worth the trouble for Josh and his clients: “It looks super cool. We get asked by builders all the time how we did it, because their clients want something like that, too.”

The roofline is the most clearly striking element of the house, but closer examination of the exterior reveals a number of other interesting details, from the stillshiny copper flashing to fanciful corbels that nestle under the 24-inch overhang. “We have owned vacation homes in Quebec and Montana,” explains Patton. “We’ve had homes in Columbus, Ohio, and Lake Bluff, Illinois. We have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. The first obstacle was getting a house we liked down to the last detail.” The home had to speak to the tradition of lake homes and lodges, to the history of the land as a logging camp, and to the wilderness of Maine. It had to marry the human and handcrafted elements of the region with the raw beauty of the land’s dark forests and speckled stones. “We were thinking about all the things that occurred around the lake over hundreds of years,” says Klepitsch. “The owners are creative, and they really challenged us to make good design decisions about the concept of the house.”

One essential—but tricky—component of this nature-gazing design is located in the long space that has been dubbed “the Lodge Room.” At one end of this space, there are two floor-to-ceiling glass doors that retract in two directions. Originally, Klepitsch suggested installing French doors, but ultimately the team decided not to impede the view and to let the “inside flow out and the outside flow in,” as Klepitsch puts it. “That ginormous door was new for us,” adds Josh. “It’s a lift-and-glide that is flush with the stonework. It all came down to executing that detail perfectly so that the weather wouldn’t come in when it wasn’t wanted.” The result of this painstaking process is a stately living area (complete with reclaimed beams on the ceilings, a moose head on the wall, and a long copper-topped bar) that connects seamlessly with the large boulders outside. “It was important to use a native stone,” says Corsie, “and that all of that stone be from one source.” Fabricated by Rockport Granite and sourced from Black Mountain here in Maine, the steps and patio are marked by a “very unique pattern and color,” says Jenny Morrison, wife of Josh Morrison and designer on the Patton project. “It’s a difficult stone to get, but it’s worth it.”

While Klepitsch and Josh were working to ensure that the Pattons and their guests could easily access the outdoors in a literal sense, Jenny was working to bring nature inside in a more metaphorical way. “I felt that the site had such specific coloring, and I wanted to bring that into the design,” she explains. When the Pattons first started the build, they had talked about a color palette of mustard yellows, deep reds, and greens. For Jenny, this seemed a bit too traditional. “One day, when we were at the design center, I suggested we create a seasonal palette,” she says. “What if the four bedrooms reflected an unfurling of the Maine seasons and the living areas were indicative of the weird in-between periods of the year, those fifth and six seasons?”

This, it turned out, was an agreeable proposition for everyone. Mary Ellen has a particular love for autumn, so Jenny helped fill the owners’ suite with tones that felt “like an homage to the original palette,” she says. The upholstered headboard is a rich ruby red reminiscent of maple leaves in October, and the textiles range in color from light birch-bark beige to dark chestnut brown. Every one of the bedrooms was given a different botanical wallpaper that would evoke the appropriate season, installed on a single accent wall, plus throw pillows and art that features botanical patterns and scenes. “When you look at the bedrooms, they’re very distinct,” Jenny says. “But there is a common theme that runs throughout.” They are also joined visually by the formality and weight of the furniture. While Jenny leans contemporary, Mary Ellen and Don are both a bit more traditional in their aesthetics. The house represents a meeting of minds, where playful cabinetry (designed by Jenny and built by Rondeau Woodworks) uplifts the owners’ suite bathroom, and a graceful, classic stairwell grounds the design in history.

While the past is present in every board of the lodge house, there are little nods to the future, if you know where to look. The Pattons approached this build with dreams of hosting big parties and frequent visitors. Although that’s been put on pause due to COVID, Don remains certain that wining and dining aren’t off the table forever. “We have friends in the United States and Canada, and the house had to be designed to allow everyone in one big space for dining and entertaining,” he says. “We expect our friends will be here as soon as we have a vaccine and people can travel again.” And the house will be ready. On the first floor, there’s a spacious dining room table made by woodworker Tim Hill using sunken salvage logs dredged from Moosehead Lake, and a long copper bar that sits beside the audiovisual center. (“Our kids wanted a full-fledged bar for their friends, and we needed good music and video,” explains Don.) While there are no grandkids to speak of yet, Jenny knew the couple planned to host small children at some point, so she created a sweet little reading nook complete with “fairy boxes” for Mary Ellen. “In the drawers underneath, there are kids’ books from when her kids were younger,” Jenny reveals. “I really liked that she was always thinking about family. We made this as a loving nod.” Whimsical, hopeful, and custom crafted—that’s the house, in a nutshell.

Home on the Lake

For many years, a couple lived in some of the most beautiful places on Maine’s southern coast, with easy access to sandy beaches and rocky shores. But they noticed that they kept driving inland, to the waters of the Sebago region. “I always wanted to be on the lake, for swimming,” says the wife. She started looking for a summer home or camp where they could take breaks from her work as an English teacher and her husband’s job as a physician. “I looked for ten years,” she says. “The woman who was my realtor is now my very good friend, after we spent all that time together.” By the time they had found and acquired the ideal property— a wooded peninsula on Crescent Lake in Raymond—their situation had changed. “We were transitioning from being parents of kids to parents of adults with families of their own. We wanted a place where everybody could come and be together—but not so much house we couldn’t handle it.” Rather than a summerhouse, they began to imagine a home they could retire to in comfort and ease.

After a decade of looking for the right place, they took their time figuring out how to use it. They put out a dock for their canoe first, later added a tent platform and firepit, and then spent two years getting to know the land, thinking about its possibilities and their priorities. Finally, they hired Harry Hepburn of Briburn to design an easy-tomaintain, energy-efficient, and accessible home that would let in water views at every turn. “It’s a modern lake house influenced by Scandinavian design, with simple forms, clean materials and minimal finishes, open space for living, and an uncluttered aesthetic and feel. It’s not a huge house, but it has a lot within it. It accomplishes a lot,” says Hepburn.

After spending so much time on the site, the family knew which views they wanted to see from indoors. From the kitchen sink you look south over the lake; the sun sets behind the fireplace in the great room; the moon travels across the owners’ bedroom. Hepburn considered the site carefully. “There are two things we look at: how the sun moves as it rises and falls, and the way you live in a home,” he says. “As the sun passes over the rooms, they will get lighting all through the day.” The home had to be set at least 100 feet from the curving shoreline, so if it were to accomplish this and also be close to the water, no simple shape would work. Hepburn’s solution was two intersecting volumes: a tall single story to the west that holds the kitchen and great room, and two stories of bedrooms on the east, where they get sunrise light. “When you look at it from overhead, it bends to open up views to the site, create interesting vistas, and bring in natural daylighting. It’s a unique plan configuration,” says Hepburn.

The angles and bends of the home created some interior design challenges, however, especially in the kitchen. The back wall that holds the stove and refrigerator is angled away from the dining and living areas, which occupy a dramatic open space that gives a panoramic view of the lake. In order to transition between the two areas, the quartz-topped kitchen island became a trapezoid. There were other design considerations as well. “The last time we did a kitchen design, we didn’t have grandkids,” says the wife. They now have four, the eldest eight and the youngest a newborn, so they chose materials for counters and cupboards that would be easy to wipe down. Still, they couldn’t anticipate everything. “They love climbing on these drawer pulls,” she sighs.

In order to accommodate aging in place, the owners’ suite forms the first floor of the two-story volume of the home, along with a mudroom, laundry, and half bath. The entry is between the two volumes. “The double-high space at the entry gives an opportunity to create connectivity between the second floor and first floor,” says Hepburn. “There’s a really interesting thing that happens at the entry where you get a glimpse into the great room, a glimpse into the second floor, but you don’t see the water right away. There’s an element of surprise as you get deeper into the house. When you’re redirected to the great room, immediately it opens up.” A slate-floored mudroom with built-in storage and seating is to the left of the entry, leaving the doorway clear of clutter (helped by baskets for boots, just inside the door). The first floor was designed to accommodate wheelchair use, should it be needed, with flat thresholds, wide passages through all the rooms, and grab bars in the owners’ bathroom.

For now, however, the owners make use of the whole house. Upstairs are two guest rooms, one facing east and one west, as well as the husband’s office. A large space above the garage originally intended for storage has become the grandchildren’s playroom, complete with a chalk wall and basketball hoop; it’s sleepover ready with daybeds and a pullout couch. The intrigu – ing shape of the playroom is a result of the home’s unique construction. “The roof forms create the distinguishing break between a more traditional home and a really contemporary home,” says Hepburn. “As you walk around the house the roofs kind of move, and they bend; we looked at the roofs as folding planes. We folded the roof down at the garage to break down the scale of the house, and also draw your attention to the entry at the center of the house. The playroom has a split in the middle, supported by a large steel beam, that isn’t a traditional gable, and it creates a really interesting space.” For visiting family, this means lots of nooks for fort building, reading, and snuggling.

Sustainability was a priority for the homeowners, who wanted a small energy footprint as well as a home that would be easy to maintain, inside and out. “There’s plenty of stuff I can do outside, but nothing I have to do outside,” says the husband, who has installed a substantial garden near the sauna he designed himself. The home is sided in Cambia, a thermally modified wood product that is rot resistant, and trimmed with a product made by Boral from fly ash, a byproduct of coal-burning power plants that resists rot and termites. Furthermore, “We don’t do anything without a rainscreen these days,” says Hepburn; leaving an air gap behind the siding helps it dry out and increases its longevity. Double-stud wall construction, triple-glazed windows and doors, and strict attention to the envelope keep the home comfortable year-round while conserving energy. “We tell the builders, ‘Think of it like a boat; if there’s a hole, you’ll sink and we’ll die.’ We go through and make sure they’ve done a really good job at sealing the house up,” says Hepburn. (A blower-door test showed that the builders, Hughes Construction Company, had in fact made the home shipshape, at just below 1.0 ACH50.)

After a decade of imagining, years of planning, and many months of building, the couple is finally settled into their home (“It’s 99 percent finished,” they note). Their son hopes to be married on the property next spring, and their daughter’s family are regular houseguests. At the end of the long road of design and building, the wife says, they have found their home: “This house has been just a dream. Just a wonderful place to live and congregate. We’re so happy here.”

Tending the Flock

Christina Watka gives a visitor a tour through her eighteenthcentury farmhouse in Cape Elizabeth to the studio where she creates her ethereal installation art. Across the driveway are the scattered remnants of a barn she and her husband, Andrew Halchak, a firefighter, have just dismantled. One day, she says, her “forever studio” will rise in its place, and it will include a music room for Halchak, who is also an accomplished jazz musician. “It’s 1790,” she explains of the home, “one year older than the White House! There’s not a straight angle in the place, which I love.”

Sure enough, the bow in the creamy white ceiling of the studio is immediately apparent. The couple’s children—three-year-old Jack and fourand-a-half-month-old twins Sonny and Lucy— are napping. The only sounds are the buzz of insects and the ribbit of frogs across the road in Spurwink Marsh, which is spectacularly livid with purple loosestrife under a cloudless blue sky. “That marsh is just as important as the studio,” says Watka. “I’m drawn to naturally occurring patterns in nature: flocks of birds, bacteria, blood cells.”

Watka’s installations employ a variety of materials—and a staggering degree of hand work— to convey these patterns. For her Murmurations pieces, she hand-forms porcelain globules that she presses with her thumb, then glazes in different colors and in gold. Her Lightness of Joy series consists of room-spanning mobiles made from brass and iridescent sheets of mica.

Kaleidoscope is a group of assemblages of wavy, variously sized and colored clay discs (stacks of them sit on shelves pushed up against an old Stein – way upright piano the couple discovered in Biddeford). Etsy commissioned Watka to create a ceiling installation at their Brooklyn headquarters, drawn from her Dichotomous Air series, which brings together mica and copper in an endlessly fascinating, ever-changing exploration of light and shadow (another subject that informs much of her work). A jumble of wisteria vines stands in a corner of the studio waiting to become one of Watka’s Root System wall sculptures.

Watka was born 34 years ago in Twentynine Palms, California. “I was always very creatively minded,” she recalls. “I explored it in different ways—through acting, writing, singing.” She was also constantly rearranging her room, an impulse that at least partly led her to enroll at Boston’s New England School of Art and Design for a degree in interior design. After her first year, her teachers encouraged Watka to enter the fine art program. “I was very interested in exploring things with my hands and my body,” she says. “And because of my background in theater, I also wanted to express myself in larger spaces.”

During her four years there Watka met Halchak, who was studying nearby at Berklee College of Music. By graduation in 2009, Watka found herself drawn to the installation art movement that was gaining momentum through artists like Andy Gold – sworthy, Rachel Whiteread, Doris Salcedo, and Tara Donovan. She got a job doing visual displays at Anthropologie, and then, after she and Halchak decided to test their creative mettle in New York in 2012, as district display coordinator for women’s boho clothing emporium Free People (part of the network of stores such as Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters under the URBN umbrella). “My creative brain was always working,” she says. “I felt charged and energized to go home and create my own work.”

Halchak’s mother, a ceramicist and art teacher, taught Watka to use porcelain. While still in Boston, the artist says, “I started looking for opportunities to display my work.” Initially, that opportunity came through 12 Chairs, a home design store on Tremont Street (she is now represented by the design gallery Salon in Beacon Hill). Shots of customers’ purchases from the store often featured a Watka installation in the background. Once these hit Pinterest and design blogs, “things just snowballed” as Boston-area designers discovered her work, Watka recalls. Her first commission, for a Boston townhouse, initiated the Murmurations series. (A murmuration is a flock of starlings, and indeed, these works emanate the graceful motion of birds in midair.) “It’s important to me—even though they are literally adhered permanently to the wall—that my pieces have a kinetic sense and feel as though they could burst into flight at any time,” she explains.

Equally important is Watka’s process, she adds. “Each piece goes through my hands or my assistant’s hands six times—forming, buffing, bisque firing, glazing, a second firing, and then installation. If I’m using 22-karat gold, there’s an extra glazing and firing step.” This might seem tedious, but, she observes, “It’s like a mindfulness practice. If I can get two hours in the studio, a godsend, I can totally recharge by sculpting shapes. Having three kids under three really challenges mindfulness.” Another reason the Spurwink Marsh is important to her: it is a source of natural beauty and calm.

In 2019 the couple moved to Cape Elizabeth to be closer to their families, who had settled in New England. Halchak discovered he loved being a volunteer firefighter and eventually took it up professionally, though he still creates music as well. Watka’s work has evolved considerably since her first Murmuration and now splits pretty evenly between commercial and residential commissions. Aside from movement, she is spellbound by light. Hence her work with materials that reflect and refract it. “I use specific glazes that respond to light by creating shadows and reflections,” she explains. “Mica is reflective, but it also refracts light, and the shadows it creates on the wall are colorful.” She often pieces out her compositions with the aid of a computer, but, she points out, “It’s pretty intuitive. I respond to the space the work will live in. It’s very site-specific. The pieces lend themselves to odd spaces because they work their way around any kind of architecture.”

The Urgency of Getting It All Right

Q. How has your approach to design changed in 2020?

A. So, 2020. The year that tried to beat us all down using every trick in the book. What does design theory do when confronted by a global pandemic? What does design theory say about a West Coast on fire and our state in an extreme drought? A year when thriving businesses are suddenly shuttered and schools closed with little warning? What kind of design theory can survive this onslaught? I think what we have to do is get it all right.

I’m not a particularly deep thinker. I’m someone who believes in action, and in stubbornly trying and experimenting until what you do gradually gets better. Learning from smarter people than you. Writing down lists of the mistakes you’ve made so you don’t make them again. Fairly simple stuff. The design theory we need right now is to be architects of all things at once, a theory of getting everything right at once.

Q. How do we go about that without compromising on behalf of one aspect? I think you’ll need to break it down for us.

A. Sounds like a tall order, right? Isn’t just making a beautiful building hard enough? It must be, or we wouldn’t be surrounded by so many ugly creations. Many architects have spent their entire careers focused only on beauty, since that alone is such a challenging pursuit. At the same time, aesthetics alone has never been enough. We also need the technical and the ethical moving along with us, as equal partners.

If we’re honest, we know why the technical and the ethical get shortchanged in our profession. We shouldn’t be surprised that the invisible might be a harder sell than what our eyes readily understand. Get to “good enough” with our minimum needs satisfied, and technical and ethical excellence often drops away, happily out of the picture.

Q. Any recent projects you feel encompass this philosophy?

A. What is especially strange about our present time of rolling disasters is that architects and builders across Maine are assembling buildings on a daily basis that perform in a way that would be indistinguishable from magic to someone in 1960 (to use Arthur C. Clarke’s definition of “sufficiently advanced science”). Our Ecology School project in Saco will feed 200 people three times a day and shelter them from the weather in every season, powered entirely by the sun. Our Passive House work with Avesta Housing is exceeding our governor’s 2030 climate action goals right now for hundreds of Mainers a year who lack deep pockets, all for rock-bottom construction costs.

Q. Many of us want to build in a responsible way, but sometimes price gets in the way. Can we have high-performance homes without paying higher costs to build them?

A. Home building is expensive, no question about it. However, if you can afford to build a house right now, you can build a net-zero house for the same cost as a “bad” house, as long as you are in for the long haul and not flipping it. We’ve built net-zero homes at all budgets, from affordable housing to luxurious homes so we know that price doesn’t need to be a limitation in any way. A mere 10 years ago the cost might have been beyond the reach of the average homeowner, but the cost of solar panels alone have dropped by 80 percent in 10 years—we are in a completely different time. We wouldn’t see fields of solar going up across Maine if the economics weren’t right right now!

Q. Now let’s go back to beauty. As an editor of a design magazine, I must say form is important to many of us. How do we get form to be functional in a responsible way?

A. Without beauty we’re lost, clearly! It’s just that we don’t have to choose between beauty and function, that’s the misperception. Every shelter magazine regularly publishes features on gorgeous homes that were built for over $1,000 per square-foot that still burn fossil fuels by the truckload (literally, in Maine). I’ve become more convinced it’s because we don’t lust after “better” in all aspects enough, not because of cost or technical skill. We just haven’t decided that the “better” we can all achieve is something we all deserve yet.

We actually have all the tools in hand right now. We know how to design healthy, tough buildings that lift the spirit and delight the eye. We just need to know they are possible and start to want them as much as we lust after all the other fabulous aspects of shelter.

This current moment has surely exposed the danger of that minimal thinking. We have a nation of empty schools and office buildings that we have walked away from out of fear they will make us sick. And what of the hurricanes, fires, and floods? What bare minimum effort will all those buildings expose?

All we have to do is get it all right. Sounds like a fun challenge, doesn’t it?

Honoring History

For years the White House’s Old Family Dining Room has been used for small dinners, working lunches, and as a staging area for large events. When the Obamas were residing in the White House, they wanted to expand inclusivity and diversity within the historic walls. Redesigning the space was the first step. Several contemporary pieces were included into the historically traditional space, including a piece of artwork by African American artist Alma Thomas—a first for the White House’s collection.

“The idea of juxtaposing contemporary paintings into traditional spaces is certainly not novel or new,” says Michael Smith in Designing History (Rizzoli, 2020). “But it was clearly groundbreaking for the State Floor.” Existing furniture, which included a Kennedy-era mahogany dining table with various antique and reproduction chairs, was mixed with a modern carpet based on an Anni Albers’s weaving. A Robert Rauschenberg piece anchored the room’s transformation. Lastly, Smith hung red linen-silk curtains to give a modest eighteenth-century feel to the background.

1. Five-Light Chandelier in Polished Brass by Crystorama // Fogg Lighting
2. Bombé Tea & Coffee Service // Hive Modern
3. Singing Woods by Alma Thomas, 1969, oil on canvas, 25”x25”// Mnuchin Gallery
4. Birch Rug // Company C
5. Buckingham Mahogany Sideboard // Layla Grace
6. Chauncey Side Chair // Ethan Allen 
7. Drake Oval Dining Table // Lexington Home Brands
8. Medium Yellow Roses // Infinity Roses
9. Honeycomb Jacquard Curtain // West Elm

Juxtaposed Style


“Right after our runway show in February, Bryan Barbieri, vice president of public relations for EOS Hospitality Group, contacted us. He really loved the show, loved the L.L.Bean– Mainer point of view, and he wanted me to design the lodge at Hidden Pond. “The pandemic restrictions presented a new challenge—I had to design a space that I hadn’t physically been in yet. I worked closely with Hidden Pond’s design team: Krista Stokes, Louise Hurlbutt, and Gracie Alexander; they were just amazing to work with. I leaned on them to help piece it together, and I’m really happy with the way it came out. The space itself was a great canvas, with amazing Russian oak walls. I used inspiration from the show, such as menswear tweed and herringbone, and mixed in L.L.Bean inspiration with that iconic red and black plaid. We also incorporated orange as our pop of color. When you walk into the space, the first thing you see is an orange door, which helps set the tone for what you’re going to see throughout the space. I also found this amazing original orange George Nelson dresser from 1stDibs. Overall, it’s very chic outdoorsman, but with a cozy cabin feel—and each room has its own vibe.

“A lot of my style is very Americana and classic, but I always try to make sure there’s a mix of sophistication and bohemian. I think that’s really evident in this space because it has everything from wool military blankets to patchwork Persian rugs, and everything is paired with American menswear fabrics: tweed, houndstooth, and herringbone. But the thing I really love is the red and black plaid, which cuts through the space. We re-covered two midcentury modern chairs with the plaid, and to me that kind of epitomizes what the entire state is about. It’s this kind of juxtaposition of modern and outdoorsman and classic, and it’s still vintage even though it feels new.”

—Todd Snyder, menswear designer


Most Thanksgiving tables are not complete without a piece of Pyrex. Pieces made from 1945 through the late 1960s might be the most popular vintage collectible right now due to the nostalgic aspect, price point, and of course, remarkable design.

The origins of this cookware lie in a problem the railroad industry faced in the early 1900s with broken lantern globes. When the lanterns were hot, rain or snow would cause them to crack. Scientists at Corning Glass in New York found a solution to this problem with borosilicate glass that was shock resistant to reduce breakage. It fixed the lantern problem, and globes no longer needed constant replacing. Borosilicate was then used for other industrial products like wet cell battery jars.

After Corning scientist Jesse Littleton’s wife’s casserole dish cracked, he brought home a cut-down battery jar for her to use as a baking dish. She used it to bake a cake and found that it cooked faster in glass, with the added benefit that she could see it as it baked. Corning’s first line of clearglass Pyrex ovenware debuted in 1915 and featured 12 pieces that included casseroles, custard cups, a bread pan, pie plates, and egg dishes. It sold over four million pieces in its first four years of production. The cookware was an immediate success with homemakers who were used to cooking in metal pans and earthenware, which would often retain food smells after washing. For the first time, they could bake, serve, and store their food in the same dish.

Much of this success was owed to great advertising campaigns that appealed to women, with slogans like “Tough as nails and guaranteed!” and “Yes, it’s glass and can break but rarely does.” This is why, during World War II, the U.S. Army contracted Corning to make mess ware that could withstand heavy use. This commission launched Pyrex opal ware, made from tempered soda-lime opal glass rather than borosilicate. Using its prewar molds, new Pyrex products were made out of opal or white glass, sprayed with a bright color, and then printed with over 150 patterns, including the wildly popular turquoise and white Amish butter print, shown here. Pyrex was an all-American staple that promised easy meals, spotless kitchens, and happy marriages.

The cookware was also promoted in movies and on television shows during the 1950s and 1960s. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn’s character, Holly Golightly, uses Pyrex bowls to serve food to her party guests and nameless cat.

With the advent of the home microwave in the 1980s, Pyrex’s marketing was all about calling attention to the fact that Pyrex could be used in the microwave. In 1986, however, U.S. Pyrex opal ware manufacturing was discontinued. Today, clear and patterned Pyrex is still being produced by Corelle Brands (formerly World Kitchen).

Tip: Never ever put any vintage Pyrex through a dishwasher. It is one of the fastest and most common ways to damage your Pyrex, as it will etch away at the color.

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