Tailored to Fit

A studio space makes the most of its zoning limitations

When we first bought our home, there was an old, rotting pool house in the backyard. It was in really bad condition, so we ended up taking it down and replacing it with a studio. My wife, Betsy, had always wanted an at-home studio—she is a garment designer and fiber artist who teaches at the Maine College of Art, and having this space felt really advantageous, not only as a personal studio but also as a guesthouse and a place for our teenagers to hang out.

Due to zoning requirements, the footprint of the studio legally had to be within the parameters of the old pool house. So this long, skinny shape was sort of guaranteed. Studios traditionally have large windows facing north, and our house has a bunch of trees on the south side. We came up with the idea that, if we tilted the roof up, we could get those north-facing windows in and create space for ten solar panels on the roof. The space is really well insulated, too. We installed triple-glazed windows, and in the winter it gets up to 70 degrees without any heat on. It’s also an all-wood building—we used wood fiber insulation, which is made from sawdust and wax and is incredibly nontoxic. We joke that this building is healthy enough to eat.

The interior walls are lined with wood paneling from the Wood Mill of Maine in Mercer. They’re great folks, and they have some really beautiful stuff. Some of the wood on the interior is one piece, floor-to-ceiling—I mean, there are 16-foot lengths of eastern white pine without a knot on them. We also worked with East End Carpentry for framing, roofing, and window installation, but it really became a family project toward the end. Betsy, our kids, and I all worked together to paint the exterior and install the interior paneling. Our whole life is a bit of an architectural experiment, but this has become an incredibly useful space.”

—Jesse Thompson, principal at Kaplan Thompson Architects

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