Maine Home & Design Articles
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The house sprawled languorously along a sandy beach and commanded a promontory overlooking blue ocean that stretched to the horizon. The shingle-style demeanor gave it a quintessentially New England coastal cottage aspect. From the outside, at first glance at least, this 12,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home on the southern Maine coast appeared to be just what this fifty-something couple wanted in a second home.
A few years ago, a Maryland-based couple started looking for a home in Maine. Their youngest daughter was living in Portland, newly married with a small baby; with three other daughters and a growing flock of grandchildren, they wanted a place where the family could come together by the water and where they could eventually retire.
A few years ago, Stephen and Victoria Gilbert were living in a small townhouse in Auburn, near the offices of their branding agency, Anchour, while they looked for the right place to build their home. They had a good sense of what they were after; both Stephen and Victoria are trained and practicing designers. “I’ve always valued design and thought a lot about its influence on spaces,” says Stephen.
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.
Do you remember what your home entertainment system was like in 1990? Tape decks and turntables, big speakers, massive tube TV’s, and lots and lots of wires. When Steve Tucker founded Tucker & Tucker three decades ago, the World Wide Web was brand new and the iPhone was 17 years away. In the last three decades, innovation that impacts how we listen to music, watch television, enjoy our homes, and stay connected has advanced at lightening speed. Tucker and Tucker has kept pace with the latest lifestyle technology, offering sophisticated solutions for homeowners and commercial clients while also ensuring that a high level of service is always at the forefront.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Paige and Chris Hill to tear down their early twentieth century shingle-style house on Kennebunk’s Lords Point and start from scratch. On the contrary, they had every intention of preserving the beloved oceanfront residence that was home to Paige’s late grandparents. “I spent every summer there for as long as I can remember,” says the Florida-based Hill, “so it was a very special place with a lot of memories.” The idea of rebuilding came up a few years ago…
Several years ago, when Warren and Kristin Valdmanis bought their first beach house in an exclusive community on the southern Maine coast, “We were advised to tear it down and start from scratch, which we did,” Kristin recalls. “We were young and didn’t see value in all the twists and turns of an old house. We had really young kids, and we needed something that was ultra-functional.” Fast-forward to 2016. Thinking of it as an investment property, the couple acquired another beach home, this one built in the 1890s, about 10 miles south in another exclusive enclave. “We had deep remorse that we had taken down an original structure with so many memories for the people who had lived there,” says Kristin. “We recognized this house had a soul, and didn’t want bad house karma, so we decided to preserve it as much as we could.”
eowner push her boundaries to find comfort in a small space
February, 2020 | By: Katherine Gaudet | Photography: Erin Little
In 2015, Hannah and Arne Klepinger’s children had left for college, and were starting to think about downsizing from their 3,000-square-foot home in Yarmouth. “I thought it would take a few years. It took a few hours,” says Hannah. The couple looked at eight condos, and the seventh, a compact two-story space on the South Portland waterfront, caught Arne’s eye
Sometimes, you just have to knock down a few walls. When Nicola Manganello bought her sprawling 1760s farmhouse in Yarmouth, she knew she would have to open it up a bit to create some extra space for her family and friends. It’s a gorgeous, stately home, complete with oversize brick fire-boxes designed by New England architect John Calvin Stevens. Some people might blanch at the idea of updating a house like this, but Manganello knows what she’s doing. She’s been in the interior design business for decades, and she’s been a DIY enthusiast for even longer.
There’s one kind of Maine coast view that makes me catch my breath every time I find it: a wide-open expanse of water, reaching off to the horizon. It’s not the most painterly of scenes; for those, better to seek out the sharp, dark cliffs, the soft curves of salt-marsh, the hush and hum of pebbly beaches. But spending time by the open water, hearing it whisper the secret movements of wind and weather from day to day, might nurture an artist’s soul. One such artist has found her way to such a view, and to a permanent home in Maine.
Chris and Brandi Hau take their time with choices. They were living in Boston when, expecting their first child, they decided to move to Maine. “We thought, ‘We want more.’ We wanted land we wanted a place for him to play outside,” says Brandi. Chris is from the West Coast, but Brandi convinced him that her native state was a better choice: “I won the battle of Maine versus California, somehow.” Decision made, they spent two years driving around southern Maine, looking at school systems in range of the Portland airport, which enables Chris’s professional travel. Eventually they found a lot in Falmouth, but a week before closing they found themselves gazing out over the neighboring fields and woods. “It would be nice to have that,” they thought, imagining their kids crossing the fields on snowmobiles. They reached out to the owner and made a deal.
The house was built in the 1920s, but the oak tree had been standing in its place for far longer. The Kennebunk house saw plenty of changes over the years—it was home to Edmund Muskie, former U.S. senator and Jimmy Carter’s secretary of state, as well as a half-dozen other families who moved in and out of the shingle-style beauty, enjoying their summers on the hill. The oak tree stood there through it all, acting, as landscape designer Ted Carter likes to say, as a “great witness.” So when it came time to change the yard, to ease the steep slope and put in a pool, there was one thing no one wanted to touch. The oak, they decided, would stay.
Technically, the couple at the center of this story first saw their house in Wayne online. After that, they had a more poetic encounter: they paddled by in a kayak and saw not the house— which was hidden by trees like all the homes around Wilson Pond—but loons, ospreys, and an old cabin. Later, after they had bought the property, they heard stories. According to one, a hermit once lived in the cabin without electricity, and people flew food in to him, landing on the ice in winter. According to another, the cabin’s summer residents dressed in a tuxedo and gown to celebrate their anniversary every year. Those who went by on boats saw them out on their dock. For the moment, though, the house-shopping couple were simply drawn to what they could observe from the water.
The land had been in the family for a century, but it still stood empty, save for the tall cedars and sticky pines rising from the spongy carpet of moss that blanketed the ground. “I used to look across the bay from my parents’ house and see these trees,” the homeowner remembers. “I wondered, ‘What’s over there?’ And my dad would say, ‘Someday, that might be where you live.’” At the time, the homeowner says, she couldn’t imagine “living in those scary woods.” There weren’t any houses on that coastal stretch; there wasn’t even a road that ran down from the main byways of Harpswell to this particular piece of land. “But my dad had a dream,” she says. “And now we’re here.”
Our experience of a place unfolds through a sequence of moments. We see the light on the water, hear the leaves rustle dryly on the trees, and smell the scent of salt on the air. We approach a place through our senses, and as I pull into the driveway of this classic contemporary Freeport home, designed by architect Gary Lowe of Lowe Associates—Architects in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and built by John Rousseau of Rousseau Builders in Pownal, I enter into a purposefully designed experience, one that was thoughtfully planned to take full advantage of the natural beauty of the Maine coastline.
Ever since the kids were small, this family of four would set off every summer for two weeks of sailing. Eight hours after departing by boat from Cape Elizabeth, they would arrive at their first stop: Tenants Harbor. Two decades later, when the children were finishing up college and the father was retiring from his job as a commercial pilot, he and his wife found themselves back on the Saint George peninsula. There, they began searching for a spot to build a home where they could age in place, and from which they could sail.