The House of His Dreams
A radical lakeside home uses technology and bold design to reinvent the Maine camp experience.
- By: Joshua F. Moore
Photography by Kate Sfeir
Most Maine camps seem to have a built-in greeter. Golden retriever, yellow Lab — the breed doesn’t much matter, the point is that your Maine dog is there to greet you when you come in from the driveway or woodshed.
Stepping into the entryway of Nate Chapnick’s camp on Damariscotta Lake, I expect I might receive just such a tail-wagging hello. But instead of a panting, slobbering furball, I am met by Roomba, Chapnick’s tiny, automated, electric vacuum cleaner that silently patrols the one thousand-square-foot cottage. While Chapnick’s home speaks the language of the Maine camp, it uses a vastly different dialect than we’re used to. The hallmarks of a camp are all here — an open living/dining room and single bedroom below, loft above, and a palpable connection to the natural world outdoors — but they are conveyed through modern design and materials and an even more ultra-modern array of technology.
“I travel two hundred thousand miles a year, so when I come ‘home’ I want to be surrounded by Maine, to be in a place where I can feel grounded,” says the twenty-seven-year-old Chapnick, who works as senior editor of a luxury magazine based in Atlanta, where he also keeps an apartment. “But I’m also a bachelor, and I love music, so I wanted to basically have a big space for dance parties. And I wanted to be able to sit anywhere in the house and control everything.”
“You can see why some red flags went up when I met Nate,” chimes in Marc Lorraine, the Rockport-based contractor Chapnick approached in 2007. Lorraine says Chapnick, who had gone to Camden Hills High School with Lorraine’s children, cornered him at the supermarket with questions about turning his dreams into a home. “All his ideas were so crazy you couldn’t possibly put them all into one house. But over the canned goods at Hannaford, I got a feeling for the direction he wanted.”
Chapnick says that he approached a contractor instead of an architect because he wanted to stay in control of his dream home project. “I didn’t understand how you could draw something on paper and then hand it off. I wanted my ideas to be mine,” he says.
Specifically, those ideas were for a Scandinavian-style home no bigger than one thousand square feet that utilized green technology, but without sparing the dazzling luxurious touches that Chapnick has come to know through his magazine work. An integrated sound system, connected to an iPod/iPhone dock and controllable from anywhere in the house or even the world? It’s here. LED lights under cabinets, stair treads, toe-kicks, and the granite kitchen bar? Here — and their colors can change, depending on if you’re in a blue mood or a red one. How about a five-spigot shower that drenches you in a whopping twelve gallons per minute? Nate designed it and Lorraine installed it, even though it meant drilling a separate well just to handle the demand. Mantis gas fireplace, Wolf stove, Sub-Zero refrigerator, twin on-demand Noritz hot water heaters — everything a discerning homeowner could want, and it’s all tucked onto a twenty-two-by-thirty-four-foot foundation, nestled in the trees precisely a hundred feet from the water’s edge.
Designing a structure that would hold all Chapnick’s gadgets without breaking his budget or his criteria was no small feat, and Lorraine says his drafting efforts were guided in part by Maine’s shipbuilding heritage. The intersecting round roofs, for instance, are framed with stock trimmed on a giant router arm in Lorraine’s shop, then trucked to the job site and lifted into place like the giant ribs of an upside-down ship. Corbond spray-in insulation provides an energy-efficient, airtight wall, while the curved standing-seam galvanized roof sheds snow and requires no upkeep. Similarly, the Pac-Clad metal exterior siding is maintenance-free. Inside, to comply with Chapnick’s request that only natural products be used, the walls and ceilings are covered in birch plywood that extends right to the window jams — no trim whatsoever was used. Floors are of reclaimed maple.
“I didn’t want the house to be Quonset hut-looking, so that’s why we have the two curved roofs that intersect,” Lorraine says, pointing above the twelve-by-twenty-two-foot loft, which includes two queen beds. “You can build crazy stuff, but it has to be livable, and I wanted to make sure that this house was still ‘cool’ ten years from now.”
Equally important in Maine, of course, is whether such a modern, “hip” structure — especially one that includes booming, wall-mounted speakers on the wraparound deck outside and fourteen halogen lights tucked into the soffits — will fit into the landscape around it. “I haven’t heard any gossip about that house,” says Alan Railsback, executive director of the Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association. “We tend to like people to keep a low profile around here, but what really gets people upset is when someone comes in and clear-cuts the shorefront, which he didn’t do.” Likewise, Carol Newbert, whose family owns and operates the campground that borders Chapnick’s property, says the young editor (who also happens to be her brother-in-law’s stepson) has been a good neighbor. “It’s really tasteful,” she says. “It doesn’t pop out.”
This young man’s new home might be ultra-modern, in other words, but its attitude is old-fashioned Maine. Minus the dog.
- By: Joshua F. Moore