'Outside, the Yourcenar House is a Good Neighbor'
Houses Designed to Fit the Land
Comfortable with familiar
The photographs show the results of the process we all use to make our dwelling places our own - we fill it with our own stuff. Too often today that means gadgets and high-end appliances and media centers, but the Yourcenar house, which the owner named "Petite Plaisance," is filled with things that stimulate personal memories. It is not surprising in the house of a writer that the main artifacts should be books, on shelves added wherever there was an underused space. Quirky additions done for self-evidently functional reasons, rather than "effect," make the interior look inhabited rather than decorated.
Yourcenar was once asked why she chose to live in Northeast Harbor instead of returning to her native France, to live in Brittany. She replied, "I have my Brittany here." Looking around the rooms full of personal possessions confirms that. We all have our histories with us, and we fill our spaces with objects that remind us of who we are. We may be at home in Maine, but our houses contain evidence of the larger world that is our real home.
The gentle bay of the porch stretches
toward the lawn
Outside, the Yourcenar house is a good neighbor… It is essentially a vernacular gable-end design with a long ell. Its steep roof had been extended down to form a "piazza" along the side, and a bay window of similar Italian origin had been added to dress up the front. In this case the house sits on a town lot in a village, and its ell porch is shaded by an arbor more typical of France than Maine. But it has not been made to look "foreign"; it has just been enhanced by an unobtrusive addition that quietly differentiates it from quite similar neighbors.
The conversation is polite, a chat among friends in which one friend has a slight foreign accent. Too often our streets are either boring, with very similar houses saying nothing of interest, or noisy, with showplace houses crying out for attention. The classic Maine village is like the conversation around the stove in the
The front porch roof a recent addition.
Brian Vanden Brink
- By: Christopher Glass