One With Nature A Blue Hill home designed to fit its surroundings
When architects meet with clients, the wish list of design characteristics and functions that follows is known as the architectu
The site had all the makings for an idyllic Maine home: plenty of sunlight, a forest of oak trees, and stunning ocean views. A Blue Hill couple acquired the valuable property and then contacted Elliott Elliott Norelius Architecture, seeking a year-round retirement home that would incorporate each of the site's natural features. They envisioned a modern design, one that would further blend into the surrounding environment with each passing year.
Inside the connector.
The firm, and especially project architect Eric Reinholdt, rose to the challenge. The result lies nestled into the oak forest of this narrow wooded site, with close to 300 feet of shoreline at its base. "Our main concern was that the structure fit with the land and topography," says Reinholdt. As a result, the residence descends toward the water, sloping downward with an almost gravitational pull. The exterior features a wide array of material, from Eastern White Cedar shingles for the sidewalls to the Western Red Cedar roof to natural copper flashing to local granite, all designed to weather at different rates. The idea, says Reinholdt, "is that the structure will slowly blend into the surrounding environment over time." When it came time to build, the architects selected Douglas Fir, a heavy timber. "We wanted to show the structural system as distinct," according to Reinholdt.
The architect helped guide the couple through the preliminary design process. "We presented the client with three design options," says Reinholdt. "The first was the traditional, shingle-style Victorian home. This is the design people most often associate with the coast of Maine. The second was the complete opposite, a highly contemporary model. The third was a hybrid
A view of the connector from outside.
of the two styles." The couple eventually chose the second model, though Reinholdt points out that the design became a "sort of a hybrid in the end." The client wanted to have large expanses of open, column-free space and five bedrooms to accommodate their extended family.
The structure consists of three separate shed volumes, which total about 6,000 square feet altogether. The two-story wing on the north side serves as the private area, with a media center, library, master bedroom, and bath on the first floor. The master bedroom opens up onto a spacious deck with clear water views. The second floor features four bedrooms, which Reinholdt says "are all spatially similar, but still very different. Some are inwardly focused, while others have more of a view." Reinholdt points out a common desire of many people looking to build a coastal vacation home in Maine: every room must have a water view. However, "this was not the case with this client." In one of the guest bedrooms, for instance, a large window nicely frames the surrounding oak trees.
The southern elevation.
The lower volume to the south serves as the public gathering space. When you arrive in the entryway, you step down into the public arena of the home, entering the kitchen, then the dining room, and finally the living room. "You step down every couple of feet toward the water," says Reinholdt. The living room features vaulted ceilings that reach twenty feet. These two wings make up about four-fifths of the overall square footage. Linking the public spaces to the private is a glass connector, sandwiched between a stone terrace to the west and a moss garden to the east. Finally, the garage and shop burrow into the land against the north side of the site, acting as a privacy screen to the entry court. Stone walls run perpendicular to the structure.
The western elevation.
The ideal design is one that can be successfully implemented. Using the tight-fitting windows as an example, Reinholdt points out, "it can be difficult to make things look simple. These are easy things to talk about abstractly, but when it comes to implementing them, you can run into issues." Despite changes along the way, this finished project blends admirably with its surroundings. The home, by its very structure, slides down toward the sea, pulling its residents along like a welcoming tide.