For years, the owners of this home on the Maine coast had watched as the original house on the site fell into a state of disuse and disrepair. When the opportunity to purchase the property and arrest its slide into oblivion came, they seized the chance and took charge of seeing the historic property restored.
The process of renovating and reworking the old structure into a contemporary home for its new owners was complicated by the state of disrepair and, paradoxically, by the richness and complexity of its history. The owners wanted to preserve as much of that recovered history as possible, but the extensive changes the house had undergone, including multiple stages of deconstruction and rebuilding, defied any simple understanding of what restoration would mean.
When a simple restoration did not seem possible, the owners decided to undertake what previous generations of owners had done – to save and reuse the best of the old and adapt it to the new conditions of contemporary life. Like a “patchwork quilt” assembled out of fragments of discarded cloth, the new home repurposed the old pieces to create an entirely new whole that still honored and celebrated that parts from which it was constructed.
The design of the new addition echoes the straightforward, unpretentious sensibility that has characterized New England architecture since colonial times. Major windows face south, admitting light deep into the building interiors even during long northern winters. Light monitors along the opposite elevation admit indirect north light, with operable windows to help pull breezes off the water and up through the building, and provide support for a large array of solar thermal collectors.
Then there is the large, 300-year old sugar maple that keeps the front of the home in deep shade during the summer. Nicknamed “Horace” by a previous owner, the tree shows up already fully mature in the earliest photographs of the site. “Horace,” the owners hope, will continue to stand sentry over their house as he has done for numerous generations before, linking the past, present and future together – and symbolizing the aspiration for continuity and renewal that guided the creation of their new home.
photography by Sean Hennessy