Surrounded by oak trees overlooking Linekin Bay, sits this newly renovated artists’ cottage and over 60 years of family history. Knickerbocker Group worked with the homeowners to restore the home and meet their present needs while maintaining its original charm and preserving its heritage.
The home was first built in 1950 by our client’s grandparents, who at the time, were living down the street with their parents in a cottage named Treetops. Wanting a place of their own, they purchased this piece of land and worked with local shipbuilders to construct a home from blueprints outlined on the pages of The American Home magazine. Six decades later and in the middle of winter, Knickerbocker Group retraced their steps.
Early on the team recognized the need to lift the home and put it on a proper foundation, while preserving two elements the homeowners wanted to protect, the living room and stone fireplace. The living room acts as the heart of the home and carrying the weight of the fireplace during the lift proved to be the greatest challenge for an otherwise seamless project.
Lifting the house to a slightly higher elevation also created a unique opportunity to accommodate the homeowners’ expanded program, without compromising the scale of the existing cottage. Given their need for additional space, options within the small footprint were limited to going up, down, or out. By creating an entertainment room below the newly raised cottage, only two small, modest additions were required.
The design team suggested swapping the locations of the kitchen and master suite to create a better layout and flow. With the original cottage in the center, a side addition now accommodates the kitchen and dining room, and a waterside addition on the opposite end encloses the master suite.
This approach left the core of the cottage intact, preserving most of the original framing and finishes, including the water-stained pine on the ceilings that give the home its sense of character. Adding more windows in the living room opened the views on the waterside and made the cottage brighter.
In the master bedroom, the design team added windows with no curtains, giving the homeowners a panoramic view of the water. The owl hanging above the bed, as well as the lobster and crab mounted to the fireplace, are made by Vermont artist, Wendy Lichtensteiger. Down the hall in their son’s bedroom, hangs another piece of wildlife: a metal fish that he built himself.
The renovations gave new life to the cottage and allowed the homeowners’ taste of fine art to shine.
When inside the home, it is hard to find an empty wall. Almost every section of pine act as a backdrop to a piece of art, which gives the home a gallery-like feel. One highlight of the collection is a restored vintage map of Maine that sits protected inside a 300-pound frame. To mount the massive structure, Knickerbocker Group made internal reinforcements to the living room wall. They also installed a set of LED lights to give the map a spotlight.
There is a large woodcut seal made by Maine artist, Keith Rendall that hangs high in the dining room. Facing the seal and overlooking the water is a window seat with three pillows the homeowner felted out of moss-colored fabric. Adorned with acorn and oak leaf patterns, they nestle together on top of fern-colored cushions.
Adjacent to the window seat is a long pine table that was part of the original home. The homeowner’s grandmother used to sit at the table and write letters. When looking closely, she can see her handwriting pressed into the table—a remnant connecting the past to the present home life.
Up the hill, a few yards from the cottage is the art studio—a haven for creation and relaxation. To give both of the homeowners’ space to practice their art, Knickerbocker Group designed an open-plan room with two studios connected by a common area.
The common space allows the couple to come together and read books, research, or enjoy a glass of wine at sunset. Because of the open nature of the area, Knickerbocker Group paid particular attention to the details, such as the exposed timber frame connectors that had to accommodate the double rolling doors or the pine ladder to the loft where they added special features to ensure safety. Another unique detail is the chandelier made by Peter Bloch, the same artist who created the turned wooden shades found in the main house.
Details also drove the design of the two halves of the studio—one for painting and one for felting and dressmaking—to fit each artist’s individual needs for their workspace lighting and storage. Knickerbocker Group built sliding doors that double as show walls that close off the studios from the common area for days when the artists seek privacy. Off the left side of the studio is a screen porch with a set of LED lights to accommodate outdoor painting.
On the other side, is a large island for cutting fabric and felting. Tucked around the far corner is a sewing desk which sits opposite a family heirloom and towards the front doors is another window seat to encourage moments of rest.
The same pine walls that line the main house make up the studio, and smaller details such as branch-like door handles and acorn curtain rods are prominent throughout both buildings. It is these details, paired with the art and family heirlooms, that tie the essence of the main house and art studio together.
In the mornings, the homeowner sits among her felted pillows with a cup of tea and watches the sun rise over the bay. “It’s like I am sitting in a treehouse,” she says. “When I look around the home, I see it as a reflection of all the women who have lived here: my grandmother, my mother, and now me. It is our family touchstone, our sacred space. It is the place we come to let go of the stresses in our lives, to rejuvenate our souls, and to put ourselves back together so we can face another year.”