It began, in part, with the porch. After consulting with our clients’ during their extensive hunt up and down the Maine coast for the perfect property, they found a possible contender in a seaside town near Portland.
The 1990s builder-grade home offered the right square footage, prime frontage along a sandy beach, and good bones but basic finishes. At the initial walkthrough meeting, Knickerbocker Group provided an early vision of what the house could become. The intent was to honor our clients’ connection to Maine by giving the home the sense of history that it deserved, taking design inspiration from the grand cottages of Bar Harbor. The floorplan would be reworked, wainscoting would replace drywall, and the home’s narrow, eight-feet-wide porch—where everyone at the meeting was currently squeezed into—would become wide and sweeping, fitting for a home situated by the sea.
Knickerbocker Group set out by carefully examining every space and designing it for how our clients, who have children and grandchildren, planned to enjoy it, as well as reorienting the rooms toward the water. The front staircase was relocated so that blue ocean is visible immediately in the entryway, drawing guests inside, and the back staircase was removed in favor of an elevator for aging in place. The clients frequently entertain, so a butler’s pantry with custom cabinetry replaced the breakfast nook and the dining room is now conveniently off the kitchen.
The team also raised the garage roof, transforming what had been an attic crawl space into a modern-traditional bunk room and dining/kitchenette where the homeowner’s children and grandchildren can comfortably stay. The full-size bunks, like berths on a boat, are outfitted with curtains that can be drawn for privacy, while the dining area is a cozy spot for rainy day crafts, early breakfasts, or late evening chats. Wood beams and beige whitewashed nickelgap, narrower on the ceiling than on the walls, add vintage charm.
The design team oversaw every single selection in the home, from the window drapery right down to the flatware. The overall palette is one with rich patina and historic hues, and the home is outfitted with local hand-painted tiles, a mix of antique and contemporary furniture, heirloom-quality rugs, and custom built-ins with leaded glass and hand-forged ironwork by local craftspeople.
The study/library has a game table found at a nearby antiques store, new velvet chairs, and a mirrored pendant that bounces light around the room. The mix of plaids—in linen, wool, and velvet—create a sense that, although the home is on the water, it’s a place for all seasons, not just summer.
Understanding the importance of a functional, hard-working mudroom in Maine, the architect and senior interior designer borrowed space from the garage in order to fit an island with cozy nooks for dog beds, a dog wash station, washer and dryer, and cubbies for every family member. The deep blue monochrome palette feels both enveloping and modern.
The house’s existing turret lacked purpose, so Knickerbocker Group, at the bequest of the client and inspired by historic widow’s walks, added a metal catwalk so that one could safely scramble outside to experience the landscape. A walnut floor inlaid with a cast bronze compass rose—hoisted up and in through the newly added exterior doors—points to the four directions.
A third-floor, former storage space, now insulated, is a whimsical playroom awash in purple and gold—an homage to the clients’ alma matter, Louisiana State University. The end tables on either side are inset with secret hiding cubbies for the children’s treasures.
The smell of chlorine was noticeable throughout the original home, so Knickerbocker Group mitigated it with updated systems. The pool deck was extended to create more sitting room so that the clients can watch their grandchildren swim, and an Old World-feeling folly—in fact, a sauna—seems as if the pool were built around it.
On the lower level, a vintage 1940s wooden boat, one of the clients’ passions, is transformed into an elegant bar. “So that it didn’t feel kitschy, we used natural, authentic boatbuilding materials and left original details intact—the lights still work—so that it’s nearly impossible to decipher what was added and what is original,” says the architect and senior interior designer of the project. Artfully mounted, it seems to float in the air.
Now in their new home, the clients’ daily life often begins and ends on the expansive porch, one of the original catalysts for the project. “The clients practically live out there,” says the architect/senior interior designer. “They’re always out reading a book, chatting into the evening, or just soaking in that view.”