Eclectic Homes

Modest, Modern and Zen Cabin in Maine

November 28, 2018

An energy-efficient contemporary cabin on a small Maine lobstering island is not a common sight. For many years, a few had a rustic seasonal cottage on Spruce Head Island that they appreciated on weekends. After residing in the nearby city of Rockland, they decided to construct their dream year-round residence on their cottage property. Enter architect Carrie Shores of Larson Shores Architects, that had a local clinic and had become friendly with the owners as fellow small business owners (the wife possesses a spa in city).

The couple had a few crucial priorities. They desired to live only in a modest home with an open floor plan. While they wanted the house to have a small footprint, it still had to support their lifestyle and satisfy their needs. They desired to float lightly on the property and create an energy-efficient home. While they loved a minimal Zen aesthetic (think Japanese teahouse), it was very important to them to honor the architectural traditions of this lobstering island, that is populated by small, simple cottages. Shores worked hard to incorporate all these variables in the house’s design.

at a Glance
Who lives here: A few interested in living only
Location: Spruce Head Island, Maine
Size: 1440 square feet; two bedrooms, 1.5 baths
That is interesting: The owners saved some timber from an old apple tree eliminated during construction to make a mantel.

Larson Shores Architects

This is the side that faces the view out to the lobstering harbor and beyond. Even though Shores perserved the site as far as possible, it was necessary to dig out a new septic system. The siting of the resulting berm beneath the tank helps enhance the perspective, since the area in between the house and the coastline has a great deal of busy commercial lobstering activity along with the berm cubes this less picturesque portion of the view.

Larson Shores Architects

A slatted ipe fence generates backyard privacy whilst still permitting the house throughout the street to keep its view of the harbor and islands.

“The difference in the angles of the sunlight change radically from summer to winter,” explains Shores. She researched this carefully and sized the overhangs to give summer shade whilst still allowing sunlight to create its way into the house in the winter.

Larson Shores Architects

In the living room, the concrete floors receive heat through the winter sun and radiant heating. Shores set built-in window seats in prime areas for enjoying the heat, the sunlight and the perspective. The chairs have storage area beneath.

The concrete floors “are stained a rich brown that has a mottled, leathery look,” says Shores. Attention to substances was paid at the house’s overall aesthetic.

Paint: Harmony Sassy Green, Sherwin-Williams

Larson Shores Architects

“When planning small space, think of what you have and where it’ll go, and design to your everyday life,” advises Shores. “I invested a great deal of time talking with my clients about what their lifestyle looks like and figuring out exactly what their storage needs is.”

Case in point: Shores utilized every inch she could beneath the staircase. The black square you see is the entrance to your built-in dog bed. On the left of it’s a half-bath, concealed behind a pocket door.

Cabinets: Ikea; counters: Corian; paint: Harmony Simply White, Sherwin-Williams; appliances: Energy Star rated

Larson Shores Architects

The floor on the stairs and upstairs is quickly renewable bamboo.

Larson Shores Architects

Moving upstairs, the ground plan consists of four quadrants that have a central pivot point. You will find pocket doors that remain open once the couple is house to keep an open feeling, and may be closed for privacy when they have business. The couple uses one of those quadrants as a guest room and a home office.

Larson Shores Architects

The floor plan provides a very clear idea of how the design works well within the house’s small footprint. Upstairs you may see how the pocket doors operate within the plan.

“I worked hard to make sure that the house looks bigger than it’s,” says Shores. “Another way I did so was to force people to move from 1 room to another on the diagonal, and I sited windows and doors to coincide with those diagonals.” To see an example of the in the design, look at the first floor; the entry door is in the bottom right corner; you can sense the strong diagonal perspective and path through the living room to the kitchen at the top left corner.

Larson Shores Architects

This is the view from the master bedroom’s bed. There is another important set of custom-designed built-ins that provide storage, screen space and seats. The door leads out to the upper porch.

Larson Shores Architects

Being on the upper porch feels like being one of the island’s osprey, nesting up at the spruce trees.

Larson Shores Architects

“We wanted to attract the rich warm timber into the bath,” says Shores. Thus, exactly the same ipe from the decks has been utilized on the ground and up the face of the bathtub.

Floor-to-ceiling Engineered glass mosaic tiles create the full bath feel bigger, as does the uncluttered Corian countertop with wall-mounted taps.

Larson Shores Architects

Another important aspect of the design was respecting the local architecture. The island is full of shingled cottages, therefore Shores utilized cedar shake shingles that were pretreated to look weathered.

The more minimalist windows, black trim, black roof and uncluttered inside meet the clients’ love of a simplified Zen lifestyle and aesthetic.

Having trouble making out the house in this picture? That is the stage ; I took this picture soon after the house was constructed while standing down at sea level and looking up at it. It shows how well the outside fits in with another rooflines, the trees and the site.

Larson Shores Architects

A big part of appreciating this property is being outside. Porches and windows have been sited to take whole advantage of the sea breeze. A balcony stacked atop a screened-in porch has spectacular views from the refuge.

The decks have been constructed from ipe wood. The ceiling over the upstairs is tongue-and-groove stained plaster, that adds interest and character.

The Maine House
Fairy Houses

See related