A House by the Sea
A House by the Sea
When Gil first stumbled upon this house, which sits right at the water’s edge in coastal Maine, it was just by chance. After waiting too long to secure a summer vacation rental, there weren’t many options, but this nondescript near-A-frame—built in 1992 and with almost no architectural character whatsoever—was all that was available and so he took it, planning to spend only a couple weeks there.
But then something happened. As architects do, Gil fell in love with the house. Well, not the house per se, but its extraordinary site.
Gil spent childhood summers in Maine, and then years of renting along the coast as an adult, so he knew that there was something special about this spot. With its stunning view across Blue Hill Bay to Mount Desert Island, the property is set back from the sparsely traveled road by several acres of woods. When he learned the house was on the market, the classical architect surprised everyone and bought a 1990s near-A-frame.
To make this house his own through renovating it, Gil knew he couldn’t create the kind of well-mannered Greek or Colonial Revival he is best known for. So, he took a different approach altogether, creating a surprisingly modern house, but one that is still grounded in his ideas of scale, proportion, comfort, tradition—and memory.
The furnishings, a collection of vintage midcentury modern mostly American and Scandinavian pieces and casegoods, are mixed with antiques and new, custom pieces, bringing a sense of warmth, comfort and inevitability to the entire house. The great room is anchored by two separate seating areas, one organized around the view to the sea for daytime, the other focused on the original brick fireplace and intended to be a gathering place in the evenings. The furniture arrangement creates a sense of intimacy in the expansive, barn-like space, and the eclectic mix of old and new pieces add to the timeworn aesthetic the house has now.
The open kitchen—which was relocated and reconfigured to better connect with the rest of the thirty-by-thirty-foot great room—is well-suited to entertaining and lounging, and takes advantage of the sweeping views of Blue Hill Bay through panoramic windows to the north, south, and east. Discrete, bronze bent-edge cabinet pulls were mounted on all of the kitchen cabinets in an elegantly abstract manner, and the island and base cabinets are covered in large slabs of 2” thick granite, which were quarried specifically for the room and are perfectly evocative of Maine’s rugged coastline.
Featured in the New York Times, Milieu magazine, and on the cover of UK House & Garden
Winner of 2018 Bulfinch Award for Interior Design
New, larger windows bring more light into both the upper and lower floors of the interior—which was reimagined and transformed from it’s original orange-stained wood by a creamy white paint on most of the walls, ceilings and floors. Known for his deft use of color, Gil believed that in this case, a straightforward white palette would be best for maximizing the effects of the magnificent Maine sunlight and accentuating the surrounding landscape. Working with longtime colleague and friend, the color consultant Eve Ashcraft, the two picked a shade that has the subtle warmth of fresh milk.
The addition of new dormers on the second floor created an organic space for a small study on the stair landing, as well as a new guest suite, which boasts a charming window seat, perfect for reading while looking out over the bay.
Gil re-clad the house in wide-plank clapboard siding, painting it a deep piney-olive green that makes it nearly disappear into the surrounding landscape, just as the “Rusticators” had done on the coast of Maine over a century ago. The new deck railings—which mirror those inside the house—are a subtle nod to the area’s nautical past, with their ship-rail inspired design.
A studied mix of classical proportions reimagined from a contemporary point of view, the house has an innate sense of belonging, as though it was always meant to be exactly where it sits on the site—especially during those idyllic days of August, when the sun rises directly over Mount Desert Island and the central axis of the house, almost as though it’s greeting its guests for the season.
Interior Design by G. P. Schafer Architect
Landscape Design by G. P. Schafer Architect
General Contracting by Nate Holyoke Builders Inc.
Photographs by Eric Piasecki, Simon Upton, Gil Schafer III
Styling by Helen Crowther