Project: Maine Coast House
Architects: Marcus Gleysteen Architects
Landscape Architect: Emma Kelly Landscape
Structural Engineer: Roome & Guarracino LLC
Principal Architect: Marcus Gleysteen
Project Architect: Maggie Baratz
General Contractor: Bowley Builders
Location: Kennebunkport, Maine, United States
Area: 4500 ft2
Photographs: Trent Bell, Marcus Gleysteen
Set between saltmarshes and bedrock beach, Maine Coast House is a multigenerational residence for a retired couple with grown children. The original brief asked for a sculptural home that juxtaposes rather than conforms to the landscape. The design direction ultimately evolved from the former into the latter. Taking inspiration from informal harborside structures found along the coast, the volume of Maine Coast House is carefully broken into parts that fit naturally into the rocky setting.
The narrow, rugged site has been used for vacation homes since the nineteenth century. Although occasionally pummeled by saltwater spray, the land is guarded against waves and erosion by an underwater shoal located a quarter-mile offshore. A key goal of the siting was to take advantage of the entire landscape, including a garden on the landward side. This area is protected from ocean winds and collects afternoon sun, creating a relaxing, sheltered environment in contrast to the rawness of the wilder surrounding coast.
The exterior manifests the inherent practicality of northern coastal villages. In this region, the shore is dotted with lobster and fishing shacks that use granite foundations to support cedar-sided structures. These simple, hardworking buildings hold their own against the overwhelming capacity of the tides and weather.
By dividing its volume into segments, Maine Coast House maintains a manageable scale that integrates easily into the surrounding vernacular. All daily activities take place on the main floor, along a line parallel to the sea. Anchored by a fireplace at one end and the main bedroom at the other, the interior is arranged as a series of intimate, usable spaces that nonetheless feel generous and airy. Guest spaces are elevated and situated perpendicular to the sea: out of sight and out of mind. The result is a comfortable home for two that magically expands for visiting family.
Many waterfront homes are one-sided, with every focal point leading back to a single view and little thought was given to the rest of the house. Using natural light and visual emphasis, Maine Coast House offers balance. Floor-to-ceiling windows open to the magnificence of the site while an enwrapping steel frame imparts a sense of enclosure and protection. Throughout the interior, clean geometries and a pleasing pairing of warm wood surfaces with cooler planes of white make the house a calming refuge.