Art Maine 2017 Annual Guide

Art Maine


“I love the parallels between the artwork—modern abstract expressionism (abstract expressionism being a midcentury movement)—and the home. This project was all about modernizing the midcentury home without losing the essential elements that contribute to its allure. I think the painting, placed in one of the quintessentially midcentury spaces, creates this beautiful parallel between the home and the work of art, both being modern with strong midcentury influence. The feature of a bold, contemporary expressionist painting is the perfect complement to this bold, modernized home.”


On The Rocks

Maine Home + Design

December 2016

Located on the rocky eastern shore of Cliff Island, only a short walk from the last stop “down the bay” on the Casco Bay Lines ferry route, this seasonal cottage is nestled into the edge of the woods and yet lies so close to the shore that you can hear the pebbles rolling out with the tide. The local clients had just closed on this property when they reached out to Kevin Browne Architecture to transform and expand the existing rustic camp into an island retreat that would comfortably accommodate their family. Due to the extent of the renovation, two-thirds of the structure had to be rebuilt and elevated on concrete piers in order to comply with current flood-zone requirements. The new design took full advantage of the 30 percent expansion limit by expanding upward to create three additional small bedrooms. This upward expansion allowed for taller ceilings throughout the first floor. Exposed rafters and V-match pine on the ceilings maintain the rustic charm of the original camp, while modern fixtures and finishes add to the comfort of the retreat. An expanse of windows wraps the cottage and showcases an awe-inspiring view from every space, including views of the ocean through the cottage on the approach from the narrow camp road

Midcentury Makeover

Maine Home + Design

December 2016

Before the renovation, guests who visited the Falmouth home of Ben and Leslie Donovan* faced a bit of a quandary. According to Leslie, “People would text us from the driveway to ask, ‘How do I get in?’” Rather than your standard, obvious front door, the main entrance was hidden: actually the door to the walk-out basement, it was accessed by walking along the garage to the side of the house, and brought guests in through the first-floor family room. Understandably, a clear way to enter the house was at the top of the Donovans’ must-have list when it came time to renovate.

For the Donovans, however, very little could have deterred them from buying this house on the Foreside, just a half-mile away from their previous cottage-style home on Foreside Road. The couple had loved their last house but, as Leslie explains, “When you live on the Foreside, you want to be able to see the water.” Over the years, the couple always kept an eye out for anything that came on the market with water views, but everything they saw was either out of their price range or required a teardown. Then, one day Leslie was walking their dog in a field near the Portland Yacht Club and saw a For Sale sign on a midcentury house with a partial stone façade and views of the water. She ran home and looked it up online. Not only was it still on the market, but it was in their price range. The couple called their realtor, Linda MacDonald, who helped them sell their current home before even putting it on the market and also got them under contract for this one.

Rather than immediately renovate, Ben, a surgeon, and Leslie, a nonprofit consultant, decided to live in the house for a little while before changing anything. Built in 1964, the house was a time capsule. “You could tell it had been solidly built,” says Leslie. “It was all original, down to the shag carpets in every bedroom.” After half a year of living there, the Donovans had gotten a feel for the space and decided to start with a renovation of just the kitchen, which was small and walled off from the rest of the house. “I spend a lot of time in the kitchen,” says Leslie. “It’s the heart of the home, but this was such a tiny space, you couldn’t open the dishwasher and refrigerator at the same time, because everything was so tight.”

The couple hired Mary Adams of Kitchen Cove Cabinetry and Design in Portland to help them reimagine the room. When it became evident that some of the windows might need to be reworked, Adams suggested they call in an architect: Kevin Browne of Kevin Browne Architecture in Falmouth. Leslie was thrilled; she had served on a board with Browne and admired his work. They also hired builder Josh Sevigny of Sylvain and Sevigny, who has worked with Browne on several homes. “Once we had those three on our team, we never looked back,” says Leslie.

As is often the case with renovations, the project grew bigger than Leslie and Ben first expected. “We’d never done anything of this scale before, so we were coming in needing to learn a lot,” says Leslie. For example, they learned that, if they were going to rip down the ceiling, they might as well blow in new insulation and update the lighting. And if they were going to change some windows, they really should change all the windows on an elevation. They also learned that if you open up the ceiling and realize there had been a fire at one point, then you better make all the necessary structural repairs while you’re at it.

The week that construction began on the house, the Donovans left for a two-week trip to visit their daughter who was studying in Copenhagen. As they traveled around Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, a light bulb went off in their heads. “We really started to get excited about what we were doing,” says Leslie. “Previously we thought of modern design as sort of cold or austere (especially having come from a warm, cottagey home). But when you see these beautiful spaces, especially in Denmark, they are warm, inviting, and very natural, with a steady focus on function and comfort. No need for lots of other distracting details.” The couple came home obsessed with all things Danish. (In fact, Leslie briefly wanted to reupholster the furniture in reindeer hide, but Ben convinced her it might be a bit much.)

“The house had great bones to start with, but was in need of a transformation,” says Sevigny. The first thing the team did was take down the walls around the kitchen, to open it up to the dining area and beyond. Adams selected cabinets made of anigre, a light African hardwood, as well as quartzite countertops and a waterfall-edge island. Brass hardware and light fixtures are “nautical but not overly beachy,” according to Leslie. “Mary wanted only natural finishes—wood and stone—to match what was outside so that the overall effect would be integrated and soothing,” says Leslie. The dining area, a few steps up from the living room, is offset with a custom railing that Ben sketched out after a trip to a museum, brought to life by Nate Deyesso of DSO Creative Fabrication in Scarborough.

The living room was kept largely intact, including the the original built-ins that occupy a corner and the original stone fireplace, which was upgraded with an insert. The team reworked the bedrooms off the kitchen and dining area so that Leslie and Ben’s three kids (ages 16, 19, and 21) could each have their own bathroom on one side of the house, while an owners’ suite occupies a corner that faces the water. Browne added a wider entry hall to set off the opening to the two bedroom suites off the kitchen, where previously a bedroom had opened right into the dining room. Prior to the renovation, a dark, narrow hallway next to the closed-off kitchen led the way to the other bedrooms. Now, with the kitchen opened up, the path leading to the private rooms of the house is light and airy.

“The natural wood on the interior—in the cabinetry and the built-ins—was one of the biggest elements that helped with the warmth of the space,” says Browne. The team was worried about having too many kinds of wood, particularly on the ceiling, which is quite high. “We had a lot of conversations about what to do with the ceiling, which looked like a heavy stucco cloud,” says Leslie. Browne chose V-match paneling painted white, which offsets the wood of the kitchen beautifully. “Now I feel like the ceiling just recedes in a comfortable way,” says Leslie.

According to Browne, the biggest architectural feat was coming up with a window layout on the water side of the house that captures the view from every angle but doesn’t feel forced. “We played around with a variety of ideas for the big gable end,” says Browne. “We had this really high cathedral ceiling, but the windows weren’t above door height, so we changed all that.” Browne added a little more definition to the windows, sometimes just by changing the grille patterns. In the kitchen, he brought the windows right down to the countertop and chose retractable screens for unobstructed views. “Opening up all these spaces, there’s so much more light in here than there ever was before,” says Sevigny. “All the windows that we changed, both inside and out, change the space dramatically.”

Now, from those big view-filled windows, Leslie and Ben like to watch neighbors walking their dogs and kids skating on the frozen ponds in the winter. In the summertime, the Portland Yacht Club runs camps, and the kids will be out there rigging their boats and playing lawn games. “I love being in the middle of this little hubbub,” says Leslie.

And as for that long-awaited front door? Browne designed it right where you’d intuit it to be—on the street-facing side of the house, seamlessly blended with roof pitches and textures pulled from the rest of the house. “Now there’s more of a street presence to draw people in,” he says. “The house, with its stone face, used to be a little forbidding looking,” says Leslie. “But the new entrance warms the whole place up, and improves functionality. We no longer have people texting us from the driveway.” There is one family member who hasn’t quite gotten on board yet, though. The Donovans’ dog still sometimes shows up at the downstairs side door, waiting to be let inside. Old habits die hard.

Mod Modular - Custom Modular Home

Maine Home + Design

September 2016

MHD_July_Drawing Board-2This custom modular home nestled on wooded acreage features a 1,800-square-foot interior with an additional 800 square feet of outdoor living space in the form of a deck and porches. Kevin Browne Architecture in Falmouth, in collaboration with Oxford’s Schiavi Custom Builders, developed a design with piers and a small foundation with the intention of minimizing the home’s impact on the site. The vertical siding and piers mimic the lines of the surrounding forest, giving the structure a youthful, treehouse feel. Upon entering from the suspended entry porch, you are welcomed by the sophistication of an open-concept layout, where the boundaries delineating indoors from out are indistinct. A screened-in living room on the main level and a sleeping porch adjacent to the owners’ suite on the second level offer magical places to nap or read.

The home’s eco-friendly features go beyond its solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling systems, LED lighting, and low-maintenance eastern white cedar cladding: the factory- controlled modular building process generates a quarter of the materials waste of conventional construction. With 90 percent of construction taking place in the factory, traffic to and from the site is also greatly diminished.

Modern On The Marsh

Maine Home + Design

March 2016

An energy-efficient Cape Elizabeth home is minimalist in style, maximizing openness and views

MHD_March 16_ FEAUTURE_ Modern on The Marsh-2As elementary-school maxims go, “It never hurts to ask” is one that holds up into adulthood. At least that was the hope of Jeffrey Maine and Andrew Phan when they found themselves in Falmouth one day, ogling the contemporary lines of a recently built house. Rather than admire it quietly, they walked right up to the front door to inquire about the architect and builder. The homeowners, Catherine and Jonathan Culley of Portland-based Redfern Properties, were happy to share: they were the builders, it turned out, and they had worked with Falmouth architect Kevin Browne on the design. “It seemed like the stars were aligned,” recalls Maine of their meeting. After interviews with five architects and several builders, the couple decided to hire Browne and Redfern Properties for the design and construction of their own home. (One might recall another maxim about imitation and flattery.)

Aside from Jeff’s last name, the couple had no connection to Maine prior to moving here. No family ties, no longtime vacation spot, just a deep love and respect for the way of living, the landscape, and the independent spirit the state is known for. Maine, a lawyer, and Phan, a physician, had moved from Texas and were looking for a better balance of work and leisure and greater access to the outdoors. In Maine, they had a feeling they would find everything they were looking for and more.

After living in Falmouth in a house surrounded by tall trees (“lovely, but a bit claustrophobic,” admits Maine) the couple was looking to build on a vacant lot with open water or pastoral views and few trees so they could capture solar energy. They found just what they were looking for in Cape Elizabeth: a piece of land with panoramic views of neighboring Jordan’s Farm and the ever-changing marsh.

Browne’s first task was siting the house on the property to maximize these views and showcase the historic Spurwink Church, while minimizing glimpses of the neighboring homes. “It was a balancing act, as we also sought the best sun angles for passive solar,” says Browne. As a result, most of the glazing is on the south and west sides of the house, while the north side, which faces the neighbors, features minimal windows. The kitchen and dining room were designed to face the marsh, as was the owners’ bedroom, with corner windows that take in the same view from a higher vantage point.

Inspired by the agricultural setting, Maine and Phan envisioned a design loosely based on a farmhouse but with a modern sensibility. “We wanted the exterior to have clean lines and a neutral color palette harmonious with the surrounding landscape,” says Maine. After first considering opposing rooflines, Browne ultimately designed four white clapboard gable forms that start small at the garage and get larger at the main part of the house. Simple pitched roofs and the wide spacing of the clapboards enhance the contemporary feeling. “We wanted to break up the garage and make this more of a linear house,” says Browne. The two primary structures are identical in size and bisected by a windowed, flat-roofed transept clad in stained cedar siding for contrast and to mimic the changing hues of the marsh grasses.

“To us, contemporary, minimalist design and neutral tones provide a calm feeling,” says Maine. Inside the home, crown moulding and other ornamentation are foregone in favor of simple wood windowsills and drywall returns at the windows and doors, white walls, and low-profile furniture in neutral colors. These elements cut down on distractions, allowing for expansive, unobstructed views of the landscape. High interior ceilings and large windows and sliding doors further emphasize the setting and eliminate barriers between indoor and outdoor living, so that the patios and terraces are an extension of the indoor living space. Browne also minimized the number of walls, doors, and hallways to ease transitions from one area to the next and to encourage interaction— in the open kitchen/dining/living area, of course, but also in smaller spaces, like the walk-in pantry, the closets and bath open to the owners’ bedroom, and an upstairs office space that allows conversation between upstairs and downstairs. “Having lived in a traditional colonial house and now a contemporary house, we can honestly say that modern home living seems easier, more functional,” says Maine.

To add some focal points to the streamlined palette, Browne incorporated a few “wow” factors: a floating steel-and-wood stairway bisects the main house from front to back and can be viewed from most areas on the ground floor; a catwalk crafted from the same materials bridges the interior space of the two main gable forms; and an elevated foyer at the entry leads to the first floor.

High on Phan’s wish list was a large kitchen with plenty of space to entertain guests while cooking. Designed by Tina Rodda of Kitchen Cove Cabinetry and Design in Portland, the room contains a 14-foot island with eight stools. There is a separate bar area for drink preparation. Among Maine’s must-haves were the in-ground pool and, for the couple’s many visiting friends and family members, bathrooms in each of the bedrooms.

Outside, landscape architect Soren DeNiord of Soren DeNiord Design Studio in Portland and landscape contractor Keith Stone of Pinnacle Landscape and Design in Cumberland incorporated low-maintenance materials—stone and river rocks— as well as ornamental plants that simulate elements in the marsh and provide the Zen-like feeling the homeowners were looking for. Geometric motifs— rectangular pool and patios; square hot tub and gas fire pit; and plant beds in both shapes—mirror the design of the home.

It takes a certain kind of mentality to live in a modern house. Some people might feel overly exposed coexisting with so much glass, but that doesn’t bother Maine and Phan: with the amount of sunlight streaming in, the winters don’t seem as harsh, says Maine. As for those who say contemporary architecture is too cold, the couple points to the elements they brought in to create warmth, including an earth-tone stained concrete floor, whitewashed oak floors and steps, and Scandinavian-inspired wood panels in the wine rack and under the kitchen island.

As for Maine the state, the couple is glad they moved their lives here. “We couldn’t have picked a better place to live,” says Maine. Evidence of one last, especially useful maxim: Trust your gut.

Masters of Architecture

Maine Home + Design

December 2015

Masters of Arch.smallSet atop a bluff sloping down to Casco Bay, this gambrel-style cottage was one of the first homes on Cousins Island. Built in 1905, the cottage was originally designed for an executive in charge of building the railroad up through Maine. The current homeowners asked Kevin Browne Architecture to preserve the character of this historic cottage while expanding on it to create a cozy four-season cottage for their family and extended family for years to come. The goal? To make the most of the lot and the water views. The property is situated to get a full view of the sunsets over coastal waters, which isn’t common along the coast of Maine. The existing cottage and garage were in rough shape and had been added on to haphazardly over the years. The first step in the redesign of the main cottage was to create a softened gambrel roofline that runs straight through to the water side of the cottage. On the first floor of the main cottage, a deep covered porch on the water side of the house was continued to create a wraparound porch. The homeowners wanted to preserve the high ceilings and beadboard walls of the interior spaces of the first floor, so only updates for modern conveniences were Masters of Arch bunk.smallmade. The existing garage, pieced together in the early ’80s, was removed and replaced with a gambrel style carriage house, connected to the main cottage as an extension of the porch. Since the home was originally built as a seasonal cottage, many of the renovations included energy-efficient upgrades such as closed-cell spray foam in the walls, ceilings, and floors. In addition, all windows were replaced with low-e windows, and the existing heating system was replaced with high-efficiency heat pump units.