When we began planning our third annual Maine Homes Design Awards contest in April, COVID-19 was cresting on the East Coast. With seemingly every public event canceled, we considered following suit. But we decided that our community could use a celebration of local beauty and creativity now, maybe more than ever, and we could use the contest to do some good. To that end, we’re donating all submission fees from this year’s contest to a nonprofit at the forefront of our pandemic response, the Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine.
Once again, we tapped our cast of heavy-hitter judges with deep connections to the state: Susan and Eliza Crater, of iconic fabric and wallcovering company Sister Parish, renowned architect Annabelle Selldorf, and interior/garden designer extraordinaire Loi Thai all have homes here; architectural photographer Jared Kuzia has shot many houses for Down East and Maine Homes; and Thos. Moser, founder of the eponymous Auburn-based furniture brand, is, to many, a household name.
Next, industry pros and readers laid to rest the question of whether anyone would enter a design contest in the midst of a pandemic: Dozens of talented folks submitted more than 100 entries across five professional and three reader categories. Thousands of visitors also viewed our online gallery, casting votes to pick a Readers’ Choice winner in each category — be sure to check those out on mainehomes.com this month.
Thanks to everyone who submitted and congratulations to the winners — including our first triple winner and the first winner whose project previously appeared on a Maine Homes cover — who entered the eight stunning projects blindly chosen by our judges, shown here. And special thanks to Knickerbocker Group and Maine Sun Solutions for sponsoring this year’s competition. We can’t wait to see what you all do next year.
UP NEXT: PROFESSIONAL CURB APPEAL
Photograph by GRETA RYBUS
PROFESSIONAL CURB APPEAL
Little Peek, Vinalhaven
Maria Berman and Brad Horn say: Little Peek, a small home on Vinalhaven, is both an escape and a refuge from today’s urban existence. Perched atop a rhyolite outcropping overlooking one of the island’s many coves, the project is named for its unique siting, which offers only glimpses of the house as one climbs a meandering footpath from the water. The house is a contemporary reinterpretation of a New England connected farmhouse. Organized as a long bar that faces the water to the west, the Camden Hills to the north, and an untouched landscape to the east, it includes a main house, a guest cottage, and a custom screened porch that links the two. This porch, which creates a shared exterior room and frames views of the landscape, extends the profile of the roofline to tie the two houses together and creates an outdoor gathering space for savoring Maine’s summer days and evenings.
Annabelle Selldorf says: I was drawn to this house’s simple and clear plan and sensitive integration on the site. It sits modestly, yet firmly, on the overlook without claiming more than it needs. This is a house that quietly welcomes; it doesn’t shout. The central screened porch really distinguishes and elevates the project, though. It not only unites the other parts of the house in form, but I imagine it also unites the program and gets great use by the owners and all who visit.
UP NEXT: PROFESSIONAL LIVING AND/OR DINING ROOM
Photograph by TRENT BELL
AND/OR DINING ROOM
Damariscotta River View Cottage, Boothbay
Jessie Carroll says: Our New York–based clients sought this incredible property, situated high above the Damariscotta River, to be near dear friends. The existing home required substantial renovations to meet the needs of its new owners. It presented itself to the roadside with three large garage bays surrounded by lawn. The primary spaces had limited southern exposure due to a split-level bedroom addition. Small windows belied the water views. Our site-specific design included demolition of the bedroom wing to bring in more sunlight. The main living space was rebuilt to accommodate taller wall heights and larger windows. Minimal interior detailing and a neutral palette in the new kitchen/living/dining space focuses the view outward to the re-naturalized landscape and river beyond. The dining table and chairs play off the wood and metal elements and the double-sided fireplace, with a visually minimal stucco finish, creates a sense of two intimate spaces. Cleanly executed details and the lush landscape design honor the architecture and interiors.
Loi Thai says: Bring the outside in! The rooms’ striking windows and doors beautifully frame the outdoors, allowing for expansive views of the Maine landscape. The spaces are lofty and somewhat minimal, but still inviting with comfy seating, cozy rugs, and a warm driftwood palette.
UP NEXT: PROFESSIONAL KITCHEN
Photograph by JEFF ROBERTS
Pleasant Lake Camp, Western Maine
Drew Bortles says: Tucked away in the mountains of western Maine, this camp was designed with a vibrant, young family in mind. The stunning landscape offered the family a woodsy retreat that flirts with simplicity. Our team reminisced about fond memories of summer camp as we worked closely with the clients to create a palette that welcomes warmth and evokes an emotional response, using natural light and mindfully sourced materials. Embraced by spectacular views of the lake, the kitchen lies at the heart of the home and offers a strong sense of belonging and purpose. Situated adjacent to the pantry, dining, and living spaces, this modern yet classic camp kitchen combines function and organization that’s suited to an active lifestyle.
Jared Kuzia says: What initially drew me to this kitchen was the fantastic palette, encompassing woodwork, and clean geometry. But the more I looked, the more I liked. The architects very successfully created a modern-feeling kitchen that interfuses with its natural surroundings while still maintaining historical integrity.
UP NEXT: PROFESSIONAL BATH
Photograph by IRVIN SERRANO
Ledge’s Edge, Casco Bay
Phil Kaplan says: This home perches on boulders at the edge of Casco Bay. Limited to the modest footprint of a house that previously occupied the site, it plays with light and volume — including a trio of tiered, cantilevered bays extending over the waves — to create airiness and an immense amount of living space. Nestled closest to the water, in the lowest of these bays, is the owners’ bath. One of the most spectacular moments in the home, it features a deep soaking tub that allows for immersion in water both visually and literally. Undivided windows surround the space on three sides, but the positioning of the home enables one to enjoy the grandeur beyond the glass in complete privacy. The tub’s low profile also allows for uninterrupted views from anywhere in the room. Like the rest of the home, the space favors simple finishes, such as fir paneling, and minimal furnishings that ensure the surrounding waterscape serves as the centerpiece.
Thos. Moser says: Every inch of this space is thoughtfully considered and masterfully executed. From the warm, honey hues in the fir paneling to the exposed beams and windowed walls, it highlights the beauty of simplicity and function and makes full use of the surrounding landscape and magnificent ambient light reflected off the ocean. The clean lines of the fixtures and tub, accompanied by simple pegs to hang a towel or two, bring us to the most stripped-down, unobstructed version of comfort and serenity.
UP NEXT: PROFESSIONAL LANDSCAPING
Photograph by TRENT BELL
Coastal Village Residence, Greater Portland
Soren Deniord says: This home’s composition of forms, scribed to ledge, provides an armature for a series of gardens and terraces designed to accentuate the coastal woodland setting. The plant palette ranges from flowering perennials and pollinator gardens to broad-stroke masses of native species, such as ostrich ferns, low-bush blueberries, and blue flag irises. The use of traditional hardscape materials in a contemporary way — wide-cut stone walkways, a low concrete seat wall, a clean-lined cedar arbor — complement the house’s aesthetic, extending the architectural intentions into the landscape.
Susan and Eliza Crater say: The juxtaposition of hard geometric forms with the soft nature that surrounds the home drew us in right away. The addition of the arbor, which connects the two buildings seamlessly, reminds us of summer days and we can’t wait to see what grows there. Especially captivating is the harmony of colors. By using native plants, the landscaping fits in perfectly, adding to the already incredible beauty of Maine.
UP NEXT: READER LIVING/DINING SPACE
Photograph by JULIA BAILIN
READER LIVING/DINING SPACE
Three-Season Sleeping Porch
Julia Bailin says: During a hot stretch in 2018, while missing the cool air at our family camp in Brooksville, I had the idea of creating a “camp” at our Yarmouth home. I designed a three-season porch with custom glass/screen inserts in mahogany frames. A small woodstove keeps us cozy from March to November. Two twin-size daybeds, each with a trundle, sleep our family of four. The beds are dressed with vintage L.L.Bean and Hudson Bay blankets and pillows we collected in Morocco. Handmade brass-and-enamel pharmacy lights and reproduction brass ship lights provide a warm glow at night, along with traditional oil lanterns. There is a vintage Biergarten table where we eat together morning and night and a large hoop-framed hammock chair hanging from the rafters. The knotty-pine wall and ceiling paneling was custom milled to echo the walls at our camp and a giant piece of driftwood, pulled from the mouth of the Bagaduce River in Brooksville, crowns the interior door. The exterior siding is cedar and that woodsy camp smell makes me happy all over.
Annabelle Selldorf says: Sleeping porches and family camps are such a part of summertime in Maine. I love the idea of designing a three-season porch so the owners can bring that flexible, comfortable kind of space home with them. This room has all the classic ingredients, down to the vintage Hudson Bay blankets, but doesn’t veer into kitsch. I particularly appreciate the mention of the evocative cedar smell; all of the elements were sensitively thought through here.
UP NEXT: READER KITCHEN
Photograph by SIDNEY BENSIMON
Stella House, Cushing
Sidney Bensimon says: Stella House, named after my last dog, was dreamed up by me and built a year ago. I am a food and lifestyle photographer and have always loved baking. For me, the kitchen is an integral part of the home. I was inspired by Terence Conran’s 1974 The House Book, in which he showcases all types of homes from that era. In particular, I loved the kitchens with integrated cabinet pulls, which are circular on my red-birch cupboards to echo a nearby round window. The copper pendant is a vintage Danish find and the countertops are largely sand-colored concrete. On the Shaker-style island — a nod to New England — and backsplash, I used Marmoreal terrazzo slabs, which look like stone collages and inspired the color scheme throughout the house.
Thos. Moser says: What immediately stands out in this kitchen is the unique Marmoreal backsplash and island top. The organic and open layout, meantime, with its exposed wood beams, open shelving, and an abundance of natural light invites one in. You can imagine the homeowner enjoying a quiet morning with a frothy cappuccino here and hosting simple gatherings with thoughtful accouterments. The clean aesthetic allows us to breathe easy and enjoy the space and its surroundings any time of day.
UP NEXT: READER BATH
Photograph by CINDY LAUNER
Tiny Powder Bath, Bar Harbor
Cindy Launer says: My husband and I purchased this in-town raised ranch in Bar Harbor last fall, hoping to move in before the brutal summer hit in Florida, where we previously lived. There was not a room in the house that we didn’t remodel to some extent and the whole process took about seven months. The powder bath, which is next to the front hall, was cramped and awkwardly arranged. The door opened into the hall, the toilet was in front of the door, and a vanity that stretched the width of the room was in front of the toilet. I wanted the room to feel light and bright, despite having no windows, but also warm. The pine console washstand inspired the room’s palette and style and blends with the cottage feel throughout the house. We pushed the right-hand wall back two feet, removing a closet from the adjacent office, which allowed the washstand and toilet to fit side by side and the door to open inward. It’s still a tiny bath, but more functional and cozy.
Loi Thai says: This small, neutral space is anything but boring or bland. There is architectural detail courtesy of the paneling, pattern on the tile floor, texture on the wood vanity, and contrast via the mirror and oil-rubbed fixtures.