Over a river and through the woods is an airy farmhouse, finely crafted by Portland’s Wright-Ryan Homes for a busy brood.
On a large, wooded plot in Greater Portland, Daniel and Christine Emerson’s sons can dash back and forth between their home and their cousins’, 300 yards away. The property’s thick enclosure of maples, oaks, and pines is their playground and a lengthy driveway doubles as a bike path. “We had nostalgia for the way we grew up, playing outside and relying on our imaginations for fun,” says Christine of the couple’s move from the Boston suburbs to Maine, where Daniel, a software engineer, was raised. The 11-acre lot abutting his brother’s property happened to be available and Christine, a neuro-oncologist, secured a job with a local hospital. In 2013, they enlisted Portland-based Whitten Architects and Wright-Ryan Homes to build a functional farmhouse on the land, where, in the manner of mature trees, the family has established deep roots.
Photos by Rob Karosis
The Emersons sought a Greek Revival-style farmhouse that would look harmonious in their rural area. Hallmarks of the genre include a corbeled frieze along the roofline, broad paneled corner boards, and a columned porch — elements that also help to “deemphasize the scale” of the 5,000-square-foot building, says Scott Lewis, Wright-Ryan’s field superintendent on the project. Modestly sized dormers work with the embellishments to keep the proportions in check, while balancing the windows and wide mahogany door.
Tucked behind the house, the garage borrows from the vernacular of New England barns with its board-and-batten siding, timber-frame bracing, and metal roof, which is repeated on the sunroom and breezeway, seen here. The mix of materials breaks up the building mass and creates the effect of a house that has been added onto over time, says Lewis.
“We had a very elaborate set of requirements, down to where light switches and outlets would be located,” says Daniel, and whether they’d be visible. Note the square hinged panel on the upper left side of the island, which Lewis conceived of to conceal an outlet. Overall, the couple wanted rooms that felt connected but could be closed off for privacy or, say, a child’s piano practice, a balance the design team achieved with a combination of glass and pocket doors and transom windows. Wider trim profiles distinguish the main living areas, including the kitchen, from the bedrooms and utility spaces, says project manager Andy Seymour.
Family meals happen in the southwest-facing sunroom, where wraparound windows immerse diners in the woodsy landscape. Radiant floor heating and bountiful sunlight keep the room toasty, while natural trim and a beadboard ceiling, carried through from the adjoining porch, lend a casual feeling.
The rear wing of the home is devoted to getting in and out the door with kids as seamless as possible. A spacious entry ringed with easy-to-clean nickel-gap paneling gives way to a bathroom, mudroom, and laundry area conveniently located off the garage.
Nickel-gap paneling extends further up the wall in the mudroom, subtly distinguishing it from the entry. Wright-Ryan crafted the custom hook-and-cubby system and benches topped with red birch — a cherry lookalike that is less costly, says Seymour.
Rug: Angela Adams
Opting for a moderately sized master bedroom allowed the Emersons to devote more real estate to an adjoining walk-in closet, bathroom, and sitting room, which can be closed off if one person wants to watch TV while the other sleeps. An accent wall painted in Sherwin Williams’ Mysterious Mauve, paired with paler Agreeable Gray elsewhere, optically expands the space.
In the master bathroom, a built-in hutch provides storage and separation, without impeding conversation when husband and wife are at the sinks. Slate flooring, rendered in smaller squares here, and hints of nickel-gap paneling, pick up some of the home’s common threads.
Bedrooms for the couple’s 4- and 6-year-old boys are arranged around a shared bathroom near the parents’ suite.
“When we did the design, we tried to think as far ahead as we could because we see this as our lifetime home,” says Daniel. Sequestered at one end of the second floor with a guestroom and bathroom, the playroom can serve as a study for the kids when they get older; later on, the suite might function as an in-law apartment of sorts. A pitched ceiling lends drama to the play space and a long stretch of windows allows its occupants to explore the forest — from an imagined treehouse, perhaps, or maybe a plane — even on the chilliest winter days.