House Tour

Cool and Collected

An art enthusiast finds his place in a favorite community.

TEXT BY DEBRA SPARK
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIN LITTLE
Small Point Phippsburg living room

ABOVE It took a Maine village to assemble Gary Foster’s living room: Woolwich builder Corey Rattleff made the marble coffee table; Bath lighting designer Greg Day conceived the chandelier; Portland’s Fogg Lighting and Bradford’s Rug Gallery supplied the floor lamp and Oushak rug respectively; and Freeport’s Thos. Moser provided the side table.

This is the coolest place I’ve ever been,” thought Texas-born Gary Foster the first time he visited the Phippsburg community of Small Point. Colleagues at the Reagan White House, where Foster then worked as a press aide, had invited him for an initial visit in 1987. He was struck by the granite-bound coastline interrupted by Small Point Beach, which is split by the Sprague River, with Morse Mountain on one side and Seguin Island Light on the other. “I found the variety of vegetation so beautiful, particularly the way it comes right down to the water’s edge. You don’t see that in too many other places.” Now a California-based marketing executive, Foster returned to his friends’ place every year until 2016, when he decided it was time he had a Small Point house of his own.

He purchased a 1960 seasonal raised ranch clad in gray with a knotty-pine interior, but Foster envisioned a “contemporary Scandinavian” year-round retreat that is “black on the outside, but very light, natural, and clean-looking inside.” Bath architect David Matero and Woolwich builder Corey Rattleff responded to the yin-yang directive with charcoal-stained cedar siding punctuated with expansive new glazing; a new transomed dormer aggrandizes the living space. Inside, they preserved the existing layout, with guest bedrooms on the first floor and the master bedroom and living quarters on the second (which has views of Small Point Harbor), but opened up the segmented kitchen-dining-living area, creating airiness and sweeping ivory canvases for Foster’s voluminous art collection.

The son of a docent mother who “dragged the family to museums,” Foster says, eventually, “I started really listening to her.” His acquisitions include works by full- and part-time Mainers Frank Benson, Wolf Kahn, Alex Katz, and William Zorach, as well as Frank Mason and his son, Arden, who have painted extensively on Small Point. In the case of Frank Mason, the connection hits even closer to home — he and his wife, Phyllis, were friends with the house’s previous owners and spent time at the property.

ABOVE A library ladder in the master bedroom provides access to books and firewood; at left is a circa 1820 Swedish Gustavian writing table. 

Small Point house Phippsburg, Maine

ABOVE Bath architect David Matero called the raised ranch an “upside down house” because the entry was formerly on the second floor. A gracious new ground-level entry was a centerpiece of the renovation, which also included a new shed dormer, screened porch, stained cedar siding, black-clad windows, and a standing-seam metal roof.

LEFT TO RIGHT In the guesthouse bedroom, a colorful still life by Josephine Mahaffey mingles with a sculptural wooden sconce and portrait of Mao Zedong — a joke gift Foster seriously enjoys for the juxtaposition of the chairman with a Maine-y scene. The same bedroom features an Eames rocker, armchair recovered by Yarmouth’s Pistol Pete Upholstery, and a Giacomo Piussi work. In the master bath, a painting by Portland’s Rick Hamilton is paired with a stool from Chilton in Freeport. Phippsburg’s Rufus Coes painted the master bedroom’s beach scene.

Phippsburg, Maine

ABOVE Kate MacGillivary of Georgetown’s Plant Manager Studio designed the grounds and Bath’s Brookton Landscapes brought them to life; the red steel bench came from Foster’s prior home in Laguna Beach, California.

Small Point house Phippsburg, Maine

ABOVE Bath architect David Matero called the raised ranch an “upside down house” because the entry was formerly on the second floor. A gracious new ground-level entry was a centerpiece of the renovation, which also included a new shed dormer, screened porch, stained cedar siding, black-clad windows, and a standing-seam metal roof.

ABOVE In the guesthouse bedroom, a colorful still life by Josephine Mahaffey mingles with a sculptural wooden sconce and portrait of Mao Zedong — a joke gift Foster seriously enjoys for the juxtaposition of the chairman with a Maine-y scene. The same bedroom features an Eames rocker, armchair recovered by Yarmouth’s Pistol Pete Upholstery, and a Giacomo Piussi work. In the master bath, a painting by Portland’s Rick Hamilton is paired with a stool from Chilton in Freeport. Phippsburg’s Rufus Coes painted the master bedroom’s beach scene.

Phippsburg, Maine

ABOVE Kate MacGillivary of Georgetown’s Plant Manager Studio designed the grounds and Bath’s Brookton Landscapes brought them to life; the red steel bench came from Foster’s prior home in Laguna Beach, California.

A 19th-century wooden folk art bust purchased in Wiscasset marks another key renovation: a first-floor foyer addition Matero conceived to replace the previous upper-level entry accessed by exterior stairs. A floating staircase of oak treads and cable railing links the foyer with the Douglas fir-lined kitchen and cathedral-ceilinged living area separated by a chimney wall. A study in symmetry, the wall features a double-sided steel fireplace, wood storage bin, and art pairing, with Richard Piloco’s Waiting for the Kettle enlivening the kitchen façade and Frank Mason’s Still Life installed in the same spot on the living room side.

Portland interior designer Jeanne Handy saw her role as “Gary’s editor” — “he has such a great eye. I was just moving him to this or that.” When it came to furniture, “this or that” meant mid-century pieces, such as Saarinen Executive dining chairs and Bacco kitchen counter stools, both in white leather, and antiques like a 19th-century Swedish Gustavian sideboard in the dining area. Handy also introduced Foster to local sources, including Portland’s Angela Adams for a futuristic ash living room sideboard and Westbrook’s Campfire Studio for marbleized porcelain dinnerware.

“I am a big fan of one real star in a room,” Handy says. “When there are several stars, it gets confusing.” In the living room, the “luminary” is a pair of vintage wing chairs, reupholstered in indigo Kravet fabric with a constellation-like pattern. In one of the two guest rooms, it’s a teal upholstered bed with a trapezoidal headboard. And in the new screened porch off the living room, finished in a palette that blends with the outdoors, “the star is really the view,” Handy says. Even so, juxtaposed with pieces such as a diamond-patterned wing chair and spherical basket pendant, there are plenty of striking planets in its orbit.

ABOVE A guest bedroom for Foster’s Texan mother pays tribute to her state with a tinted black-and-white photograph by Bob Wade titled Hat’s Off. Antique terra-cotta lamps frame a Design Within Reach bed piled with linens from Portland’s Always PiperWorks by part-time Mainers Frank Mason and Alex Katz pop against ivory walls in the living room and stairwell; the club chair and grandfather clock are from BDDW. In the kitchen, Douglas fir cabinetry by Brunswick’s Fiddlehead Designs contrasts with Caesarstone countertops and an Imperial Danby marble island top.


One Comment

  1. Barbara White

    What a great home. And love seeing Texas artist Josephine Mahaffey”s painting in this special setting in Maine!

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