House Tour

They Call Their Artful Island Home Hytte

In South Bristol, a scientist/shellfish entrepreneur’s quirky compound becomes a cheerful retreat for a large Norwegian family.

TEXT BY JESSE ELLISON
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JEFF ROBERTS
Home Sweet Hytte

ABOVE Brigette and Herlof Sørensen’s airy living room on South Bristol’s High Island combines Lillian August furnishings with a painting and wood-and-glass table by Brigette. The table displays stones found, along with the giant piece of driftwood, on the beach.

Norwegians use the word hytte to describe a country house or “away home,” as Brigette Sørensen puts it. For her and her largely Norwegian kin, it’s also a place where a von Trapp–size family can gather. It was in search of such a hytte that Brigette’s parents, Viola and William Glendinning, first came to Maine with their six children in the 1960s (a seventh child made later trips). It was a nine-hour drive from their New Jersey home, but the granite-battered coast reminded Viola of southern Norway, where she lived for much of her childhood, and she fell in love with it here. Until the 1970s, the family camped, often in one giant tent, then built a place on Nobleboro’s Pemaquid Pond, where they spent every subsequent summer. Brigette and her husband, Herlof, who are based in Connecticut, went on to own a few properties in the area before searching for a hytte compound to accommodate their five children, many potential grandchildren, and extended brood. In 2015, they found it: a nearly 10-acre parcel with a dozen structures on South Bristol’s High Island.

Tucked between Poorhouse Cove and the Johns River, the property was originally owned by a scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project and dabbled in the shellfish business. Among its buildings was an amorphous 1957 main house with a koi pond, bomb shelter, and rare copper roof; a former shellfish hatchery that “looked like a meth lab” on a pier jutting into the river; two gabled bunkhouses erected for hatchery employees from the University of Maine’s Darling Center; a two-bedroom prefab; and a post-and-beam barn.

Brigette, an artist, threw herself into an extensive renovation, starting with the hatchery, now called the Fish House. Working with her brother, Tor Glendinning, of Newcastle’s 44° North Architects, and nephew, Christian Glendinning, of Scarborough’s Glendinning Carpentry, she reimagined the structure as a summer kitchen with a massive soapstone-topped island she built of reclaimed wood panels and a deck suspended over the rocky shoreline. She tackled the main house herself, overseeing a gut reno that involved tearing out the koi pond, installing new windows and white-oak flooring, revamping the kitchen, and adding a cathedral-ceilinged entry and cedar porch with exposed fir rafters and a living wall studded with ferns, moss, and succulents. Outbuildings received fresh paint and décor and an English-style vegetable garden went in next to the barn Brigette plans to turn into her studio.

Home Sweet Hytte

ABOVE Brigette, Herlof, and their son, Heath, enjoy a traditional Norwegian spread of sausages, herring, and Solo orange soda.

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spiral staircase
Home Sweet Hytte
Home Sweet Hytte
Home Sweet Hytte
Home Sweet Hytte

ABOVE 1) The Sørensens added a spruce-ceilinged entry bump-out with a built-in bench, paired with an aerial photograph of High Island, and refinished the original spiral staircase. 2) In the Fish House kitchen, Brigette painted a bureau red to match a Norwegian flag runner; a framed collection of nautical knots hangs overhead. 3) In the Fish House kitchen, wire-mesh pendants from LNC Home that remind Brigette of fish netting crown a soapstone-and-reclaimed-wood island she made; shadow boxes display heirloom silver. 4) Herlof’s grandfather carved the wooden chest, which depicts the arrival of Christianity in Norway, in the entry. 5) Mason Clark Doody refaced the living room’s mid-century stucco fireplace and built a hearth from fieldstones found on the property; beneath the Norwegian reindeer skin, a secret hatch leads to a bomb shelter.

Nautical touches prevail throughout the buildings — a nod to their siting and the southern coast of Norway, where Herlof’s family’s shipbuilding business is based. In the main kitchen, there’s new shiplap paneling, quartz-topped, navy-blue base cabinets with brass pulls, and Ikea metal pendants suspended from natural and red ropes. An antique brass ship’s binnacle greets you in the entry and a glossy varnished half-hull crowns the door. In an adjacent hallway, oil paintings of the tall ships Herlof’s family built in the 1700s hang alongside abstracts by the pink-haired, face-painted Norwegian artist Lars Kristian Tatjana Gulbrandsen.

After Viola passed away last spring, the Sørensens’ hytte served its purpose, providing a place for the whole clan to gather for a Scandinavian send-off. On the eve of Midsummer Day, a solstice celebration marked by bonfires, they set a small Viking-style ship ablaze and sent it out to sea, watching as it drifted toward the Bristol cemetery where Viola was buried. “She loved what I was doing here,” Brigette says. “Before she passed, I told my folks that this is all because of them. They started us up here. And now it’s our legacy.”

ABOVE 1) In the dining area, a pine trestle table ringed with Lillian August chairs accommodates the seven-member Sørensen clan — and then some. Brigette made the canvas pendants and mobile sideboard/kitchen island. 2) A new cedar porch features an original door Brigette stained and hung on a slider, a living wall, and exposed ledge interspersed with moss and succulents. 3) In the kitchen, an original ladder and floor-to-ceiling cabinetry (freshened with white paint) juxtaposes with new deep-blue base cabinets. 4) A pair of maritime-blue bunkhouses sleeps eight. Brigette initially painted the three doors on the adjacent bathhouse yellow, “but it looked too much like Ikea,” so she switched to white. 5) The 1957 main house and smaller Fish House, a former hatchery, perch between Poorhouse Cove and the Johns River.

They Call Their Artful Island Home Hytte

In South Bristol, a scientist/shellfish entrepreneur’s quirky compound becomes a cheerful retreat for a large Norwegian family.

Home Sweet Hytte

ABOVE Brigette and Herlof Sørensen’s airy living room on South Bristol’s High Island combines Lillian August furnishings with a painting and wood-and-glass table by Brigette. The table displays stones found, along with the giant piece of driftwood, on the beach.

TEXT BY JESSE ELLISON
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JEFF ROBERTS

Norwegians use the word hytte to describe a country house or “away home,” as Brigette Sørensen puts it. For her and her largely Norwegian kin, it’s also a place where a von Trapp–size family can gather. It was in search of such a hytte that Brigette’s parents, Viola and William Glendinning, first came to Maine with their six children in the 1960s (a seventh child made later trips). It was a nine-hour drive from their New Jersey home, but the granite-battered coast reminded Viola of southern Norway, where she lived for much of her childhood, and she fell in love with it here. Until the 1970s, the family camped, often in one giant tent, then built a place on Nobleboro’s Pemaquid Pond, where they spent every subsequent summer. Brigette and her husband, Herlof, who are based in Connecticut, went on to own a few properties in the area before searching for a hytte compound to accommodate their five children, many potential grandchildren, and extended brood. In 2015, they found it: a nearly 10-acre parcel with a dozen structures on South Bristol’s High Island.

Tucked between Poorhouse Cove and the Johns River, the property was originally owned by a scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project and dabbled in the shellfish business. Among its buildings was an amorphous 1957 main house with a koi pond, bomb shelter, and rare copper roof; a former shellfish hatchery that “looked like a meth lab” on a pier jutting into the river; two gabled bunkhouses erected for hatchery employees from the University of Maine’s Darling Center; a two-bedroom prefab; and a post-and-beam barn.

Brigette, an artist, threw herself into an extensive renovation, starting with the hatchery, now called the Fish House. Working with her brother, Tor Glendinning, of Newcastle’s 44° North Architects, and nephew, Christian Glendinning, of Scarborough’s Glendinning Carpentry, she reimagined the structure as a summer kitchen with a massive soapstone-topped island she built of reclaimed wood panels and a deck suspended over the rocky shoreline. She tackled the main house herself, overseeing a gut reno that involved tearing out the koi pond, installing new windows and white-oak flooring, revamping the kitchen, and adding a cathedral-ceilinged entry and cedar porch with exposed fir rafters and a living wall studded with ferns, moss, and succulents. Outbuildings received fresh paint and décor and an English-style vegetable garden went in next to the barn Brigette plans to turn into her studio.

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ABOVE 1) Brigette, Herlof, and their son, Heath, enjoy a traditional Norwegian spread of sausages, herring, and Solo orange soda. 2) The Sørensens added a spruce-ceilinged entry bump-out with a built-in bench, paired with an aerial photograph of High Island, and refinished the original spiral staircase. 3) In the Fish House kitchen, Brigette painted a bureau red to match a Norwegian flag runner; a framed collection of nautical knots hangs overhead. 4) In the Fish House kitchen, wire-mesh pendants from LNC Home that remind Brigette of fish netting crown a soapstone-and-reclaimed-wood island she made; shadow boxes display heirloom silver. 5) Herlof’s grandfather carved the wooden chest, which depicts the arrival of Christianity in Norway, in the entry. 6) Mason Clark Doody refaced the living room’s mid-century stucco fireplace and built a hearth from fieldstones found on the property; beneath the Norwegian reindeer skin, a secret hatch leads to a bomb shelter.

Nautical touches prevail throughout the buildings — a nod to their siting and the southern coast of Norway, where Herlof’s family’s shipbuilding business is based. In the main kitchen, there’s new shiplap paneling, quartz-topped, navy-blue base cabinets with brass pulls, and Ikea metal pendants suspended from natural and red ropes. An antique brass ship’s binnacle greets you in the entry and a glossy varnished half-hull crowns the door. In an adjacent hallway, oil paintings of the tall ships Herlof’s family built in the 1700s hang alongside abstracts by the pink-haired, face-painted Norwegian artist Lars Kristian Tatjana Gulbrandsen.

After Viola passed away last spring, the Sørensens’ hytte served its purpose, providing a place for the whole clan to gather for a Scandinavian send-off. On the eve of Midsummer Day, a solstice celebration marked by bonfires, they set a small Viking-style ship ablaze and sent it out to sea, watching as it drifted toward the Bristol cemetery where Viola was buried. “She loved what I was doing here,” Brigette says. “Before she passed, I told my folks that this is all because of them. They started us up here. And now it’s our legacy.”

ABOVE 1) In the dining area, a pine trestle table ringed with Lillian August chairs accommodates the seven-member Sørensen clan — and then some. Brigette made the canvas pendants and mobile sideboard/kitchen island. 2) A new cedar porch features an original door Brigette stained and hung on a slider, a living wall, and exposed ledge interspersed with moss and succulents. 3) In the kitchen, an original ladder and floor-to-ceiling cabinetry (freshened with white paint) juxtaposes with new deep-blue base cabinets. 4) A pair of maritime-blue bunkhouses sleeps eight. Brigette initially painted the three doors on the adjacent bathhouse yellow, “but it looked too much like Ikea,” so she switched to white. 5) The 1957 main house and smaller Fish House, a former hatchery, perch between Poorhouse Cove and the Johns River.


One Comment

  1. andy powell

    It is a shame that the circular stairs were made of metal with a center post when there is a Maine company that makes a staircase of only wood and does not require the center post. We have one that fits in with the red oak timber framed house we built. The staircase is amazing as it “floats” up between the second and third floors.

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