ABOVE Ian and Daniella Trask’s Topsham sunroom is a year-round garden. The tables are from West Elm, the barrel chair from Crate & Barrel. Beyond the patio are vegetable and perennial gardens. Ian, an artist, got his training as a plantsman in Bowdoin College’s organic gardens, where he worked after moving to Maine.
TEXT BY VIRGINIA M. WRIGHT
PHOTOS BY AARON THOMPSON
Coffee cake is always at the ready in Ian and Daniella Trask’s Topsham house. Resting atop a glass stand in the center of their dining-room table, the cake is ring-shaped, drizzled with icing, and disconcertingly gray. Made of coal ash by Brooklyn artist Spencer Merolla, this confection is climate art, meant to stimulate conversations, not appetites.
The Trasks’ home on a rural road is filled with such surprising artworks, some thought-provoking, some mischievous, some whimsical. The hot dog on the glass-covered wooden serving plate? It has a tail, floppy ears, a snout, and a smile, courtesy of Brooklyn sculptor (and Rockland native) Stephen Morrison. The brightly colored, highly textured abstract painting in the hallway? It’s a zoomed-in view of a coronavirus by Brunswick’s Lisa Alonzo. The dining-room light fixture? It’s one of New York artist Ryan Frank’s lightboxes, illuminating and magnifying a 35mm slide image of California’s Muir Woods National Monument visible to diners who look up.
ABOVE 1) Ian, Daniella, and their pups sit on the wall of their plunge pool. 2) One of Ian’s first “suspended spores” artworks hangs on a sunroom wall behind Daniella. She’s relaxing in an extra-wide chaise from Crate & Barrel. 3) Ian’s mid-century research-farm specimens fill a kitchen crate.
The art collection is mostly the spoils of Ian’s formative years as an artist, when he and his cash-strapped Brooklyn studiomates acquired each other’s pieces in trade. Ian’s own sculptures, largely created with throwaways like piano, clock, and electronic parts, cardboard, bent silverware, and wood scraps, are also displayed throughout the couple’s home. Daniella, a human-resources professional who works remotely for a California company, professes little artistic talent of her own, adding with a laugh, “But I support artists!”
After meeting at Bowdoin College, the couple went their separate ways, then reunited a few years later, in Brooklyn. In 2015, they moved to Maine for the slower pace and a house they could afford. They’re the third owners of their 22-year-old Cape, and they recently completed their third renovation — the addition of dormers to enlarge two bedrooms, including their own with a sun-drenched bath.
Their first project was a refresh of the open-concept kitchen/dining room, where a large, rustic, wooden spice rack begs a closer look: the jars don’t contain spices after all, but seeds and plant samples from an old research farm (“Lawn Clipping Pellets, Michigan, 1969” reads one yellowed label). Farmer friends from Bowdoinham gave the specimens to Ian; the shelf is a crate from his grandfather’s basement. “I’m always looking for people to give me weird things,” he says. Among them: a local vet’s nonrecyclable medicine vials and other found items tucked cheekily into cavities in the aprons of the Trasks’ walnut dining table. Its builder, Scott Stuart, of architecture/building firm Woodhull, plucked the objects from Ian’s studio in Brunswick’s Fort Andross mill, where Woodhull has an office. “He appreciates that my work has hidden elements,” Ian says.
ABOVE Brunswick’s Scott Stuart built a walnut dining-room table that’s a puzzle box — some of Ian’s signature art materials are hidden in the aprons. Ian acquired most of the surrounding artworks from Brooklyn makers, including a metal toolbox with a message by Mac Premo. Below it is a sculpture composed of plastic petals, purchased at a party-supply store, by Portland’s Veronica Perez.
Next, the Trasks hired Brunswick contractor Gerald Muto to build a vaulted sunroom with tall, transom-topped windows. Lush with houseplants and bathed in propitious light even on the dreariest days, it’s a soothing and revitalizing retreat for a variety of activities, as the couple’s furnishings attest — a small glass-topped table accommodates breakfasting and working; a cushy chaise-and-a-half invites reading. Eye-catching against the ivory wall behind the chaise is one of Ian’s “suspended spores” — artworks comprising strings of colorful crinkly spheres that he makes by balling up and binding worn-out plush dog toys, cellophane wrappers, and other discards.
The sunroom engages with the backyard gardens and the patio built with Hampton limestone by Topsham’s Mossy Rock Landscaping. Mossy Rock also installed the stone veneer on the precast-concrete plunge pool from Portland’s Soake Pools. The Trasks have removed dozens of trees to open up the yard and peeled back scrubby growth to expose the underlying ledge for a rock garden. They also raise chickens, which live in a curved-roof coop by Unity’s Wooden Wonders that’s so pretty, it too is a subversive work of art.
ABOVE 1) A Nemo Hoffman whale tail enlivens a garage apartment. 2) A hallway nook houses a stitched-wood sculpture by Freeport’s Sam Gilbert and a mixed-media one by Portland’s Titi de Baccarat. 3) Ian makes collages by inserting unrelated transparencies into vintage slide viewers, shown in the office.