House Tour

Completing This Cape Elizabeth Home Was the Last Item on His Bucket List

Pre-renovation, the architectural hodgepodge of a house had an outdoor staircase so rickety, even Huggy the corgi wouldn’t chance it.

TEXT BY RACHEL SLADE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JAMES R. SALOMON
A custom walnut screen separates Louis Kaucic and Billy Merritt’s Cape Elizabeth great room — furnished with a blackened-steel fireplace, wool-and-silk carpet

ABOVE A custom walnut screen separates Louis Kaucic and Billy Merritt’s Cape Elizabeth great room — furnished with a blackened-steel fireplace, wool-and-silk carpet from Portland’s Mougalian Rugs (who supplied most of the home’s carpets), and a Hal Mayforth painting — from the entry, featuring art by Antonia Glynne Jones.

Following a long career that ended in the C-suite of Applebee’s International, Louis Kaucic thought he’d checked off everything on his bucket list. Semi-retired and happy, he was living with his husband, Billy Merritt, in their dream home on Lake Winnisquam in New Hampshire when a friend asked if there was anything else he longed to do. No, he replied confidently.

His ambitious and quirky checklist had included the financing and construction of a rural school in Laos; riding a hot air balloon; going on a safari; joining at least three corporate boards; baking a birthday cake; and visiting the Great Wall of China, Egypt’s Giza pyramids, and the world’s largest ball of twine (probably) in Kansas. “I’ve worked through all of it,” he insisted.

But when Merritt asked him the same question that evening, Kaucic gave it more thought. Yes, he confessed, he still had one dream left. Growing up in Ohio, Maine “seemed like the most beautiful and exotic land I could imagine.” His final aspiration was to live on the Maine coast. Merritt loved the idea and encouraged him to explore.

After scouting many listings near Portland, Kaucic zeroed in on land in Cape Elizabeth, just shy of an acre, right on the ocean. He invited Merritt to take a look, but cautioned him to keep an open mind: The glorious slice of rockbound shoreline he’d found came with a 1980s architectural hodgepodge of a house that had languished on the market for seven years. To access the front door, one had to scale an outdoor staircase so rickety, even their corgi, Huggy, wouldn’t chance it. Much of the first floor had been built over an unseen obstruction that made the ceiling so low they had to stoop to avoid bumping their heads. The place would require a “miraculous transformation,” Merritt says, who nonetheless agreed to buy it in 2018.

RIGHT 1) Doug Breer, of Stephen Blatt Architects in Portland, designed decks that project “dramatically over the ocean” and 2) a corgi-size arch from which Huggy can peek out when Kaucic (left) and Merritt greet their guests. 3) “Global prints remind them of their travels,” says Lovell interior designer Christina Briggs, who went with Schumacher’s artful Darya Ikat wallpaper in the couple’s guest room. 4) Works by Cape Elizabeth’s Missy Dunaway crown a Saarinen table surrounded with vintage leather chairs in a guesthouse dining area.

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ABOVE 1) Pops of pink in an abstract painting and Peter Dunham fabrics warm the lower-level living area. 2) In the kitchen, honed black-granite countertops from Portland’s Paul White Company pick up the darkest tones in swirly walnut cabinetry. 3) An arresting cyanotype by Portland’s Ramble More Design sets the laid-back tone in a lower-level living room nook whose other focal point is an oak-wrapped fireplace that cleverly integrates floating shelves. The pineapple prints are by Dominic Virtosu. 4) Nicknamed the Crow’s Nest, after the Gloucester, Massachusetts, bar made famous in The Perfect Storm, the fir-paneled, third-floor office/guest room incorporates a custom walnut daybed, a vintage French armchair, an antique desk chair and bust from Portland Flea-for-All, and boat-cleat “hooks” Briggs found on Etsy.

To their relief, an engineer determined that a few days’ worth of jackhammering would take care of the protruding granite ledge that made the lower level so wonky. The couple then hired Portland firm Stephen Blatt Architects, known for its subtle use of nautical vocabulary — curves, arches, shiplap cladding — to reimagine the building and Cape Elizabeth’s KR Builders to bring it to life. Buxton interior designer Christina Briggs also came on board to help them create a welcoming space that complements Kaucic’s proclivity for lively, colorful artwork. “It’s a coastal property, but we didn’t want to subscribe to a nautical theme,” says Briggs, who layered on mostly neutral furnishings with “moments of bold color.”

While they worked with their design team, Merritt suggested they live in the space to “get a sense of the soul and spirit of the house.” Good thing they did. The existing great room featured a cathedral ceiling, which the couple realized pulled the eye up toward the sky, rather than out toward the crashing surf. As a result, they opted to lower and barrel-vault the ceiling, creating space above for a small office/guest room. They also determined that the views on either side of the home were stunning and encouraged project architect Doug Breer to incorporate more openings, especially in the kitchen, which Merritt, an enthusiastic cook, wanted well integrated into the main living space.

The couple runs an executive coaching service and sometimes conducts retreats on the property, which includes a guesthouse. The main home’s interior also features multiple intimate spaces, such as the tiny third-floor office/guest room, dubbed the Crow’s Nest, and a lower-level living area with a daybed tucked into a curved, berth-like recess and a lounging nook with a black-granite fireplace. “We wanted to honor the ocean and views,” Kaucic says, “but also make sure everything was relaxed and comfortable for everyone who joins us in this magnificent spot.”

Completing This Cape Elizabeth Home Was the Last Item on His Bucket List

Pre-renovation, the architectural hodgepodge of a house had an outdoor staircase so rickety, even Huggy the corgi wouldn’t chance it.

A custom walnut screen separates Louis Kaucic and Billy Merritt’s Cape Elizabeth great room — furnished with a blackened-steel fireplace, wool-and-silk carpet

ABOVE A custom walnut screen separates Louis Kaucic and Billy Merritt’s Cape Elizabeth great room — furnished with a blackened-steel fireplace, wool-and-silk carpet from Portland’s Mougalian Rugs (who supplied most of the home’s carpets), and a Hal Mayforth painting — from the entry, featuring art by Antonia Glynne Jones.

TEXT BY RACHEL SLADE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JAMES R. SALOMON

Following a long career that ended in the C-suite of Applebee’s International, Louis Kaucic thought he’d checked off everything on his bucket list. Semi-retired and happy, he was living with his husband, Billy Merritt, in their dream home on Lake Winnisquam in New Hampshire when a friend asked if there was anything else he longed to do. No, he replied confidently.

His ambitious and quirky checklist had included the financing and construction of a rural school in Laos; riding a hot air balloon; going on a safari; joining at least three corporate boards; baking a birthday cake; and visiting the Great Wall of China, Egypt’s Giza pyramids, and the world’s largest ball of twine (probably) in Kansas. “I’ve worked through all of it,” he insisted.

But when Merritt asked him the same question that evening, Kaucic gave it more thought. Yes, he confessed, he still had one dream left. Growing up in Ohio, Maine “seemed like the most beautiful and exotic land I could imagine.” His final aspiration was to live on the Maine coast. Merritt loved the idea and encouraged him to explore.

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ABOVE 1) Doug Breer, of Stephen Blatt Architects in Portland, designed decks that project “dramatically over the ocean” and 2) a corgi-size arch from which Huggy can peek out when Kaucic (left) and Merritt greet their guests. 3) “Global prints remind them of their travels,” says Lovell interior designer Christina Briggs, who went with Schumacher’s artful Darya Ikat wallpaper in the couple’s guest room. 4) Works by Cape Elizabeth’s Missy Dunaway crown a Saarinen table surrounded with vintage leather chairs in a guesthouse dining area.

After scouting many listings near Portland, Kaucic zeroed in on land in Cape Elizabeth, just shy of an acre, right on the ocean. He invited Merritt to take a look, but cautioned him to keep an open mind: The glorious slice of rockbound shoreline he’d found came with a 1980s architectural hodgepodge of a house that had languished on the market for seven years. To access the front door, one had to scale an outdoor staircase so rickety, even their corgi, Huggy, wouldn’t chance it. Much of the first floor had been built over an unseen obstruction that made the ceiling so low they had to stoop to avoid bumping their heads. The place would require a “miraculous transformation,” Merritt says, who nonetheless agreed to buy it in 2018.

To their relief, an engineer determined that a few days’ worth of jackhammering would take care of the protruding granite ledge that made the lower level so wonky. The couple then hired Portland firm Stephen Blatt Architects, known for its subtle use of nautical vocabulary — curves, arches, shiplap cladding — to reimagine the building and Cape Elizabeth’s KR Builders to bring it to life. Buxton interior designer Christina Briggs also came on board to help them create a welcoming space that complements Kaucic’s proclivity for lively, colorful artwork. “It’s a coastal property, but we didn’t want to subscribe to a nautical theme,” says Briggs, who layered on mostly neutral furnishings with “moments of bold color.”

ABOVE 1) Pops of pink in an abstract painting and Peter Dunham fabrics warm the lower-level living area. 2) In the kitchen, honed black-granite countertops from Portland’s Paul White Company pick up the darkest tones in swirly walnut cabinetry. 3) An arresting cyanotype by Portland’s Ramble More Design sets the laid-back tone in a lower-level living room nook whose other focal point is an oak-wrapped fireplace that cleverly integrates floating shelves. The pineapple prints are by Dominic Virtosu. 4) Nicknamed the Crow’s Nest, after the Gloucester, Massachusetts, bar made famous in The Perfect Storm, the fir-paneled, third-floor office/guest room incorporates a custom walnut daybed, a vintage French armchair, an antique desk chair and bust from Portland Flea-for-All, and boat-cleat “hooks” Briggs found on Etsy.

While they worked with their design team, Merritt suggested they live in the space to “get a sense of the soul and spirit of the house.” Good thing they did. The existing great room featured a cathedral ceiling, which the couple realized pulled the eye up toward the sky, rather than out toward the crashing surf. As a result, they opted to lower and barrel-vault the ceiling, creating space above for a small office/guest room. They also determined that the views on either side of the home were stunning and encouraged project architect Doug Breer to incorporate more openings, especially in the kitchen, which Merritt, an enthusiastic cook, wanted well integrated into the main living space.

The couple runs an executive coaching service and sometimes conducts retreats on the property, which includes a guesthouse. The main home’s interior also features multiple intimate spaces, such as the tiny third-floor office/guest room, dubbed the Crow’s Nest, and a lower-level living area with a daybed tucked into a curved, berth-like recess and a lounging nook with a black-granite fireplace. “We wanted to honor the ocean and views,” Kaucic says, “but also make sure everything was relaxed and comfortable for everyone who joins us in this magnificent spot.”


2 Comments

  1. John Posen

    Gorgeous and spectacular remodel….Not surprised! You should see their other homes…

  2. Brigitte Luckett

    WOW – just WOW! Every detail is perfect!

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