By Virginia M. Wright
Photographs by Jared Kuzia
Trisha Tobey has been in love with her home on Kittery Point since she was a kid. Not the house itself — that’s relatively new — but the lot, where once sat a rental belonging to her grandparents. “That’s my house!” young Trisha would say, but when her wish finally came true, in 2008, she found the Cape to be in such disrepair that tearing it down and starting over made sense. In its place, she and her partner, John Jarnagin, have built a hipped-roof, multi-dormered bungalow. Thanks to her elegant, space-maximizing design, the 30–by–30–foot abode performs like a much bigger house.
The Living Room
South-facing windows look out on Chauncey Creek and flood the home with soft, natural light. “We don’t have to have lights on during the day, even in winter,” Tobey says. Neutral walls and light-colored drapes and furniture, from Hickory Chair Furniture, contribute to the airiness and defer to the view. “I didn’t want to take away from what was going on outside.” Even the enameled cast-iron woodstove is white. The super-insulated house is otherwise powered by electricity, much of it generated by 24 solar panels installed on a garage built last year. A residential and commercial interior designer with an office in Portsmouth, Tobey previously worked as a designer for an HVAC firm, where she gained enough understanding of plumbing and electrical systems to plan those for her own house.
Portsmouth woodworker James Rowe built this walnut bookshelf, which stretches from the second-floor master bedroom suite to a cupola, where there’s a small reading room. “I’m still working on filling the shelves,” Tobey says, laughing. She found the vintage library ladder at an architectural salvage store in Vermont. A second bedroom suite is in the walkout basement. Both suites have a full bathroom and a washer and dryer.
An open floor plan and efficient kitchen allow Tobey and Jarnagin to feed their extended family comfortably — dinner for 30 people (and their dogs) isn’t unusual. To preserve the view, they forewent upper cabinets. They keep only cookware that they use regularly, storing most of it in the island, which is crowned with a cooktop and walnut countertop. On either side of the corner sink are two dishwashers, an ice drawer, and additional storage. The worktop is Carrara marble. A double wall oven is in an adjacent canning pantry. Scuffs and scratches blend into the white-oak floor’s pickled finish. “It’s great for dogs because it shows no damage at all,” Tobey says.
When Tobey and Jarnagin merged households, they had to make tough decisions about duplicate belongings. Her expandable dining table was better suited to entertaining, but his beautiful old farm table held sentimental value for his family. It was Tobey’s idea to cut it in half lengthwise to build a vanity — but only after John’s children gave their blessing. “I try to mix old and new so even a new house has some history,” she says. “I like houses to feel like they’ve been collected over time.” A short, narrow portion of the old piece lives in the adjoining master bedroom, where it serves as an accent table.
The master bedroom’s walnut chevron floor extends into Tobey’s closet, which is tucked in a dormer. The jewelry box under the window is a repurposed antique tool chest. Tobey’s dad made the clothes racks from plumbing pipes. At 12 by 12 feet, the closet is about the same size as the bedroom itself, and it’s Tobey’s alone. “John’s not allowed in here,” she jokes. “This is what happens when you have a woman design a closet!”