Above: On the addition, crafted by Rockport builder Tom Albertson, corner windows and an inset balcony off the master bedroom subtly mirror the stacked porch and balcony on the main house.
By Candace Karu | Styled by Janice Dunwoody | Photographs by Rachel Sieben
From the October 2018 issue of Down East magazine
When expanding their farmhouse on West Penobscot Bay in Owls Head, Susan Deutsch and Carlisle Towery started down a well-trodden architectural path: uniting existing structures — in this case, a 19th-century main house and detached guesthouse — with a new addition. But rather than imitate the style of the originals, in traditional New England connected-farmhouse fashion, Rockport architect John Priestley convinced the couple to build a “stylistically dissimilar” wing to establish a clean connection, unencumbered by variously sloping rooflines. The resulting cedar-clad, minimalist box houses a kitchen, dining room, gallery, office, and master bedroom suite. Factor in the living spaces and bedrooms in the older sections and the reimagined home provides plenty of room for the retired couple, their blended family, guests, and voluminous art collection.
John Priestley designed this transitional space — the doorway at left gives way to the original sunporch, while the portal at right leads to the front entry and office — as a gallery. Warm-toned works infuse the room, including a portrait of an unknown woman by a Polish artist, purchased in the couple’s former hometown of Hastings on Hudson, New York; a calligraphic painting by Jan Owen, of Belfast; and a wooden sculpture by Cushing’s Victor Goldsmith. The image above the wicker settee is by renowned Rockport photographer Joyce Tenneson.
The dining room embodies the balance between Susan’s desire for expansive windows to usher in ocean views and natural light and Carlisle’s wish for as much wall space as possible for their artwork. Priestley split the difference by integrating floor-to-ceiling glazing at the corners of the rooms, leaving long stretches in between for paintings. Simple furnishings — including an oak, Shaker-style table, paired with whimsically mismatched chairs — allow works such as an abstract painting by Freeport’s James Chute and an urban landscape by Rockland’s Laura Waller to shine.
The couple has a simple rule when it comes to collecting art: All purchases require approval by both parties. Take this oil by Camden’s Colin Page. Susan put a hold on it minutes after walking into a show at Rockland’s Dowling Walsh Gallery, but the sale wasn’t complete until Carlisle gave his blessing a few days later. Their sculpture menagerie includes wooden giraffes picked up on trips and an iron goat from Carlisle’s mother. The wooden bowl is by Victor Goldsmith.
From the rear deck, the couple enjoys wide views of their fruit-tree-studded yard and an adjoining 35-acre wooded land preserve. In addition to the flat-roofed box form, Priestley used vertical Eastern white cedar siding — left untreated to allow it to mellow to a silvery gray over time — and modern, mullion-less windows to distinguish the addition from the old home. Gray-painted, medium-density overlay panels beneath the fenestration create an intriguing composition of open and solid shapes reminiscent of a Piet Mondrian painting.
The office is built for two, though Carlisle admits he spends less time here than Susan, who is treasurer of the board of trustees for Rockland’s Farnsworth Art Museum. She found the hand-woven rug on a solo trip to Morocco. “The color feels so uplifting. It changes the whole environment in here,” she says.
Self-styled foodies, the couple sought a functional kitchen to replace a cramped cook space in the main house, which was located in what is now the back half of the dining room. The new galley design is extremely efficient, with abundant storage in the cherry cabinets, stained a pale gray that harmonizes with the light granite countertops. Red-birch flooring paves the way past a wall tricked out with shelving, more cabinetry, and a wine refrigerator. At the opposite end of the space, a bevy of metal butterflies, mounted on the wall, look as though they fluttered in through an expanse of water-facing wraparound windows. “I look around this house,” says Susan, “and wonder if this is what heaven will be like.”