The Nelsons needed more space for their three grown daughters, two of whom had been relegated to bunk beds, and guests, who had to camp out or rent another cottage. Now, there are two adult-size bedrooms behind the living area; a third bedroom, mudroom, and den are in a rear addition with an angled roofline that plays off the original.
By Sarah Stebbins
Photographs by Chris Becker
For nearly a century of summers, Louisa Nelson’s family has migrated to New Harbor’s Pemaquid Point. Like seabirds, they made their nests near the shoreline — in Victorian-style shingled cottages, mostly, and her grandparents’ antique farmhouse. But in 1962, Louisa’s parents bucked the architectural trend, erecting a mid-century modern cottage with water-facing picture windows and a dramatic butterfly roof. “Our house always stood out and not in my favorite way,” she says. When it was time to renovate, Louisa and her husband, Mark, considered modifying the place to resemble a Shingle-style cottage. But, working with Steven and Wiebke Theodore of Arrowsic’s Theodore + Theodore Architects, the Pasadena-based couple came to embrace the clean-lined aesthetic that, in turn, embraces their rock-bound stretch of Johns Bay.
The Living Room
“There was real merit in the way the mid-century building related to the landscape,” Wiebke says — for example, its wraparound windows and upturned roof ushered in light and views. To bring even more airiness, the Theodores worked with Nobleboro’s Cornerstone Carpentry & Consulting to install larger, more efficient glazing and replace dark woodwork with pickled pine. The biggest change: removing a leaky concrete-block wall and a row of small rooms that cut into the living space.
Louisa’s grandfather, a Colby professor, built the family’s first Pemaquid cottage in 1926, before moving to the farmhouse. In 1931, he bought most of the area’s undeveloped land and sold small lots to fellow academics. “He wanted to attract people of modest means, like himself, who would stay for the summer,” Louisa says. Later, when her dad and his brothers had places, “the woods and waterways seemed full of cousins, uncles, and aunts.”
The new bedrooms are of equal size and each has a water view, which wasn’t the case in the cottage’s former iteration. “With three kids, you can’t have any ‘better’ rooms,” Louisa says. Not huge, the bedrooms aren’t for hanging out in, Mark adds. “Louisa’s dad always said that Maine summers are meant to be spent outside; his kids and mine have lived by that.”
Previously tucked behind the concrete wall on the opposite side of the living area, the kitchen is now part of the main social space. Greg Zoulamis, of Gardiner, crafted the Douglas-fir cabinetry — topped with black granite from Topsham’s Morningstar Stone and Tile — and turned the support beam that replaced the wall into a shelf/glass rack. Over the dining table, a light fixture from Tandem Glass, in Dresden, references the dangling stemware and blue of the bay. Between the Nelsons, Louisa’s brother’s family (they own a place next door), and assorted friends, there are often 25 people gathered here. Louisa loves being able to cook “while also being a part of the conversation and watching the sky and sea.”
Situated off the new mudroom entry, the den offers a private place to watch TV or work, thanks to a maple panel that folds down into a desk Zoulamis crafted. The sofa doubles as a guest bed. In the corner, a glass pendant lights up the windows in the evenings, “providing a beacon and welcoming gesture when you’re outside,” Wiebke says. Stepping into the mudroom, you can see straight down a hallway to the ocean framed in the front windows, a feature that “makes the whole house feel transparent and welcoming,” Steven adds. Before, you entered through a cramped hallway behind the living room and had to turn to get the view.
The Outdoor Shower
“Most of our family only showers outside,” Louisa says. “On a beautiful day after sailing, there’s a parade of people out here.” Rendered in Meranti wood, the shower projects from the addition’s southern wall, which, like the rest of the house, has cedar shingles instead of the former pine cladding. “So Louisa got her shingled cottage,” Wiebke says with a laugh.