TEXT BY SARA ANNE DONNELLY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY IRVIN SERRANO
Judy Walsh and Paul Stenzel wanted to retire in Maine, but they couldn’t agree where. He wanted the solitude of Siberia. She loved the sociability of the city. Their resolution? A 1.5-acre property abutting the 90-acre Peaks Island Land Preserve, just three watery miles from downtown Portland. “It’s so peaceful, nestled in the woods, we really love that, and yet we’re 300 yards from the ocean and a 20-minute walk to the ferry terminal,” Paul says. Completed last year, their 1,750-square-foot house also balances country and city. It has a rustic ethos, with a shed roof, rough-sawn cedar siding, and low-maintenance grounds. But it also has a cubist profile, with six-foot windows and traffic-cone-orange accents that lend an undeniably cosmopolitan spirit. Eddie Albert, meet Eva Gabor.
“You don’t need a huge kitchen to cook for a dozen people,” says Paul, a former chef and culinary arts professor. He and architect Phil Kaplan, of Portland’s Kaplan Thompson, designed a compact space, with an induction stove embedded in the island’s concrete countertop, a whisper-quiet Bosch dishwasher, and a double wall oven framed in the same orange used to accent the home’s exterior. Maple cabinets complement the pale oak floors and the walls, which range in hue throughout the house from lily white to warm gray. Kaplan oriented some walls so Judy’s artworks, collected during her career as a conservator, can be displayed without risking light damage. Massachusetts artist Roy Perkinson painted the seascape above the banquette.
Built with mostly Maine-sourced materials by Peaks Island contractor Heather Thompson, of Thompson Johnson Woodworks, this net-zero-energy home is equipped with a 6.7 kW solar array and mini-split heat pumps. “It seemed to me that if we were going to build a 21st-century house, it should look and act like one,” Judy says. Paul has a history of throat cancer, so Kaplan designed 16-inch-thick walls to incorporate not only super insulation, but also a vapor barrier that keeps the house at 60 percent humidity. The walls allow for window seats, such as those in the living room. The upper windows, by contrast, are dramatically recessed on the exterior.
Children of visiting friends love this elevated sleep space with a rail by Cumberland lronworks and a Baldwin apple ladder. It’s located in the common area of the house, which has an open-space design. While the house was being built, Judy and Paul moved into an apartment for a trial run. “We taped off the floor so we were living in the floor plan of the house,” Judy says. “When we moved in, we knew where all the furniture should go. We even knew where all the art should go.”
The front deck’s angled posts hold a retractable sail that shades this favorite spot. “We can see people coming down the road and we can wave to them,” Judy says. Close-knit Peaks Island, it turns out, supplies plenty of sociability. And when the couple wants quiet, there’s plenty of that too. “It’s not Siberia,” Paul allows. “It’s actually much better.”