Warm, Modern Style on the Coast

Partner Post: Houzz

This family retreat strips traditional elements to their essence for a light, bright, updated feel.

A retired couple wanted to build a vacation house that they could share with their four grown children and their families. Located on a gently sloping site near Penobscot Bay, the house is inspired by New England’s vernacular forms and traditional materials, but nonetheless provides contemporary spaces for modern living.

Who lives here: A retired couple

Size: 4,000 square feet

Location: Rockport

Designers: Christopher Snowber and Michael P. Rouse of Hamilton Snowber Architects

The house is clad in local white-cedar siding, and the roof is standing-seam galvanized aluminum. “The details — columns and posts — speak in the language of traditional architecture,” architect Christopher Snowber says, “but are stripped down to their essence. You recognize these features as having a traditional feel, but they’re modern in detailing.”

Revamp Your Home’s Exterior With One of These Siding Pros

Photo by Rob Karosis Photography, original photo on Houzz

The entry, with its low ceiling, opens up to the great room and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, shown below. The home’s white interior, Snowber says, “reflects the modern quality the clients wanted. Also, in New England, white is a much-used, familiar, and beloved color.” Throughout the home, the floors are Maine maple.

Photo by Rob Karosis Photography, original photo on Houzz

Juxtaposed with the compressed entry, the great room offers a sense of expansiveness. The large double-hung windows are topped with clerestories, which bring in even more light. “The color in the home comes out in the light blues and greens of the furnishings and stone fireplace, to reflect the blue of the water and green of the landscape,” Snowber says.

Photo by Rob Karosis Photography, original photo on Houzz

The fireplace surround was carefully composed of granite stones in different sizes. “It’s a mosaic piece,” Snowber says. Contrasting finishes — some stones are rough, others honed — add textural interest. The fireplace header is smooth granite, as is the frame for the built-in wood box.

Photo by Rob Karosis Photography, original photo on Houzz

The architects separated the dining and kitchen areas with a buffet that provides storage and a sideboard on one side, and kitchen cabinets on the other. A pass-through opening and see-through cabinets offer transparency. The dining table is from City Joinery; the chairs are from Thos. Moser.

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Photo by Rob Karosis Photography, original photo on Houzz

The ceiling is lower in the kitchen to provide a sense of intimacy. Open shelving and no upper cabinets keep the space feeling open and airy, as do plentiful windows and doors to the patio. The island, painted in a light blue-green, is topped with walnut. The other countertops are marble. The pendant lights are from Niche Modern.

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Photo by Rob Karosis Photography, original photo on Houzz

The master suite includes a bedroom, bath, closet, and study. Because of the low, long windows, the bedroom appears to float over the ocean. The space is actually about 75 feet back from the sea, “but you feel like you’re perched above it,” Snowber says. The chair is from Design Within Reach. The study provides access to a private patio with commanding views of the ocean below.

Photo by Rob Karosis Photography, original photo on Houzz

The master bath is open and bright. The touch of blue-green appears here in the paneling that houses a built-in medicine cabinet. The vanities have legs, to appear more like furniture. “It’s a sculpted space, with the tub, clear-glass shower, and vanities placed lightly within it,” Snowber says.


  1. Beautiful home in backyard of my youth.
    Wonderful architecture. Simple and elegant.

    Would happily work with these top flight Architects.


    Steve Chisholm, Esquire

  2. The more money you put into the construction and decoration, the more beautiful your house would become. However, is not its architecture more adoptable and attractive than normal buildings of the same price?

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