Photography by Darren Setlow courtesy of New Energy Works
High above the sea on a rural stretch of Maine’s coastline, all is quiet. Only the sound of crashing waves against the rocky shore breaks the silence — unless you’re lucky enough to time your visit when the property’s original residents are near. From roughly December through June, the high-pitched whistle of bald eagles rings out during nesting season.
But the majestic birds aren’t the only ones laying claim to the cliffside perch. This beautiful sliver of land between forest and water also serves as one family’s private retreat — a place to escape the rigors of daily life and reconnect with nature and one another.
Keeping the home connected to the land was one of the primary goals of the homeowners, explains Rob Bramhall, owner of Rob Bramhall Architects, who designed the structure. Inspired by the architecture of Franklin Lloyd Wright, the home eases into the site visually, with its use of natural stones and timbers. Walls of locally sourced granite anchor the exterior, while Douglas fir timbers provide the its structural support. Cedar channel siding and lush landscaping continue the organic vibe.
Even with all of its natural materials, the home is far from rustic. A decidedly modern profile emerges, thanks to the design’s straight lines, clean angles, simple shed roof and heavy use of steel — both inside and out. In fact, throughout the interiors, steel emerges as a main player, alongside the timbers and stone. Exposed metal beams along the ceilings and doors play up the home’s contemporary mood, while stone pillars, walls and fireplaces infuse the space with a sense of permanence.
Alongside it all, the Douglas fir beams lend a visual and tactile warmth. Although the timbers, themselves, are substantial in size, they have a muted, almost soft, appearance thanks to a custom finish from New Energy Works, who handled all of the timber fabrication and installation in the home. “Timbers were burned, brushed back and then layered with different stain finishes,” explains general manager Eric Fraser. “The burning helps you change the base color of the Douglas fir, so while it’s normally salmon pink in tone, we can alter it to be more tonally brown by burning it first.”
The neutral timbers play well with the home’s other modern elements in the main gathering spaces. Stretches of cool white painted walls, pale floors and ash-and-white cabinetry serve as the backdrop for the room’s modern-yet-natural furnishings and accessories — wooden barstools, a spotted deerskin-inspired rug and faux-fur pillows, to name a few.
The feeling of relaxation throughout the interior is palpable, undoubtedly owing in large measure to the huge stretches of glass across the entire rear of the home, delivering ocean views as far as the eye can see. “We positioned the home right on the site and did these large expanses of glass to really bring the outdoors inside,” explains Rob.
Besides linking the home to its surroundings of sea and sky, Rob says another essential goal of the homeowners was ensuring the family and their guests would have plenty of spaces to comfortably gather, but also private areas where they could rest and recharge. To bring this about, he created a “pod-style” building design, which allowed both goals to be met seamlessly.
In the home’s main section, the open living, kitchen and dining areas supply ample room to entertain and mingle. Down the hall, a primary wing and separate pod of private bedrooms allow the family and their visitors to slip away in solitude.
The home’s covered porch and open-air terraces offer yet another spot to enjoy solo or with the whole gang. Under the timber-framed porch, furniture designed for lounging centers around a wood-burning fireplace. Just below, a series of steps leads to an in-ground spa alongside a fire pit. Wherever you choose to settle in, you can be sure it will be the perfect space to take in the water and sky — and, if you’re fortunate enough — maybe even catch a glimpse of a bald eagle ready to make a landing in his own home beside the sea.
Ultimately, the couple say it’s those sweeping vistas — serene yet untamed — that make their retirement home the very best place to be. “It’s so peaceful here,” sighs the owner. “There is beauty everywhere you look.”
Architect: Ansley Interiors
Timber Provider: New Energy Works