A Cottage Goes Comfortably Formal
Decor Maine Magazine, 2019
A Chicago-based couple update their 20-year-old summer home to suit their evolving tastes and growing family
Can a building shrug off its winter coat for a summer dress? A Prouts Neck home, built in 1999 for a Chicago-based couple, seems to have done just that. A recent redecoration replaced a palette of beige, reds, and greens with neutrals and pale blues and greens. Carpeting and drapes were removed, furniture reupholstered, and the kitchen gutted and redone. The changes made for a sleeker sensibility. Think of a traditional Maine cottage that decides it wants to wear a sophisticated frock for a change. And in a larger size, given that the redo involved an expansion for better dining and gathering options.
The Chicago couple are carrying on a tradition of summers in Maine that started with the husband’s childhood visits to grandparents. The husband’s parents met on Prouts Neck. Two of his siblings and his late brother’s wife now also own homes there, so parties for the extended family can draw over 30. “Someone will say, ‘I have a houseguest coming in,’ or ‘Can I bring so-and-so?’ and you can hardly say no,” says the wife.
Interior designer Leandra Fremont-Smith of Yarmouth, Portland’s Wright-Ryan Construction, and the original architect, Cambridge, Massachusetts–based Ken Bolton, are responsible for the renovation and addition. The most striking change is the second-floor kitchen and attached deck with its catwalk to a new structure: garage below, screened porch above. The porch reads as a living room with a stone veneer chimney with raised bluestone hearth, built-in cabinets, and wicker furniture with navy cushions. Yet, as Wright-Ryan project manager Patrick Verville notes, the space is open to the elements. White storage benches sit under windows that ring the room. Wheels allow the benches to be easily reconfigured.
Although the dining and living spaces might be considered transitional, the new kitchen, designed by Conrad Arseneau of Kitchen Cove Cabinetry & Design in Portland, with Smith’s assistance, is sleekly contemporary with traditional and industrial touches. Inspired partially by the homeowners’ kitchen in Chicago, the room doubles up on prep spaces and makes the flow through the space more natural. Flat-panel walnut cabinetry is painted either linen white or flatiron gray. Silestone (in Calacatta Gold) was used for the countertops and island, as well as a stove backsplash that slides open for spices. In the space that the addition provided, a faux leather banquette wraps a French cafe–inspired table and chairs. A stainless steel strip serves as trim for the more traditional white stove hood and for the island’s electrical outlet port. The floor is a herringbone porcelain tile. All these cool colors made the designers want to warm the space by picking brushed brass for the pendant lights, cabinet handles, and stainless steel strip detailing. The kitchen’s adjoining pantry is an eye-popping aqua, a burst of color otherwise replicated (in a slightly different shade) only on the front hall’s ceiling.
Fremont-Smith assisted with the kitchen, outfitted the new screened porch, and refashioned all the interior spaces, which she describes as “comfortably formal,” combining “bulletproof” materials for fabrics and rugs with the elegant sensibility of the owners. Over time, the family realized they tended to gather in the smallish kitchen and avoided the adjacent turret area, living room, and sunroom. “We wanted you to want to be in each room,” says the wife. Fremont-Smith integrated the turret room’s seating with the living room’s by rearranging the living room furniture and designing a built-in bench that Wright-Ryan fashioned for the turret space. She also wanted the living room and sitting room to be visually linked while having some definition. She chose the same linen-white paint that is used throughout the house for the living room and a pale gray in lieu of the previous green for the wood-ceilinged sunroom, a space that also got a new sectional sofa. (Preexisting furniture went to the porch or was consigned.) The spaces are now brighter and more welcoming. “Before,” says the wife, “I couldn’t get people into the living room. Now I can’t get them out.”
Working with the existing rug and furniture, Fremont-Smith also freshened the dining room with new sconces, new paint for the chandelier and chair frames, a peacock twill for the dining room chairs, and a Manila hemp Phillip Jeffries wallpaper for a high border over the (freshly painted white) paneling.
The summer of 2018 was the first time the family spent a Fourth of July in the house. They celebrated with a large lobster dinner in the screened porch, the wheeled benches functioning as table seating. The navy fabric on the faux wicker chairs and the composite Trex decking are (happily) indestructible, even for such an inevitably messy meal. Late in the evening, after lighting sparklers, the gathering came inside to watch Mama Mia! There was plenty of seating on the turret built-in, sofas, and chairs to see the screen. At one point, the wife says, “Everybody started singing to Mama Mia! I looked around and thought, ‘I love this. This is why I did this.’”
Photography by Jeff Roberts, words by Debra Spark