October 22, 2021
A Maine retreat merges a regional vernacular and a modern architectural aesthetic.
Text by Lisa H. Speidel Photography by Trent Bell
It was serendipity, say Jeffrey Hunter and Janet Griffin, that led them to the property they would purchase in Stonington, Maine. Oneday, while summering on the island, they spotted a For Sale sign by an abandoned auto-body shop at the top of a dead-end road. Further investigation led them down past an exposed ledge where they discovered a dilapidated farmhouse.
While the buildings weren’t salvageable, the site was extraordinary—tucked away and private but overlooking a bustling navigation channel with a picturesque parade of boats.
The couple enlisted Elliott Architects, with JT Loomis taking the lead on the project. Their goal was twofold: “the antithesis of our beautiful 1895 Queen Anne Victorian in Iowa,” says Hunter, “and a design that respected the vernacular architecture of Downeast Maine.”
Loomis responded with a single-story 3,400-square-foot house that, he says, “starts in that authentic Maine vernacular, then gets transformed. We veered from the traditional and gave it a little edge.” The white cedar shingles, bleached to weather naturally, nod to the coastal area, but the overall aesthetic skews modern. Three gabled structures, roughly the same height and with eye-catching flat-roof connectors, serve to bring down the scale of the house and delineate the interior living plan.
The perpendicular structure contains the two primary suites, while the two overlapping parallel volumes comprise the main living area. A glass-and-wood connector bridges the private quarters and family spaces. A similar, larger connector extends the living and dining room out into the landscape, framing stunning views of the rocky coast and islands beyond.
In fact, incorporating the architecture into the landscape was a key component of the project, says Loomis. Todd Richardson of Richardson & Associates embraced the existing site conditions—the ledge, the meadows, the gravel beach—while hearkening back to Stonington’s storied history in granite quarrying. Huge blocks of granite, mined from a quarry a mile up the road, were trucked in and placed perpendicular to the home. “The blocks extend the architecture out to the landscape and blur the boundaries between the two,” explains Richardson.
They also celebrate a sense of place—a notion dear to the homeowners. And one that the design team took to heart. Sums up Loomis: “The project represents a strong connection in both form and materiality to the Maine coast they love.”