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Project DetailS
Harpswell, Maine

Little Hen House

Little Hen HouseLittle Hen House

Nestled on a peninsula along Casco Bay, Harpswell is a picturesque fishing town made up of small islands and renowned for its natural beauty and maritime charm.

Our client aimed to revitalize a dilapidated island cottage site and create an energy-efficient collection of buildings for living, gathering, and connecting with the small island community in Casco Bay, Maine. The house came first, providing an anchor for the owner’s new full-time island life. Historically, island cottages began as modest gable forms for fishermen. As families expanded, porches were added, then gradually infilled to meet evolving needs. We aimed to capture a similar aesthetic, without the expense of time. Our client wanted a home that sat well with the modest neighboring dwellings yet embraced contemporary living.

The covered entry porch leads through a carefully configured mudroom to reveal an open plan kitchen / living area with panoramic views of the water for entertaining. To the side, a bathroom and office feature water views and potential for conversion to a bedroom. Wider door clearances and pocket doors enhance maneuverability at ground level ensuring she can ‘age-in-place’. Collaborating with a talented local artisan, we curated built-in storage solutions to contain a lifetime's collection of books, media, and memories within the consolidated space. Upstairs, the bedroom and stairs offer sweeping water views, with a private bath and dressing room tucked into the eaves. 

Our client’s vision extended beyond completion of her home. The team promptly shifted focus to the timber frame barn. This structure provides an office, garage, and serves as a gathering space with a kitchen to host community barn suppers and display historic artifacts and memorabilia associated with the island’s history. Working closely with the town to obtain historical photos, maps, and stories, she dubbed the loft space the “Little Hen Island Historical Society.”

We collaborated closely with Reggie Lebel of Emerald Builders who contributed essential knowledge and a network of highly skilled craftspeople to create a high-performance building, beautifully blending modern and traditional details. The project also involved landscape designer Kathleen Fitzgerald of Tide Walk Designs. The site was re-naturalized with native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants including ferns, low-bush blueberry, red clover, and pollinator meadows that support wildlife and productive honeybees. This reduces watering, erosion, runoff, management costs, and physical labor. 

This project is a testament to the synergy between traditional forms, modern design, sustainability, and community engagement. Our client’s commitment to her home and community has resulted in a timeless, energy-efficient haven that reflects the spirit of the Maine coastline.


Trent Bell Photography


Builder: Emerald Builders

Interior Designer: Whitten Architects

Structural Engineer: Albert Putnam Associates

Millwork & Furniture: Derek Preble

Landscape Design: Tide Walk Designs

Landscape Installation: Sam Knight, North Road 

Masonry: Bullock Stonework 

Timberframer: Seth Gallant

Solar Panels & Car Chargers: ReVision Energy

Related Press:

2024 AIA Maine Design Awards


2024 AIA Maine Architrave Award

Design Story

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