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Project DetailS
Downeast, Maine

The Narrows

The NarrowsThe Narrows

Downeast Maine is known for its natural beauty and historic charm. In addition to nearby Acadia National Park, the region also boasts a rich shipbuilding history and saltwater farms.

The Narrows is a coastal retreat nestled along the banks of one of Maine’s abundant tidal rivers. The retired couple, who have adult children, have historical ties to the region and a strong interest in the conservation of precious coastal lands. They sought a gathering place for their extended family. The couple's love for the field on the property was a central consideration in our design.

Our site-specific design respected the unique 600-foot shoreland building setback dictated by Maine Coast Heritage Trust. By positioning the home even farther back than the required setback, we were able to preserve the best attributes of the site–the rolling fields and woodlands down to the river–without crowding them. The site’s fields are cut for hay twice a year, and this intentional tending creates a lush and dynamic foreground. The views of the river are embraced by the surrounding coastal woodlands and form a picturesque middle ground that leads the eye toward the serene background beyond. Our challenge was ensuring the home had a subtle presence on the site, particularly on approach by car, allowing visibility over the house to the water. 

This concept influenced the house’s multi-level design, including its sunken one-story core flanked by two bedroom wings, one-half level up and one-half level down. Our design seamlessly integrated the field with the house, creating a blurred boundary between the patio, the house's edge, and the field. The house sits at the northern edge of the field, offering panoramic views across most of the field to the water. This also provided ideal exposure for the solar collectors which supplement the electrical needs, including the heat pump powered radiant heat system. The bedroom suites and barn are derived from the simple utilitarian shapes of regional coastal structures. By dropping the central connector and keeping the house to one story, we minimized the visual impact of the home while also giving direct access to grade from the open plan living space. The site's unique characteristics are linked to the multi-level design, allowing multiple points of connection with the surrounding grade. A strong connection between inside and out was accomplished through well-framed views, a stone terrace, and a generous screened porch. This connection extends from the high entry point to the lower living grade and the existing grade on the south side, where the main living space is situated. Even in lower spaces, efforts were made to connect with the outdoors. The grade was elevated as much as possible to align with the windows, creating a sense of closeness to the ground and a strong connection to the outdoor environment, even in the "basement" areas. High north-facing windows above ample storage space help balance direct sunlight from tall glass doors facing the river to the south while also promoting natural ventilation..

We used local, natural, and reclaimed materials to create a high-performance, low-maintenance home rooted in the local vernacular architecture. The exterior showcases native plantings, cedar shingles and vertical cedar siding, with reclaimed materials used primarily in the fireplace, per the owners' request. Durability was a key consideration, with thick concrete flooring and solid white oak used throughout, along with white cedar on the exterior. The bedroom areas feature built-in solid white oak furnishings.

By honoring coastal setbacks and prioritizing the couple's love for the property's fields, our site-specific design not only preserved the natural beauty of the land but also fosters a strong connection between the home and the environment.

Project Completion Date: 2023


Trent Bell Photography


-Builder: Hewes & Company
-Structural Engineer: Albert Putnam Associates
-Interior Designer: Kelly Healy of Belhaakon
-Cabinetwork: Hewes & Company
-Landscape Architecture: Emma Kelly Landscape
-Landscape Installation: Atlantic Landscape Construction

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