Tasked with the design of a home rooted in nature, there was only one way for architects to take advantage of this Maine property's serene surroundings: Invite the outdoors in.
This sprawling, starkly modern seaside cottage on an island off the coast of Maine consists of a collection of rectangular structures with gently curved metal roofs that resemble capsized ships' hulls, so perhaps it isn't going overboard to say it seems to float on the landscape. The homeowners, avid sailors, wanted a place with "easy access to some of the best sailing in the world," says the wife, where they not only could moor their 44-foot yacht in the harbor but also keep an eye on it from the master bedroom.
The pair purchased the remote, heavily forested 2.7-acre parcel in 1996. Two years later, after putting in moorings and a 135-foot-long dock, they hired Elliott Elliott Norelius Architecture of Blue Hill, Maine, to give shape to their dream retirement home. The residence earned one of the American Institute of Architects New England's 2008 Merit Awards for Excellence in Architecture. "There's a kind of timelessness to it, even though it's modern. Just the way that it's so reverent to the landscape," says Minneapolis-based architect Tim Carl, a member of the AIA jury that selected it. "There's just a beautiful softness to the buildings that really fits well."
Though the homeowners had no design preconceptions, they did have a vision: "We've been sailing up here for 35 years, and you can count the number of houses on the fingers of one hand that we've seen that are contemporary and weren't monstrosities on water," the husband says. "Yes, we wanted a contemporary house. No, we did not want a monstrosity."
The glass-fronted house's 3,350-square-foot footprint is broken up into three separate blocks -- the kitchen, the living/dining area, and the three bedrooms -- linked by a web of decking. Two more rectangular structures complete the composition: a woodworking shop and a three-car garage. Breaking the footprint into smaller, discrete volumes means that "the house itself feels like it's more integrated and belongs there," says Matthew O'Malia, the project manager who worked with Matthew Elliott and Bruce Norelius and has since founded his own firm, Matthew O'Malia Design Office, of Belfast, Maine.
The core design philosophy -- a celebration of seamless indoor-outdoor living -- is best exemplified by dramatic south-facing sliding glass doors less than 100 feet from the water's edge. In the kitchen, the view framed by the doors is 8 feet high and 20 feet wide; in the master bedroom, 10 feet wide. "We've got some of the most beautiful scenery in the world -- that's the art," the husband says. ª
Stacey Chase, a freelance writer in Maine, contributes frequently to the Globe Magazine. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.