Feeling at home in a Maine cottage built for entertaining
Second of a three-part series
When Connie Prince bought an old property in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, she knew restoring it would mean surprises along the way. (See “Double the Fun”, Spring 2016.) In addition to the large main house, one of its attractions was a small cottage that was used as a guesthouse. It had charming original details, such as Douglas fir floors, crown molding, and a brick fireplace. Prince intended to fix up the cottage first and live there over the summer while the main house was being renovated.
The cottage looked like a traditionally dormered Cape Cod, but the dormers were in an unfinished attic, not living space. Two attached garages sat on separate concrete pads. Prince was working with her contractor, Adrian Keating of AJ Keating Construction, to turn one into a master bedroom suite. Prince also intended to add a second story, for a total of three bedrooms. Keating, however, discovered “the garages were at separate elevations and would need to be jackhammered out.” The bad news: unless the foundation was ripped up and replaced—an enormous, costly endeavor—it would not support the second story.
So Prince took a deep breath and decided to tear down the entire structure. She asked Rob Whitten of Whitten Architects, whose work she admired, to design a new cottage. “My biggest concern was making sure the new guest cottage blended with the 1920s main house,” Prince says. “I wanted it to complement the original home. I first met with Rob around March 2013. Construction began in late summer and by May 2014, it was finished.”
The new home’s style is classic cottage, with dormers, angled roof lines, and lots of windows. Whitten Architects did the exterior design and the organization and layout of interior spaces. “The one-and-a-half-story cottage is designed to relate to the existing, two-story main house,” Whitten says.
One advantage to rebuilding is that, unlike the original, the cottage is now sited to take advantage of the sun, views, and breezes. “The new construction allowed us to design large spaces that are ideal for summer entertaining and guests,” Whitten says. “The house faces due south, so it’s sunny from mid-morning to early evening. All the main rooms and windows align to take advantage of that.” There are 10 rooms, including four bedrooms—one with built-in trundle beds—and three baths. At 2,400 square feet, “it’s a little house that lives large,” Whitten says.
Once Whitten and project architect Jessie Carroll finished the general layout, Keating and designer Sarah Steinberg took over. “We could expand and open up the living area, maximizing the layout. The rooms in the main house are separated, more traditional, and smaller, versus this modern arrangement where things are more open. It allows Connie to go back and forth according to her mood.”
Prince and her husband, Florida State Senator Jack Latvala, love to entertain. A natural hostess, she wanted a bigger space for casual summer living, with a kitchen, dining room, and living room all open to one another. A wood-burning fieldstone fireplace in the living room anchors the space. Multiple French doors on the porch are welcoming and keep the house open to the landscape. Keating and his crew custom built on-site all the kitchen cabinets as well as the built-ins in the dining room, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
“We managed to save the crown molding and the floors,” Keating says. “There wasn’t enough to refloor the entire house, so we put down Brazilian cherry instead, and used the fir to build cabinets in the mudroom and laundry.”
The kitchen is the heart of the house. Antique natural zinc and brass fisherman pendants hang over the island. Counters are luminous “Sea Pearl” quartzite, a hard, natural stone so “guests can spill and not worry about it,” Prince says. The beaded inset cabinets are painted a custom white by Sherwin Williams with hardware from Restoration Hardware.
The backsplash is a subtle combination of three-inch-by-six-inch marble subway tiles and hand-painted ceramic tile by Pratt and Larson (six-inch-by-six-inch Filigree B, color W92) that makes a striking design element above the Thermador stove.
Prince chose navy-blue leather chairs and barstools from Simply Home in Falmouth for the eating areas. “The leather on the barstools and at the dining room table was exactly what I was looking for,” Prince says. “I wanted very wearable fabric, but still warm and fun.” The dining room table is also from Restoration Hardware.
The cottage was originally designed with a crawl space intended to be storage. “I took one look at the view of the water out the window and said no way!” Prince says. “We turned it into a guest room with a built-in bed and a playroom for kids and families to stay in.”
Whitten designed the bedrooms to be spaced as far from one another as possible for privacy. The house can accommodate one family on the first floor, with children in the trundle bed room and parents in the master. A second family can stay upstairs, with adults in the suite and kids in the playroom with the built-in bed. “The main house sleeps eight,” Prince says. “And the guesthouse sleeps nine. And they have been filled to capacity!”
A mudroom is crucial in Maine, both as a place for clutter and creates a transition to the rest of the house. A mudroom lets the living spaces stay special, but there is no reason why a mudroom cannot be special itself. One of Sarah Steinberg’s favorite finds, the paw print tiles on the cottage mudroom floor are perfect for Prince, a dog lover with two Labrador retrievers, Cooper and Parker.
“The paw prints, from Wet Dog Tile, say ‘home’ and add a bit of whimsy,” she says. “Everyone should have more whimsy in their home.” (Tiles are from the Pond Dog collection, three-inch Muddy Pawprints, color Scooby Snacks.)
The countertop is the same quartzite—“Sea Pearl”—as in the kitchen, yet here it was given a leathered finish for a rougher, rustic feel. The backsplash is also from Wet Dog Tile. The mudroom leads outside to the patio and grilling area.
With the main house and cottage ready for a crowd, Prince turned her attention to the swimming pool and pool house. The pool was in dire need of repair, and the pool house was not much better. Keating and Steinberg came up with a design and put it together in 45 days, in time for Prince’s daughter’s September wedding beneath the pool house arbor.
To get there, the pool house was taken down to the foundation and rebuilt from the ground up on the same footprint. East Coast Woodworking built the kitchenette cabinets. Keating’s crew put a copper top on the table and did all of the interior finishing. Keating worked with the pool company, Aquatic Development by Tapley, to conceal pumps and equipment inside the building.
The pool house contains a dressing room, a refrigerator and sink, a flat-screen television, and comfortable furniture. Time and circumstances did not allow the addition of a bathroom, which would have involved digging up a good deal of the hardscaping in order to lay pipes.
Before hardscaping, landscaping, or work on the pool and pool house could begin, the site’s drainage problems had to be addressed. The back of the three-acre property sits higher than the front, causing water to run down and pond at the back of the main house and original guesthouse.
To solve the problem, “we created a network of catch basins that feed into 12-inch culverts to complete the new drainage system,” Keating says. “There is an underground sprinkler system tied in. We also buried the electrical lines and a propane tank for the generators. The underground mechanical systems on this project were vast.”
The solution that Michelle Grover, landscape designer at Great Works Landscape in Bath, created included rehabbing the main house patio, adding a second patio to it, and building a retaining wall to improve drainage. Her team built another patio behind the cottage with a catch basin underneath. Grover designed the drain cover to look like a sand dollar.
That patio has an inviting wood-burning fire pit of Grover’s design, built by stonemason Stephen Mosher of Bath. Topping the fire pit is Swenson granite, the same granite that is used around the swimming pool and on the patios and pathways. The pieces were custom cut on-site and joined together “like a puzzle,” Grover says.
As for plants, “Connie wanted a lot of color and variety, and flowers that bloomed a long time,” Grover says. “We looked at photos of plants and Connie chose what she wanted.” Peonies and dahlias, two of Prince’s favorites, are scattered liberally around the garden.
Tough Knock Out roses grow in front of both the cottage and the main house, visually uniting them. “They are good for the shore and can take the reflected heat from the pavement,” Grover says. “We used Knock Out roses in all colors. They bloom from the end of June until October.”
From weddings and other joyous celebrations to lazy summer weekends, since its completion the cottage has hosted many guests, even the owners. “This past summer Jack and I stayed in the guesthouse,” Prince says. “We love the cottage and the main house both. Both are comfortable and welcoming.”
“Building new was definitely the right choice,” Steinberg says. “The cottage is very comfortable, very efficient. There’s no wasted space. It’s the perfect house.”