SoHo by the Sea

An Ogunquit home with loft-style panache

Brandt House GardenBackPhotographed by Rob Karosis/Produced by Marsha Jusczak A waterside view of the home, which was under construction when the homeowners fell in love with it.

Interior designer Sharon Bottner follows a ritual with many clients, but with one Ogunquit, Maine, homeowner, she was not sure of the result.

“I asked her for photographs from magazines of rooms, spaces, chairs, and window treatments that were appealing to her so I could get a look at her style,” Bottner says. “Her pictures made me very anxious before I knew her, because she consistently showed me pictures of what looked like a Manhattan loft.”

Bottner, owner of Panache Interior Design in Rye, New Hampshire, went back to the client with her impression of what she had seen. “I said, ‘I have to marry your taste, which is Manhattan loft, with the fact that you live on the Maine coast,” Bottner says. “And she just laughed and said, ‘You got me.’”

Homeowner Linda Feskar is not from Manhattan, nor does that drive her style. “I’ve always loved the architecture of loft spaces,” Linda explains. “I love the openness of them, the modernness. Anyone who works with me has to temper that down.”

The renovation of the 5,200-square-foot home began in the kitchen where Anita Colby, owner of Stratham, New Hampshire-based The Cabinetworks, was working with Linda on a redesign. In the past, Colby “had found Sharon very easy to work with, so she introduced us,” Linda says. “We got together, and it just worked very quickly and well.”

Brandt kitchen

Linda and her husband, John, purchased their home in 1999, when they lived in western Massachusetts and vacationed in Maine. John, a professor at the University of Massachusetts for 32 years, invented a medical research instrument and its accompanying software. “We looked for a house for three to four years,” Linda says. “We never really found anything. Then we came across this one—it wasn’t finished yet. We were head over heels.” Architect Bill Ross with William Ross Design of York Harbor, Maine, designed the home, and Linda had it decorated while not living in the area.. Bottner describes the previous style as a heavy antique look, which suited neither the homeowners nor the surrounding landscape. “It just got kind of outdated,” Linda says.

Sharon started the redesign in the living room, where the homeowner envisioned a round sofa in a creamy hue. Bottner sourced a two-piece round sofa from Chicago-and New York-based Niedermaier. “Linda has a strong affinity for creams,” Bottner says. “But if the whole house were cream it would be very flat.” Bottner persuaded the homeowner to use black, copper, and subtle gold as complements. In the living room, those colors appear in black bookshelves, black wall shelves, copper accent pillows, and dramatic copper curtains by Rosemary Arcidiacono of Rose Charley Custom Drapery. Both the draperies and the contemporary angled valance were sewn from hand-folded copper silk resembling origami.

Brandt LvRm2To make the cream sofa functional for visiting friends and family, Bottner used a durable, easy-to-clean fabric.

The living room sofas reveal another trait of the homeowner—Linda loves to change things. The curved sofas are sometimes joined with coffee tables on either end; at other times, she separates them with a star-shaped coffee table in between. Pillows move, lamps come and go, and a round, cream-colored ottoman travels around the room. Each time Bottner walks through the house, she finds changes: rugs in a different place, a sofa moved from in front of a window to the back of a room, a bench in the upstairs hall replaced by a dressing table that once adorned the master bedroom. “Things are in flux, like the tides,” she says.

The curved sofas were a harbinger of another motif. Linda “particularly loves circles,” Bottner says. Circles are a theme throughout the house, with circular coffee tables, clocks, and works of art, giving the décor a geometric quality. In the living room, curved bookshelves, custom built by Mike Kittle of Kittle Construction in Rye, New Hampshire, nestle behind the sofas. “Linda is definitely drawn to round objects, and I really ran with that because I was thinking of cycles and tides,” Bottner says. “She and her husband are in their retirement, so I was also thinking about the cycle of life.”

Enormous round white sand dollars along the staircase reflect the natural world beyond the expansive windows. “There was the goal of being in harmony with the outside and not competing with it,” Bottner says. “This house is so incredibly open and connected to the outdoors.” Windows at the back of the house offer stunning views of Jacks Cove with its picturesque rocky shore.

The living room’s center coffee table suggests the outdoor realm. The piece, by New York City-based John Houshmand, is composed of glass and a large cross section of a tree. It was the only piece the homeowners brought from a former home in Lake Sebago, Maine. “John finds the most incredible pieces of driftwood and reclaimed wood,” Bottner says of the furniture maker. “That table is a pride and joy for Linda.”

 Brandt DnRm1Rye Rug Gallery made the dining room rug according to Bottner’s design.

In the fully renovated kitchen, a round table continues the circular motif and serves as the home’s sole dining area. Under the table, a rug designed by Bottner and created by Rye Rug Gallery echoes both the sharp corners of the room and soft curves of the home’s design. A gold drum-shade chandelier hangs above. Black and copper Roman shades round out the room, which is ringed with windows and bench window seating.

Bottner topped an existing buffet with granite to match the kitchen island. “I don’t like getting rid of things,” she says. To that end, the designer had the kitchen barstools recovered and a birdhouse-shaped piece in the corner repainted. A copper sink, gold-and-cream granite island, and copper backsplash accent the kitchen’s new cream cabinets. Rye, New Hampshire-based Marci King did LusterStone painting in the kitchen with copper tones that create a soft metallic appearance.

Brandt StudioDuring the renovation, the homeowner moved her art studio from the basement into a space over the garage.

After working together for months, Linda revealed to Bottner that she was a painter. “I couldn’t believe she didn’t have a single piece of her own art in the house,” Bottner says. The decorator talked her into hanging two paintings downstairs—a trio of pears in the butler’s pantry and a still life of apples in the kitchen. Linda’s studio eventually migrated from the home’s basement to an in-law apartment over the garage.

Two other pieces in the kitchen speak to the trust that grew between designer and homeowner. At one point in the redesign, Bottner found herself in an Arizona art gallery admiring pieces that would be perfect for the home. “This was before we had smartphones” to send pictures, she says. Linda told Bottner to buy the pieces—a clock and a rectangular piece of copper-infused art. Bottner credits her past as a psychotherapist for understanding her design clients. “My focus is to really get into their heads—I’m trying to think what they would like,” she says.

Off of the kitchen is a small powder room decorated in tones of copper, gold, and black. “Linda wanted it to be bold,” Bottner says. A Venetian glass pendent light shines down on a hammered copper sink, set inside a granite countertop streaked with blacks and coppers.

Brandt Porch

Unlike many beautiful homes on the Maine coast, this one is lived in year-round. “I love this place in the spring and summer,” Linda says. “We never tire of it.” Knowing this, Bottner focused on keeping all the rooms in the house warm and cozy, even in the winter months. A sunroom off the kitchen has a propane stove, radiant heat in the floors, and well-insulated Roman shades. It is the room Linda says she and her husband sit in every evening when they are without company.

The two upstairs bedrooms—a master and a guest room—were completely redone by the designer. “You couldn’t even see the walls, there was so much fabric,” Bottner says of the octagonal master bedroom, which features tremendous views of the cove throughout multiple windows. “It was dense and not in keeping with living near the water.” Because of the angular walls, she created bowed valances to bring in the softness of curves. Handmade copper and cream bedspreads by Arcidiacono add to the sumptuous feel. Tone-on-tone paint differentiates the walls of the sitting area from the bedroom walls while maintaining harmony.

Brandt MasterBdRmRounded valances and furnishings were used to offset the angular lines of the room.

The redesign also included the closets and bathroom. “The master bedroom closet was a bare closet with some prefab shelves,” Bottner says. “For a home of this caliber it just didn’t fit. We worked hard to give it panache.” She kept the shelving but added trim and molding to upgrade the appearance. Two chandeliers brought elegance to the closet, illuminating Linda’s nearly all-black wardrobe. Nearby, a small closet in the bedroom’s sitting space was designed to house a coffee maker; it also has a small refrigerator, its own chandelier, and a substantial pitcher of water.

In the upstairs guest bedroom, twin beds are placed in front of heavy curtains that, when closed, obscure the window behind them. The goal of the design was to create the feel of a New York City boutique hotel. “These are hotel-style drapes; they’re well insulated and room-darkening,” Bottner says. A couch in the room is large enough to serve as a third bed for guests.

Brandt Ocean4The Feskars’ backyard overlooks Jacks Cove and has been the site of two weddings.

Despite the elegance and pale creamy colors of the décor, the house is well used. Between them, John and Linda have seven children and 14 grandchildren who visit year-round—occasionally with their dogs. Three years ago, Linda’s son married his wife in the house; a friend married there as well during the most recent construction. “It was beautiful; it worked out great,” Linda says.

The Feskars and their family enjoy the oceanside home. “If you’re lucky enough to live by the sea, you’re lucky enough,” reads a sign in the home’s mudroom. For the Ogunquit couple, those are words to live by.