By Colleen Morrissey
Photos by Sandy Agrafiotis
Styling by Carol Coates
Down East Masterpiece: A Maine Couple Builds A Post-And-Beam Home In The Craftsman Tradition
It's not always easy knowing what to do with a beloved older home. Worn from
years of use and in need of repair, Ed and Heather McGarrigles' old cottage
in Algonquin, Maine, needed either a facelift or to be demolished.
The rustic little cottage was full of memories of summers spent vacationing
there with the kids. Walking through the door of the cottage at the beginning of each season rekindled memories of nightly rounds of checkers and Go Fish, and lazy days spent on the porch working on a puzzle or devouring a saucy summer novel.
So it was with a heavy heart that Ed and Heather approached Jim Nadeau of
Classic Post & Beam in York, Maine to discuss tearing down the cottage for a
more modern but equally rustic-looking home. With their children grown and out of the
house, the couple had recently sold their primary home in New Hampshire and hoped to live year-round in southern Maine. The cottage figured prominently in their plans for setting down roots in the area.
Ed was interested in post-and-beam homes and over the years did some research
on them. Using the Internet, he discovered that Classic was located close by,
in York, Maine. While in town one summer, Ed stopped to take a look at one of
the company's model homes. He liked what he saw, and so when it came time to
build anew, the couple turned to Classic for a solution to their dilemma. "Ed
and Heather had me over for coffee one day," Jim says. "They asked me what I
thought. I could tell that they really didn't want to take down the cottage."
After talking to Jim at length, Ed and Heather decided to leave the cottage intact and look for property to build a new home. "I thought it would be a long time before I heard back from them," Jim says, "because land was scarce. But two weeks later they called me up and said they found something."
The only catch was that the land was owned by builder Ken Allen of Maine Housewright Company in York---and Ken wanted to develop a Craftsman-style home on the property. The couple had their hearts set on cottage-style home with a post-and-beam structure at its core, and had even chosen a plan out of Classic's catalogue that seemed to meld these two styles perfectly.
Since the property was in a highly desirable rural location---down a back road, yet close to town---the couple didn't want to lose it. They asked both companies to work out a compromise solution. "We ended up taking Ken's plans for a Craftsman-style home," Jim says, "and joined it with our Canterbury Place floorplan." It was agreed that Classic would do the design work and manufacture all the components, and Ken's company would erect the frame, finish it off and manage all the subcontract work.
The couple is very pleased with the results of the collaboration. Their home is only 2,700 square feet but because of the nature of the floorplan, with open living areas, the home is snug enough for two yet feels like it could fit any number of guests comfortably. "We wanted a place that would be big enough so that we could entertain," Heather says, "but not too big that we'd rattle around in."
The feeling of spaciousness is carried through to the second floor where every room, including the bathroom, sports an 18-foot-high cathedral ceiling. While the couple's grown children live elsewhere, there are two guest bedrooms on the second floor that wait eagerly for their visits. A master bedroom, a generous 18 by 12 feet in length, shares the bath adjacent to it with the other bedrooms. At the head of the stairway is the home's sitting room and loft area both lit naturally by two skylights overhead.
The first floor boasts an open living-dining area that faces a spacious U-shaped, bumped-out kitchen. Outfitted with yellow Craftsman-style maple cabinets and black-, gray- and green-speckled granite countertops, the kitchen is Ed's domain. Cooking is a hobby that Ed takes seriously, so he had professional-grade, stainless-steel appliances included in the kitchen's design allowing him the opportunity to cook like a gourmand on a daily basis.
To provide continuity on the main level, Ed and Heather specified manufactured oak floors for every room, including the kitchen and bathroom, as well as tongue-and-groove knotty pine and hemlock boards to top the ceilings on both levels. Craftsman-style details, such as the mahogany, cedar and pine railing, the Andersen casement windows as well as the Rumsford-style fireplace, add to the common character found throughout the home.
Central to the home's first-floor design is its two-sided mortarless fireplace, constructed from native fieldstone. On one side, facing the formal dining room is a wood-burning, Rumsford-style masonry fireplace that extends approximately 35 feet to the roof. "It's really beautiful," Heather says. "It's one of my favorite features in our home." The fireplace on this side doesn't have a mantel, but features a granite lintel that Ed found on his grandmother's farm in New Hampshire. "He traveled up there to get it," Heather says. "It's a really nice feature." On the other side, warming the family room, informal breakfast area and kitchen, is a wood-burning, Vermont Castings soapstone stove. "It looks great and really makes the house warm," Heather says.
What really ties everything together, however, is the frame. The timbers, coated with a Danish finishing oil, can be found in every room in the home. Structural insulated panels wrap the exterior portions of the posts and beams. The perimeter posts, or those on the outside of the frame, are eastern white pine. All internal posts are spruce as are the ceiling joists and purlins. Classic uses spruce not only because it's indigenous to the Northeast, but also because it has a higher tensile strength (that is, it's better at withstanding heavy span loads). Since Ed and Heather wanted a heavier look for their frame, and because of the spans involved, many of the timbers measure 6 by 8 inches.
Classic builds post-and-beam homes, not timber frame homes. "A lot of people ask the difference between the two," Jim says, "the answer is the method of joinery. We use metal pegs instead of wooden pegs." In these types of homes, mechanical fasteners, like carriage bolts and spiral spikes, join the posts and beams together. "You won't," Jim says, "see any of the fasteners in the house, however." That's because in all of Classic's homes, the metal is kept hidden from view.
Topping Ed and Heather's home is a double roof system (also known as a vented roof system), standard in every home Classic builds. In a double roof system, air flows above the structural insulated panels that cover the frame from the soffit to the ridge. "The air flow helps keep the shingles cool and allows the roof to breathe so that there's no moisture build up," Jim explains. "In one of our homes, frost will typically stay on the roof until the sun or rain melts it. The roof stays cold and there's no air loss, keeping the heat inside during the winter and the house cool in the summer."
Ed and Heather love the way their home looks and feels. They're especially happy that they let their worn, but beloved cottage remain standing---still filled with fond memories of days gone by. While their old cottage will always have a special place in their hearts, Ed and Heather look forward to making a whole new set of memories with future generations in their new post-and-beam home tucked into the Maine woods.