A Coastal Home Reflects Maine’s Rugged Shoreline
November 7, 2023
Salt of Maine rethinks the coastal aesthetic through the lens of the Pine Tree State’s rugged, moody shoreline.
Text by Jorge S. Arango Photography by Sean Litchfield
When one couple decided to build a 4,500- square-foot primary residence on the dramatic coastline of Bath, Maine, they knew exactly what, or rather who, they
wanted—and what they didn’t want. Beach banalities were banished, and Salt of Maine Co. principal Janeen Arnold, who they had known through their daughter for years, was one of their first phone calls.
“She was young and had a fresh outlook, which is what we needed,” the husband says. “We wanted something open, airy, and bright.”
Arnold is a strong proponent of biophilic design, an influential movement that espouses the importance of connectivity to the natural environment, beginning with drawing one’s inspiration from the surrounding land. “The home is on the waterfront near oyster farms and also not too far from several inland farms,” Arnold explains. “So, I thought, ‘How can we express a coastal aesthetic in a modern, sophisticated way?’ ”
The answer is not what you’d expect. “People think of coastal as bright southern coasts,” says Arnold. “But Maine’s waters are often dark. They have a moody vibe.” It was also necessary to equally consider the region’s gray foggy days, hence spaces that move from light to dark and back again: an ivory-toned great room leading into a dining room swathed in Sherwin-Williams near-black Iron Ore; an inky black-and-midnight-blue home office opening into a creamy beige primary suite, and so on.
Nautical cliches? Verboten! Yet subtle references abound. “I was always thinking about how we could subliminally point to the rocky coast environment through colors, patterns, textures, and shapes,” says Arnold. To wit: battens on dining room walls that slyly nod to the walls of fishermen’s shacks (while also drawing the eye up with their verticality, making the ceilings feel taller). That same room’s round mirror vaguely evokes a porthole.
The great room’s casual white-oak dining table is reminiscent of driftwood. “I also tried to balance straight lines with movement and curvature,” notes Arnold. “You think of the movement of water and wind in coastal areas.” Note the curved tub chairs that swivel.
Lighting designer Grace Rote of Light + Form Studio helped call attention to some of that movement. “Light can bring a little touch of drama and make colors and textures pop,” says Rote. The tile wall Arnold installed to give the tub in the primary bath some privacy, for example, has “one-inch recessed punch lights at the bottom and the top that highlight the dimensional surface of the tile, which looks like waves,” explains Rote. (The tub and custom vanity fronts also undulate to recall water.)
“It was so well-thought-out ahead of time,” says the husband. Consequently, construction and installation went smoothly. And, he adds, “Everything about the home is appealing.” It wouldn’t feel half as appealing, of course, if the space was aesthetically out of sync with the rugged coastline right outside its windows. Nautical tropes need not apply.