Shingle-Style Home by the Sea in York Harbor, ME
Designer Matt Banow proves shingle style never goes out of fashion with this stunning coastal home
Drive through the gates of this home in York Harbor, Maine, past the carriage house and down a cobble-edged driveway that curves through a sweeping lawn. Enter the barrel-vaulted porte cochere, which splits the house in two. Emerging from this dim tunnel, the brilliance of the sun reflecting off the water leaves you dazzled. Just beyond the copper-roofed portico, the East Coast falls away and the Atlantic Ocean begins.
The effect is deliberately staged. Designer Matt Banow believes such a jaw-dropping landscape demands a grand house that provides a dramatic sense of arrival. Tear your gaze from the view, and you can appreciate the attention to detail that went into this house, designed in the Shingle style that originated in late-nineteenth-century America.
This solid home with stone archways and eyebrow dormers appears to have been created in another era—a slower, more deliberate time when building a house took years and craftsmanship was king. While this home did take years to build, it was only completed in 2017. Banow designed the home for a husband, wife, and two teenagers who live in Massachusetts and wanted a weekend getaway.
When house hunting, the family looked for “as much view as we could possibly get,” the owner says. What they found was a leaky 1913 Colonial Revival on three acres overlooking the ocean. “The house had unbelievably spectacular views from indoors,” she says. “It was sited on an angle, and you could see three lighthouses—Nubble, Isles of Shoals, and Boon.”
They lived in the house for years while planning a renovation that proved impractical, so they gutted 90 percent of the structure and started anew. Banow redesigned the living and sleeping spaces and rearranged the floor plan to bring in more light and air and to maximize views. He also designed a wing that contains utility spaces and a three-car garage, connected to the main house by a new kitchen with 24-foot ceilings. Brian Sleeper of Period Design and Restoration in York Beach was the general contractor on the project.
The owner poured time and effort into designing the interiors of her house. The experience inspired her to launch an interior design business. Here, she shares design tips.
- Paint color swatches on white poster board. Once dry, tape them to the walls. Check throughout the day to see how the colors change as the sun rises and sets. Make sure to write the paint number and name on the back!
- It can be difficult to visualize the size and scale of light fixtures before buying. Before you order, make a mock version out of cardboard. Draw and cut out the basic shape of the fixture according to the dimensions. Tape it on the wall where it is to be placed. Stand back to see if it fits the space. If it is a hanging fixture, attach string and tape it to the ceiling.
- Most fabric stores and manufacturers will supply samples if you ask. This can include samples of carpet, tile, fabric, flooring, wallpaper, and even cabinetry and appliance finishes. You can then “try out” your samples in your space. Get a sturdy canvas bag and carry the samples with you when you shop.
Banow says that with a house this size—12,000 square feet—it is important to tie the rooms visually to one another and to the outdoors. He did that by designing the entry so that the view from the double front doors goes straight through the house to the ocean.
Before starting on the main house, the team renovated the existing cottage-garage on the property into a carriage house, where the family lived for two years before moving into the main house in 2016.
With a background in apparel design and a love of color and texture, the wife took on the task of fitting out the interiors. It took hundreds of hours of research to find the exact lighting, bathroom fittings, and flooring she wanted. After painting more than 30 color swatches in various rooms, she settled on five colors and used them throughout the house. She chose soothing grays and blues, soft hues that do not compete with the landscape.
The overall effect is relaxed yet elegant. “The interior finishes make this home,” Sleeper says. “These were clients who wanted to do it right and weren’t going to rush it. They were very hands-on.”
The interiors have a European vibe, especially the kitchen with its tile backsplash and huge trusses with integrated lighting. There is a Lacanche range and French limestone floors, both so heavy that steel beams were added to carry the weight.
Translucent gray-green countertops are Sea Pearl quartzite. The island is 14 feet long. “My husband and I come from big families,” the owner says. “We like that we can grill outside and set everything up along the island so people can serve themselves.”
Not every kitchen can claim an interior balcony, but this one does, part of the gym on the second floor. While whimsical, the balcony is there for a reason. “A big house has to be livable and in scale,” Banow says. “The balcony ties the upper and lower spaces together. It helps keep the family connected without having to go out and down the staircase to the kitchen.”
Upstairs, the master bedroom and bath face the water. The owner sited the shower and tub so that the ocean is visible from both and made sure it also reflects in the mirrors over the sinks.
The third floor’s game room has a subtle nautical theme. It is paneled in crisp white shiplap so as not to detract from what the owner says are the best views in the house. “You look out and all you see is water,” she says. “It really feels like you are on a boat.”
Dozens of windows, generous passageways, and understated decor make the house feel spacious and airy, which is just as the owner planned it. “I love everything about the house,” she says. “But it’s the view from every room that makes it so special.”