Orson welles once said, “the enemy of art
is the absence of limitations.” On his way to
designing a summer home overlooking the
natural splendors of Mount Desert Island,
Maine, architect Jacob Albert faced two very
distinct limitations — and the result shows
how right Welles was.
The first obstacle was the property, 70 mountaintop acres
just outside the village of Northeast Harbor that were covered by
“a nearly impenetrable pine forest — you couldn’t see a thing,”
recalls Albert, principal at Albert, Righter, & Tittmann Architects
Inc. in Boston. After a half-hour hike from the nearest road to the
top of the lot, he and his client continued on to the nearby summit of Eliot Mountain, where a vista gave them an approximation
(they hoped) of what they might see if enough of the woodlands
at the site could be cleared. But that work would take time, so Albert, referencing a photograph of the future view taken by an arborist who climbed the highest tree on the site, began to design.
His first schemes showed the house laid out on the site in
two different ways: one full-on parallel to the prospects he hoped
would open up, and one perpendicular. It was then that his clients, a book editor and an investment manager from New York,
set the second limitation. They instructed him to eschew the
Shingle-style oceanside cottage look to which most new houses
in the area aspire and to create something more along the lines of
a mountain camp. And they surprised him by opting for the perpendicular plan, which was by no means the sure bet for the site.
“I liked the idea that every room would have a different view,”
recalls the husband, “and I liked how the house would hug the
land and follow it as it sloped down.”
a true outdoor room, Maine-style, the deck (left) features
shingles, beadboard, deep green trim, and wicker furniture and
overlooks pines and ocean. Stone pillars (above) mark the
entrance to the house, where the first of two pavilions leads to the
front door, while the second is an entree to the porch at left.