a three-story wall that is central to the Elliott + Elliott design. It takes
the form of pantry cabinets in the kitchen, becomes storage shelves
in the cellar, and emerges as a bookcase on the second-floor balcony.
The raison d’être of the renovation, the 21st-century European
kitchen Elliott + Elliott designed, is minimalist, the palette largely
black and white. The focus is a 14-foot center island, which originally
was going to have a countertop of milky gray marble to match the side
sink’s backsplash. But when workers accidentally broke the slab, the
owners went for contrast instead of consonance, using the same Jet
Mist black granite they have in their New York apartment, their primary residence.
The continental ambience is accented by Miele appliances hidden in custom cabinets, large FontanaArte suspension lights over the
island, and an elegant Wittus Shaker wood stove — designed by an
Italian designer, manufactured in Germany, and inspired by American
Shaker simplicity — that embodies the cosmopolitan aesthetic of the
redesign. Above, the balconied gallery, where contemporary photographs from the owners’ collection are displayed, encircles the kitchen.
Subtle touches include the radiant heating beneath the heart pine
floor, the translucent lightness of RollEase window shades, and a pow-
der room off the dining area behind what looks to be a wall panel but is
actually a door with hidden hardware.
Discretion was the key to the renovation. For example, the new
skylight atop the barn roof is not visible from the street. Similarly, zinc-wrapped contemporary bay windows and French doors that open on
wide wooden stairs leading to the garden terrace replaced a bay window and sitting room at the rear of the house. Modern touches are visible only from the backyard. The architects even did a bit of historic
restoration, returning a front porch, which had been boxed in as a vestibule, to its original look with open chamfered columns.
“The house now has a very different relationship to the outside,”
says the owner. “It’s as prim and proper to the street as it has ever been,
but it is much more open and relaxed in relation to the
rest of the property.”
Having worked with some of the world’s best-known
architects on very high-profile projects, the owner has
high praise for the little Blue Hill firm that redesigned his
Castine home. “Their practice is exceptionally good at what it does.
It’s world-class, in my estimation,” he says. “And beyond that, they
are just the nicest people.”
inside, the new staircase is unobtrusive, hidden behind the huge wall of
pantry cabinets in the new kitchen (below). From the outside, however,
it becomes an artful, sculptural attraction when the old barn doors open and
the ziggurat stair design is revealed (right). When closed, the barn doors
retain the historic facade demanded by the house’s location in the Castine
Historic District, yet the owners and architects found a way to express the
house’s evolution into the 21st century.