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EnvironmentallyConscious

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Timber-Frame House Recycled timber, solar heat, and plenty of room for a family.

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HEN A FAMILY DEDICATED to clean air and water, education, and art decides to build a home that meets all of their needs, one might expect the new house to take advantage of its surroundings without overly increasing pressure on the local environment. This house meets that expectation. Completed in December 2005, its design incorporates supplemental solar power and the use of recycled woods, while its architecture commands an inspiring down-slope view across Broad Cove, in Cumberland Foreside, near Portland. The Freeport-based firm Barn Masters, Inc., headed by timber-frame construction expert John Libby, designed and built the home for Sandy and Sissy Buck, whose families have had a Maine connection for many decades. Sandy Buck is president of the Horizon Foundation, a private organization that provides funding support for nonprofit agencies in four counties of Maine. Sissy Buck, formerly a gallery director, is a printmaker and painter. The Bucks’ new home is not only decorated in part with her beautiful floral monoprints and paintings,

Robert Lloyd Webb

BY ROBERT LLOYD WEBB PHOTOS BY BRIAN VANDEN BRINK

Together the Bucks have created a home that is comfortable, energy efficient, and has room to roam without being out of scale with its surroundings. 27

Excerpted from Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine with permission of the author and photographer.


Recycled Wood, Fine Interiors TODD MCINTOSH, co-founder of McIntosh & Tuttle Cabinetmakers, maintains that recycled wood makes good sense, both ethically and environmentally. “It’s a little more labor-intensive,” he admitted, “but the end result is definitely worth it.” McIntosh and his business partner Jon Tuttle try to strike a balance between form and function while maximizing natural resources by minimizing waste. For the Bucks’ new home, the cabinetmakers utilized recycled Douglas fir, a non-native wood that grows in the northwestern mountains of the United States. At the turn of the twentieth century, loggers from Maine and elsewhere gravitated to the forests of the Pacific Northwest to harvest first-growth trees that had stood for centuries. In recent times, selective harvesting of such trees has become quite expensive, but much older wood remains in New England buildings, particularly in Maine, where durable fir timbers were used in the construction of coastal homes and commercial buildings. “We virtually stripped the west coast of Doug fir,” McIntosh said, “so it makes good sense to reclaim whatever we can.” Recycled timber can cost more than new wood, because it takes time to pick through salvage for usable material, and re-milling also adds time and expense. Yet reclaimed lumber from old manufacturing mills and other buildings adds texture and an element of history to a new home, and often takes a superior finish. McIntosh & Tuttle also use new woods, both domestic species and plantation-grown imported hardwoods, as well as trim details made from exotic woods. But they don’t limit themselves to wood alone. They have designed full home interiors using aluminum, stainless steel, granite, soapstone, brass, and concrete. They’re also starting to use bamboo, which is actually a plantation-harvested grass that regrows quickly and is an environmentally responsible choice. These cabinetmakers don’t work only in a verThe wet bar by McIntosh & Tuttle. nacular Maine-coast style. “A lot of our work is headed in a contemporary direction,” Mclntosh said, citing a set of wallmounted, stainless-steel cabinets he is now designing for one of John Libby’s barn projects. But the emphasis remains on fine cabinetry, made in the traditional way with mortise-and-tenon or dovetail joinery, and completed with hand-rubbed finishes that are both beautiful and durable. —RLW

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but her artistic hand is also evident in less-obvious places, such as the shade of green that she chose for the inside surfaces of the custom kitchen cabinets and the double-row of sea glass inlaid above the tile work in one of the bathrooms. The Bucks wanted an intensely private home for themselves and their two nearly grown children, as well as a meeting place for large groups. The notions of recycling and alternative energy permeated plans from the beginning, and no wonder, given the Bucks’ environmental concerns and Libby’s 35-year reputation for salvaging and readapting many of New England’s vanishing barns. Libby’s chief architect, Steve Ruszkai, developed a series of plans that took advantage of the natural features of the waterside lot and addressed the issues revealed by the Bucks’ answers to Libby’s 14-page lifestyle questionnaire. Libby uses this device to challenge clients to think about how they really live, and how they expect to use their new home. MAINE BOATS, HOMES & HARBORS

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Open skies and living trees outside, high ceilings and timber frame inside—the surroundings speak of comfortable beauty. The Bucks drew inspiration from years of individual and shared experiences in Maine, beginning with Sandy’s boyhood times at Camp Kieve in Nobleboro and Sissy’s many family summers in Biddeford Pool. They also drew some conclusions from their circa-1750 house in historic Topsfield, Massachusetts. The characteristically low ceilings there convinced them they wanted plenty of vertical space in their new house. And because their two children are more often out of the “nest” than in it, they wanted a design that would allow everyone to come and go as they pleased. Once these decisions were made, Libby’s firm built the house in fewer than 11 months. The introductory effect suggests an upscale farm, with such added features www.maineboats.com

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as a round turret on the seaward side of the house and a cupola perched atop one of two wings. Woven shingles on the exterior are a handsome detail and eliminate the need for corner boards. The house has three floors. The lowest, which includes a music and game room, meets grade on the water side at the rear, while the main floor above meets ground level at the front of the house. The entire house has about 7,500 square feet of floor area, but as everyone is quick to point out, it’s not the square-footage but the cubic space that draws attention. Visitors enter from a casual, welcoming front porch into a great room that rises to a cathedral-like ceiling built in Libby’s signature timberframe style. The central house is joined

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by two conventionally framed wings that provide a private master bedroom suite and office on the southern side, and rooms for the children and family guests on the northern side. Despite its imposing size, the house is comfortably capacious without losing human scale. The central room is perfectly suited to the gatherings of friends and colleagues that are appropriate to Sandy’s work with the Horizon Foundation. Yet private areas are commodious without being out-of-scale, providing an agreeable understatement often wanting in large homes. The northerly wing includes a conventional two-car garage, but Sandy Buck also needed space to house his vintage ’641⁄2 Ford Mustang, so Libby 29

Excerpted from Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine with permission of the author and photographer.


designed what appears to be an appropriate “lean-to” woodshed, which actually serves as a third garage bay. The southerly wing likewise resembles a traditional New England structure, perhaps a barn. The distinctive turret rises above the ridge line on the water side of the southern wing. This circular three-story structure holds a TV room and an upstairs office facing Broad Cove and a longer view toward the Cousins Island Bridge and Yarmouth in the distance. The office is highlighted by beautifully finished cherry cabinets built by Eric Koehler of Koehler Woodworks in Brunswick. The south wing, adjacent to the turret, contains an inviting master-bedroom suite on the main floor, which includes bedroom, master bath, capacious “his-and-her” walkin California closets, and an airy loft space accessible only by a ship’s ladder; a laundry room is just a few steps away. The suite’s natural light comes in part from the cupola above, the windows of which can be opened and shut by remote control to provide ventilation. The private deck with hot tub on the water side of the south wing provides plenty of outdoor space for private lounging. The north wing is taken up with bedrooms, bathrooms, a mud room, and an

The main floor, including the kitchen, is of the open plan.

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MAINE BOATS, HOMES & HARBORS

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expansive closet. Well-proportioned spaces offer comfort and light through open-beam ceilings insulated and protected by stress-skin paneling above. A screened porch leads onto a second private deck with easy access to the water. This northern deck is most welcome in midsummer, when nearby trees and the house itself provide shade for relief from the heat. The center section of the house might as well have been designed by one of the great “Maine cottage” architects of the late Victorian period. Outside, the slant-roofed dormers with their 45° corners suggest a hunting lodge or fishing retreat. Inside, the wood for the timber frame—some newly milled, some recycled—suggests the Buck family’s ties to Maine. Large timbers of eastern white pine—including a principal purlin 36 feet long by 10 by 12 inches, which crosses the gap from south wing to north in a single dramatic span—were harvested from an 80-acre property along Damariscotta Lake in Nobleboro that Sandy Buck’s parents purchased many years ago from the celebrated naturalist Henry Beston, author of The Outermost House. The Bucks hired a sustainable-forestry certifier who developed a ten-year plan for the woods on the property and identified a few large trees that could be removed to promote forest health. Each was

The master bedroom, in the south wing, has a loft accessible by a ladder.

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Excerpted from Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine with permission of the author and photographer.


milled green in Lebanon, Maine, and then dried in Libby’s large barn and work space in Freeport. The central room features an impressive lodge-scale stone fireplace built by Fred Hersom of Bath from Adirondack Corinthian granite, complete with imbedded garnets. Within its design, Hersom placed two heart-shaped rocks that Sissy Buck searched out during her walks along the shore. Since the central room is intended as a gathering place, and since guests always congregate in the kitchen, the Bucks decided on an open plan. A standup bar, incorporating recycled wood, divides the two areas. The bar top, a beautiful slab of mahogany, rests on cabinetry made from remilled Douglas fir that once supported an aircraft hangar at the Naval Air Station in Brunswick. The bar, and most of the other cabinetry in the house, including the kitchen, mud room, and a second bar in the game room, was designed by Todd McIntosh and constructed by McIntosh & Tuttle Cabinetmakers in Lewiston. Recycled wood is a theme in this house. The open frames of the office

ceiling are reclaimed hemlock, most of the railings throughout are made of the same recycled Douglas fir used under the bar, and the main-level floor is made of a handsome, golden-toned hickory removed from a deconstructed factory in Pennsylvania. Heat on the main floor comes from radiant heat generated in part by an evacuated-tube solar heating system discretely installed on the south-facing roof of the south wing. This solar power also provides domestic hot water. On cloudy days, a minuscule Munchkin propane heater provides all the hot-water needs of the household. As in almost all homes, domestic electricity comes from the regional power grid, but some of the family’s usage is offset by the second of two banks of photo-voltaic cells, this one installed on the roof of the north wing. These PV cells provide metered electricity that the Bucks sell back to the power company, therefore reducing the amount of energy that they draw down from outside providers. The Bucks calculate that the PV cells generate the equivalent of about 20 percent of their electrical needs.

To complete the heating requirements, the walls are insulated with highR rating fiberglass together with a layer of 3/8-inch-thick “bubble wrap.” Stressskin panels are fitted above the visual ceilings. The house is not so tight as to require special equipment to transfer air from outside, but it’s tight enough, and constructed with so much quality overall that builder John Libby can say with certainty and pride that the Bucks’ new home is “rock solid.” Contributing Editor Robert Lloyd Webb lives in Phippsburg and is a well-known presenter of sea songs and shanties.

For more information: BARN MASTERS, INC. (John Libby), Freeport, Maine: www.housesandbarns.com; 207-865-4169 MCINTOSH & TUTTLE CABINETMAKERS, Lewiston, Maine: www.mcintoshandtuttle.com; 207-777-1395 SOLAR MARKET, Arundel, Maine: www.solarmarket.com; 877-785-0088 KOEHLER WOODWORKS, Brunswick, Maine: 207-725-4180 HEAT TRANSFER PRODUCTS, Inc. (Munchkin heaters), East Freetown, Massachusetts: www.htproducts.com; 800-323-9651

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February / March 2007

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Issue 93

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Profile for Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors

Environmentally Conscious Timber-Frame House - MBH&H Issue 93  

An environmentally friendly timber-frame home designed and built by John Libby of Freeport features the custom cabinetry of McIntosh & Tuttl...

Environmentally Conscious Timber-Frame House - MBH&H Issue 93  

An environmentally friendly timber-frame home designed and built by John Libby of Freeport features the custom cabinetry of McIntosh & Tuttl...

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