It’s hard to imagine that a home perched on a rocky ledge over the Atlantic Ocean wouldn’t have spectacular views, yet that’s just what designer Tracy Davis discovered about her client’s shingled house in Cape Elizabeth. “The layout was a series of disconnected rooms with limited views,” says Davis, principal of Urban Dwellings in Portland, Maine. “It was awkward.” Before Davis could rework the interior and help her clients—empty nesters who had raised three children in the home—pare down and embrace a more minimal aesthetic, the exterior architecture and site plan needed tweaking. Amir Kripper of Boston-based Kripper Architecture Studio Inc. collaborated with Urban Dwellings to transform the home’s impractical multilevel arrangement into a sleek, user-friendly design.
Davis believes the home’s original architect had a nautical concept in mind. “You had to go down a set of stairs, then up a set of stairs to get to the front door,” she says. “We filled in the ground, evened out the landscape to create a straightforward arrival and also rebuilt the deck to be on the same level as the entry.”
Large windows now line the back of the house, treating the kitchen, dining and living areas to the ocean view. Davis removed the walls between the rooms, which now flow easily, one to the next. “We invited the outdoors to become the centerpiece of daily living,” says the designer. “It feels like you are actually on the water.”
The interior finishes and furnishings comprise a sleek backdrop that complements the rugged coastline. Davis used just one paint color, a warm off-white, paired with white oak floors, to unify the spaces. In the kitchen, the custom cabinetry’s cerused finish adds texture while the walnut slab that wraps the island adds warmth. A whitewashed table, birch slat pendants and a walnut ledge in the dining room create a slightly subtler effect, while a banana silk rug, which Davis also used in the living room, further soften the scheme.
The staircase to the second floor is a showstopper, with glass panels capped by an oak handrail, a detail that is repeated for the partition in the living room. The furnishings in the master suite are a bit softer and more romantic, but still absolutely monochromatic. “The varying textures of the velvet, cotton and linen embellish the tone-on-tone effect,” says Davis. The master bath boasts a palette similar to that of the kitchen, with linear walnut pulls providing contrast and interest to the white custom cabinetry, which floats above French limestone floor tiles.
“The house is casual and comforting,” Davis says. “It embraces the changing views throughout the day.”