I would really rather feel bad in Maine
than feel good anywhere else.
—E. B. White
Maine is a special place. It possesses unique topography and weather, and it commands its inhabitants to adapt to a certain way of living. Residents of this state must be strong, resilient, and have an appreciation for nature. Matthew and Elizabeth Elliott of Elliott + Elliott Architecture built their practice in the spectacularly beautiful, if temperamental, coastal town of Blue Hill, and continually produce high-caliber work that reflects the personality and history of their surroundings.
Elliott + Elliott are inspired by local culture. Sprinkled throughout the book are photographs of natural scenes outside their window: rock walls, tree bark, moss and grass—all to create a sense of “place.” The projects are all heavy with narrative: of place, materials, and Maine itself. How one might experience each residence is important to the designers; they call this “procession,” movement through the space.
Each project is a collection, or cluster, which is indigenous to Maine’s architectural history. The mass of buildings helps to minimize exposure to the elements during the winter months. Continuing with the Maine vernacular is the tendency of Elliott + Elliott to use local materials whenever possible and construct in ways that are quintessentially “Maine” in style, in particular, using methods of shipbuilding as a source of inspiration.
The work is all very traditional, borrowing from time-honored techniques and a “rich, cultural heritage,” yet looks completely modern. The book doesn’t show any photos of the houses during the unforgiving winter months, but the images inherently capture the preparedness of each structure during the milder summers. And each project is displayed so marvelously in the summer’s natural light. The architects designed the residences for maximum exposure, putting walls of windows facing south for communal spaces like the kitchen and living rooms, reserving the north face of the home for areas that require more privacy.
Megan Carey, Senior Editor/Gifts Editor here at PAP, has a particular affinity for Maine. She brought her background—growing up among the lasting winters, “mud season,” and the onslaught of blackflies in the summer—to the process of creating Houses of Maine. Megan very kindly spoke about her experience working with Elliott + Elliott to produce the book. “They were completely collaborative, great to work with,” she says. Both Megan and Benjamin English, the book’s designer, crafted a stunning volume of contemporary Maine residential architecture.
Houses of Maine: Elliott + Elliott Architecture is available now from PAPress