Set about 23 miles beyond Port Clyde on the coast of Maine, Wheaton Island is about as peaceful as it gets, with few structures and even fewer residents. In the winter, you’ll find hardly anyone around, but in summer, a series of charming white dwellings come alive with the inspiring creative activities of contemporary artists Bo Bartlett and Betsy Eby, who spend the rest of the year at their full-time residence in Columbus, Georgia. Bartlett bought the island in 1999 after spotting it in the distance while vacationing at the summer home of Andrew and Betsy Wyeth on Benner Island.
Bartlett immediately got to work restoring the island’s turn of the century house, barn and guesthouse with the help of Freeport builder John Libby, and after marrying Betsy in 2010, called Libby back in to build two custom “his and hers” artist studios.
“The simple, uninsulated post-and-beam structures were adapted from the company’s 18-by-24-foot ‘Harraseeket’ model. North-facing skylights capture the light so crucial to the artists, while double barn doors open to ocean views. ‘We started with that footprint and went with a steeper roof to give it a bit more character,’ explains John. Made of Eastern white pine, the white shingle-sided studios look nearly identical from the outside, while the interiors have been adapted to suit the artists’ varied needs. Bo’s include a loft space and large north-facing windows, Betsy’s an upright piano, which she plays throughout her workday (‘Going back and forth,’ says Bo). The structures were painted white inside and out, down to the furnishings, making plain canvases, as it were, for the colorful work created within them.”
Libby constructed the timber frames at his warehouse in Freeport, then dismantled them and shipped them to the island by barge. It took a helicopter too set them into their permanent places. Each one is painted stark white inside, giving them a purity and simplicity that instantly evokes feelings of calmness and tranquility. It’s also a highly effective backdrop for art. The studios are powered by solar panels and propane.
“My connection with nature is just so piqued out there,” says Eby. “It reminds me of who I am.”
Pine remains hugely popular with designers and architects seeking a modern yet warm and natural feel. This pine-clad summer house on a rocky island outcrop offers some beautiful inspiration for cabins, cottages and seaside getaways made of renewable materials.
Designed by Studio Holmberg and set on an island off Sweden’s archipelago of Gothenburg, Villa Vassdal was commissioned as a dreamy second home for a retired couple who wanted to take in views of the sea. The architects chose untreated pine to cover the entire exterior because it will turn silver over time, virtually camouflaged within the surrounding cliffs.
“The house is built on an island with historical connections to Gothenburg’s fishing and shipping industries. Today the island consists of family houses that are occupied year-round as well as holiday homes that are mostly used in the summer. Overlooking the sea and surrounded by exposed cliffs and wild vegetation, the house’s low profile is made up of a cluster of pitched roof volumes. Arranged in a staggered layout, the volumes are designed to blend in with the rocky landscape.”
“The house is oriented so that the clean-lined interior spaces take in views of the sea but are also shielded from the neighbors and the glare of the sun. Each of the four volumes that make up the house are allocated a specific function. The first is for sleeping and bathing as well as storage, the second is for cooking and dining, and the third is for the living room. The fourth smaller volume at the back functions as a tool shed but is also used as a summer guest room for the clients’ grandchildren.”
Inside, pale pine floors are set against smooth birch plywood walls and ceilings for a clean, minimalist effect that’s very Scandinvian. Perhaps the simplicity of the all-wood-and-white color palette isn’t for everyone, but it’s a great match for the moody seaside atmosphere, especially in summer when the cottage is most often in use.
For an example of how beautifully pine can pair with other materials, look to “Stone House” by Spain’s NOMO STUDIO. Located on a hillside facing the north coast of Minorca, this modern beach house takes inspiration from the landscape, seaside culture and local traditions for a breezy color palette and contemporary look.
The architects excavated into the hillside and used the resulting rock debris to build the layered facade, which can be opened to the outdoors in mild weather or act as a thermal buffer during hot and cold seasons. The client wanted a fresh reinterpretation of local traditional architecture, taking cues without replicating older buildings, and the architects responded with a new version of the Minorcan custom of framing windows and edges with white plaster.
You can see how the pine doors and shutters on the exterior perfectly accent and offset the color and texture of the stone and plaster, bringing in some vertical lines, warm tones and references to nature. That theme continues inside, where pine carpentry can be found just about everywhere, including the doors, ceiling beams, cabinets and shelving.
“Similarly to the facade’s earthy palette, the interior is a combination of continuous sand-coloured concrete pavement, whitewashed walls, pine wood carpentry and white-veiled wooden beams. These natural materials create a both warm but also airy atmosphere within the pastel range. All built-in kitchen furniture and wardrobes are custom made by a local carpenter. Details such as a solid hovering stair with integrated handrail-lighting create an interesting dialogue between traditional and contemporary architecture. Kitchen, wardrobes, libraries and niches were built in masonry keeping simplicity as a common thread. Furthermore, the use of soft indirect illumination was also designed throughout the house, avoiding placing exposed lighting fixtures on walls or beam-ceilings.”
When is a beach house not a beach house? You could argue that when it’s not located on a beach, it doesn’t count. But when an architectural typology that’s almost exclusively located on the water is moved to another landscape – like the mountains of Chile – it retains the kind of breezy, open feel that lends itself to associations with salty air and seagulls. Architecture firm WHALE! took this idea one step further by basing the design of this modern pine home on the visual of a stranded whale.
Doesn’t sound too pleasing, does it? But even if the metaphor doesn’t quite work, the house itself most certainly does, unfolding in a series of stunning minimalist pine spaces directing your gaze right out the giant floor-to-ceiling windows. The three-bedroom house is set upon a cliff in the coastal town of Tunquén, looking out onto an estuary that leads to the ocean.
“The construction system is made of rigid frames, built on pine wood (2 by 6”) and distanced 95cm, where each frame is different from another,” say the architects. “However, the roof is continuous and homogenous, trapping in a single gesture the different moments of the house.”
The sharp wedge-shaped volumes of the house projecting out over the cliff enable views from virtually all angles, from the estuary to the mountains. But most importantly – check out how pine has been put to use in such a modern context. The best part is how they stained it various shades, giving it a lighter appearance on the walls and ceilings, leaving it more natural for the floors and making it stark black outside.
Continuing the trend of plywood as a minimalist finishing material for interior surfaces, this gorgeous beach house overlooking Bass Strait in Victoria, Australia has a modern rustic feel, with wood grain as its main visual focus. Set along the region’s famed Great Ocean Road, this single-story house by ITN Architects is made to stand up to the harsh coastal conditions while taking in the beautiful scenery from every room. Clad on the outside with silver top ash and rusted steel, the residence really shines once you step inside to take in all that lovely pine ply.
A spine shelving wall runs the entire length of the house, not only providing lots of space for books and objects but also framing art and photography. Strategically placed doors on some areas of the shelving offer a way to hide clutter, so the residents can show off their most display-worthy belongings. The unfinished plywood continues as the sole wall finish through the hallways and into the bedrooms, creating a cohesive flow to the space.
All that plywood is complemented by more and more wood in similar tones, including the wide-plank flooring, exposed ceiling beams and a simple farmhouse dining table. Other than the furniture, all there is to break up the expanses of wood surfaces are floor-to-ceiling glass walls taking in the dramatic scenery.
Home to both a writer and a surfer as well as their three adult children, this home is both a casual beach house in an updated modern style and a refuge from the elements year-round, with the living room elevated on stilts to gaze out over the treetops.