Case Study: Fantasia Residence by Eck MacNeely
Who better to design your house on a gorgeous piece of property than an architect who’s also a landscape painter? Jeremiah Eck, FAIA, of Eck/MacNeely Architects, is that and more. He’s also the author of a number of books about residential architecture, including one that gives us the name for this Design Lab feature and the overall theme for this issue: House in the Landscape.
Although his practice is in Boston, Jeremiah knows Maine intimately, having spent many interludes painting its scenery en plein air. His painting is representational but through an interpretative filter. It captures a moment in the present already beginning to fade to the past. Similarly, his architecture blends traditional evocations and modern influences—the present and the past floating along a fluid continuum.
For this house on a 5-mile-long peninsula joining Sebago Lake, Jeremiah’s mental image was that of old Maine summer camps. But he elected to filter that image through a lighter and brighter lens. The wonderful, honest materials of the old camps are all here, skillfully applied to an open, casual plan that’s as much about living outdoors as in. “Most Maine camps tend to be kind of dark,” says Jeremiah. “We thought, if we could pull them apart and connect them back, we would have a kind of compound.
“So we created living space with a bunch of zones—not just inside and outside,” he explains. “There are partially covered zones, partially uncovered ones. There’s a big screen porch that’s one big space but with multiple zones. An old-fashioned low-slope roof runs all the way around, connecting the kitchen/dining with the master.”
The low-slope roof is standing-seam metal, and the taller volumes are cedar shingle to match cedar shingle and HardiePlank cladding. “The low roof is sometimes solid, sometimes cut back, sometimes filled with a kind of trellis,” says Jeremiah. “There are wonderful shade and shadows happening. I wanted to create these areas where you can sit out of the sun or in it, or out of the rain.”
Beyond the shadows’ throw of the house, the expansive ipe deck appears to extend, dock-like, directly into the water. (It’s a trick made possible by the gently sloping site and the prestidigitations of landscape architect Stephen Stimson’s low stone walls.)
A carefully framed slice of this view from the “deck-dock” to the water provides the big impact of the front entry. Approaching the double front doors, you can see through their glass directly to the deck and out to the lake. The front hall, which also links the bedroom wing and the public spaces of the house, is part of the lowered roof run, so the view through it is compressed. There’s still much more to see if you continue through the house and on to the back deck. “A sense of belonging to the lake immediately was important,” says Jeremiah.
To the right of the entry hall are the kitchen and dining areas, and the family’s mudroom entry. All are single-height spaces. Moving on toward the water views is the big, open living room –a “story-and-ahalf volume.” Says Jeremiah, “One could make the argument that it feels like two different buildings connected—the bedroom wing and the public wing, and that the single-story kitchen area is like that space at summer camp where everyone came together to dine.”
In the main room, a double Rumford fireplace divides living area and screen porch (a single-height space). On the living side, it’s finely executed with stone and wood trim. On the screened porch side, it’s more rustic—just stone and a simple mantel. The stone is the same used for the exterior landscape walls.
Instead of exposed joists in the living area, Jeremiah elected to use his engineer’s “stainless-cable and pull-truss” system. “I didn’t want the heavy beam thing hanging over you.” The ceiling is elegantly finished in fir panels and given a light wash to help brighten the space.
The screened porch, on the other hand, is permitted the “heavy beam thing.” Fir joists continue through the room to the outdoors, forming the structure of the roof overhang. The flooring is ipe, like the deck, but stained to hold its color. The wood used for the screen structure is mahogany.
“This is one of the most colorful projects we’ve done,” says Jeremiah, “because of this mix of the natural mahogany trellis, ipe deck, shingles that are a subtle green, a deeper green metal roof, clear wood shingles. They all add up to a palette that looks very natural. It fits right in with the evergreens and the birch trees. And in the fall, when the leaves turn, it stands out.”
The murky palette was one of the reasons those old Maine camps seemed dark. Another reason was they employed far fewer expanses of glass because of cost and comfort in cold weather. In fact, many were not winterized at all.
This house was designed for comfort year-round, and that’s a challenge with so much glazing. Triple-paned windows help cut drafts and energy bills. “Nearly every house we do now uses triple glazing,” says Jeremiah. “There used to be such a difference between what architects could do with modernism in California versus what we could do in New England. But that’s changed a bit. These improved windows are part of what allowed us to make this house as open to views and light as it is. Now we can ask, ‘What are the things you really want to enjoy?’ and then, ‘How can we get it as efficient as possible?’”
At Sebago Lake, sources of enjoyment are myriad. But the play of light over the water is among the greatest pleasures it provides. All those windows and the split-apart plan position the Fantasia Residence especially well to frame those fleeting scenes of delight. Says Jeremiah, “The sunset across the lake is pretty spectacular.” No doubt, it is: a beautiful moment in the present already beginning to fade into the past—captured by Eck/MacNeely.
Plans and Drawings
FANTASIA RESIDENCE, SEBAGO LAKE, MAINE
ARCHITECT: Jeremiah Eck, FAIA, Eck/ MacNeely Architects, Boston
BUILDER: Greg Lanou and Andy Seymour, Wright-Ryan Homes Division, Portland, Maine
INTERIOR DESIGNER: Lisa Hillson, Lisa Hillson Interiors, Boston; Jessica Goble, Lexington, Mass.
KITCHEN DESIGNER: Donna Venegas and Michele Kelly, Venegas and Company LLC, Boston
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Stephen Stimson, FASLA, Stephen Stimson Associates, Cambridge, Mass.
PROJECT SIZE: 4,500 square feet
SITE SIZE: 3.9 acres
CONSTRUCTION COST: $350 a square foot
PHOTOGRAPHY: Brian Vanden Brink
WINDOWS: Kolbe Windows & Doors
KITCHEN APPLIANCES: Thermador, Sub-Zero, Marvel, Bosch, Insinkerator
KITCHEN FAUCET: ROHL
KITCHEN SINK: Franke
SECONDARY FAUCETS: Axor, Hansgrohe, ROHL
BATH FIXTURES: Kohler
TOILETS: TOTO USA
OTHER APPLIANCES: Electrolux
THERMAL/MOISTURE BARRIERS: Tremco, EnviroDri