When Leah Lippmann, an architect and senior interior designer at Knickerbocker Group, began renovating a waterfront home overlooking Maine’s Casco Bay, she had the mansions of Bar Harbor in mind. “They built these beautiful Shingle-style houses on the water,” she says. “They were in railroad, coal, magnates of some sort. They had a lot of money and that’s where they spent it.”
The setting, with a private beach and enough landscaping to ensure privacy, was perfect. “When I initially set foot on the property, I was like, this landscape is unbelievable,” she says. But the house, she adds, was not “deserving of where it was located. It needed to be elevated to the landscape. It needed that history, it needed that richness.” The interiors were decidedly pedestrian. “The cabinetry, it was low-end,” she says. “Particleboard, not great finishes. It was basically a drywall chalet mansion. Very basic.”
The owners, Janice and Lee, wanted a summer home where their three children and three grandchildren could visit. Janice had wanted a coastal home for years and Lee, a retired oilman, bought this one as a present. “He surprised me for my birthday, May 27, 2016,” Janice says. “My husband had an iPad in a box, wrapped. And it said Push Play. It was the realtor’s video. And it said, ‘Welcome to your new home.’”
“She must have played it a thousand times,” says Lee.
The team at Knickerbocker Group took four years to complete renovations on the 12,000-square-foot house. “We gutted it down to the studs,” Lippmann says. “The only [thing] that was great about this house was that it had good bones. We designed and added everything else. There wasn’t anything we didn’t replace.”
The logical starting point was the porch, originally an eight-foot-wide strip that barely allowed people to pass each other. “We designed a veranda,” Lippmann says. With a new copper roof, rafters, cedar shingles, cedar decking, and a mahogany railing, the porch became the kind of inviting outdoor space Janice and Lee could use all the time.
“We pretty much live on that porch,” says Janice. “I grew up with a big porch as a child. And I just wanted that porch because if it’s pouring down rain, the [grand]kids can still play. They can jump rope. It’s big enough that they can even ride their tricycles on it.”