Style Watch

Coastal contemporary

Sweeping ocean views and spare furnishings add up to a dream home for these art lovers.

<b>WAVEFORMS</b>  The curved kitchen island and the home’s rounded roofline echo the ocean and coastline’s undulations.
<b>WAVEFORMS</b> The curved kitchen island and the home’s rounded roofline echo the ocean and coastline’s undulations.Photographs by Jamie Salomon

TO CONVEY THE BEAUTY he saw in a minimal object, a prospective homeowner showed a steel tool to Richard Renner, an architect based in Portland, Maine, and Boston. He had used the rounded instrument to bend nails as he fabricated a canoe.

The clinching device became a design inspiration for Renner and his clients – the canoe-building outdoorsy husband and his wife, a fabric artist – as they came up with plans for an ultra-contemporary year-round house overlooking a beach just south of Portland. The unusual curved roof of the couple’s new 2,900-square-foot residence echoes not only the tool, but also the undulations of coastline and water. So do the waves in the steel staircase railing and the gentle bend of the kitchen island topped with a smooth, black granite counter.


A neutral palette helps the rooms cohere and allows the homeowners’ collection of contemporary sculpture to catch the eye. The wife’s fabric art adds color and soft textural accents throughout the home.

Maximizing ocean views was paramount for this visually attuned couple. Renner placed windows so that upon entering the open-concept living area, one gains views of the breaking surf at several intervals.

Eliminating visual noise was another goal. And so the stuff of everyday life is hidden in appliance garages, a wall-length pantry, walk-in closets, and a mudroom. Two panels separate to reveal a flat-screen TV in the living room. The wife’s light-filled studio (with balcony, so she can step outside for inspiration) includes floor-to-ceiling storage cabinets.

The uncluttered house feels elegant in the way mathematics is. That curved roof, a line that also appears as the master bedroom ceiling, is a section of a circle. Windows of varying sizes and built-in cabinetry provide rectangular symmetry in an asymmetrical floor plan. Even the recessed lighting has a simplicity that resembles dots on a graph.


Warmth comes from the blond cabinets in the open kitchen and living area. Iridescent glass kitchen tiles on the backsplash shimmer and change color with altering angles of light. The flickering gas fireplaces in the living room and master bedroom invite repose. The surf may be roiling outside, but the home’s spare interior evokes a sense of serenity.