Arts and Crafts Inspired

A couple turns to Carpenter & MacNeille Architects to design their Craftsman-Style home.

Photos by Richard Mandelkorn


For their new year-round house set on the rocky, windswept ledge of Folly Point, a Gloucester couple took a cue from the nearby historic homes, with their excellent craftsmanship, impeccable detailing, and artful mood. The couple was just as enchanted by the artistic heritage of the area, especially the intricately detailed linoleum block prints of the Folly Cove Designers. To see their vision realized, they turned to Robert S. MacNeille, AIA, the design principal and president of Carpenter & MacNeille Architects and Builders in Essex.

“They wanted this house to reflect the character of the neighborhood,” MacNeille says, a place that would embrace the history of coastal New England. The couple was also inspired by stories of the accomplished local designers who worked simply and humbly for art’s sake. “The Folly Cove Designers were right around the corner,” MacNeille says. “It was an Arts and Crafts community going back to the early 1900s. The owners liked the spirit of that.”

Today, the two-story 6,000-square-foot house, clad in stone, slate, and red cedar shingles, is a sublime reflection of the Arts and Crafts and Shingle styles set by the nearby older houses. There is also a touch of Asian influence. “It was kind of a natural complement for the
craftsman influence,” MacNeille says. “Both styles focus on beauty and simplicity.” Meditative, elegant, and clean-lined, the house doesn’t have a fussy bone in
its body.

On the rugged coastline, it was just as important that the owners have a durable home that would weather oceanfront living. Facing northeast, the location gets hit hard by storms, MacNeille explains, “They really wanted this house to be here for the ages.”

With a 5-foot stone wall skirting the home below the shingles, plentiful windows, and masterful architectural maneuvers, such as pairing a large gable with a smaller one at the entryway, the exterior gives a new definition to an old style. “It’s our variation of an old idea,” he says of the gables.

The side corners of the house, featuring gently curving lines, a long overhang, and a “rain chain”—which directs water from gutters to the ground—are classic New England elements. The beautiful exterior details, such as the pattern on the ends of the rafter tails (which can be seen outside the kitchen windows) and mahogany caps on the stone foundation, are pure Carpenter & MacNeille. “It’s all part of that sheltering theme,” MacNeille says.

Detailing comes naturally to Carpenter & MacNeille craftspeople. The firm has its own woodworking shop, C&M Woodworking (formerly Stephen Terhune Woodworking), which handcrafted the most eye-catching decorative details. “We went with lots of natural wood,” MacNeille says.

Inside the house, wood is presented in all its most glorious incarnations. The floors, except for the stone-floored family room, are vertical-grain fir, with subtle blond streaks that light up in the sun. “There’s a lot of visual appeal to it,” MacNeille says. “It’s a very forgiving wood.” Mahogany cabinetry, classic wainscoting, and square-edged flat window trim—as well as the shining vertical-grain fir floors— create a warm, cocooning mood.

Blending with Asian style in the interior turned out to be a natural design evolution, MacNeille says. Occasionally there is an eye-catching focal point: The sliding shoji screens that separate the kitchen and family room, a stunning 7-foot wooden tub in the master bathroom handmade by Bath in Wood of Maine; a Japanese soaking tub in the guest bath, and a sleek desk custom-built by Carpenter & MacNeille woodworkers, all beg a second look.

While the couple picked their home’s furnishings, they worked with Carpenter & MacNeille interior designers on light fixtures, basic detailing, and colors. The generous swathes of color—such as a silvery green in the master bath and taupe in the entry hall—serve both the home’s historic nature and its marriage of styles. MacNeille credits the homeowners for the seamless integration of style and the final effect.

“We were fortunate to have clients who have a real love of craftsmanship,” MacNeille says. “They truly appreciated it. That’s what it boiled down to.”

Carpenter & MacNeille Architects

106 Western Ave., Essex, 978-768-7900