When we first corresponded with the owner, we weren’t sure whether to visit this property.
The owner is well-known artist and sculptor Kendra Ferguson, whose work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Harvard’s Fogg Museum, and others. When she told us the house she designed eight years ago was actually her “largest sculpture,” we wondered whether it might not be as practical or functional as we like our featured properties to be.
And then we learned that although her 7.1 acres includes almost 400 feet of ocean frontage, she’d placed her “sculpture” on high ground, surrounded by so many trees that the ocean isn’t visible. “Putting the house down by the shore, along with the necessary driveway,” she told us on the phone, “would have disrupted the mystery of the forest.” Well, we thought … admirable in a way but maybe not our cup of tea.
On the other hand, the property was located on Osprey Point, a couple of miles south of the village of Deer Isle, Maine, on the island of Deer Isle. It’s just off Blue Hill Peninsula, which in turn is a few miles south of Bucksport. If you’ve ever spent time in that general area of coastal Maine, as we have, then you, too, probably dream about living there someday (as soon as you’ve won the lottery).
So it was that on a foggy, rainy day this past May, we found ourselves crossing over the beautiful suspension bridge spanning Eggemoggin Reach, a narrow stretch of ocean between Sargentville on the mainland and Little Deer Isle — a stretch of ocean so familiar to Down East sailors — and onto the narrow causeway, which put us on Deer Isle. Ten minutes later, at a point some three miles north of Stonington, one of New England’s most picturesque fishing villages, we turned off Route 15 onto a narrow dirt road, part of which followed along an ocean cove. Then a left onto an even narrower dirt road, and there we were.
From the photos we’d seen, there was no mistaking Kendra’s “sculpture,” a two-story, L-shaped home on high ground, surrounded by granite ledges among tall pines, birches, and spruce. It had a rather steep Galvalume standing seam roof with skylights, a second-floor balcony, and a rich brown reverse board-and-batten exterior accented by red trim around doors and windows. We liked it right away, thank goodness, but the best was yet to come.
The main door was blocked by snow that day, so Kendra — a pretty, soft-spoken lady, her dark, barely graying hair cut very short — and her dog, a pointer mix named Hugo, greeted us at the door to her studio (one of her studios in the house), a large open space, almost like a small gymnasium, with a bed and a desk but otherwise empty. She was apparently between projects. At the far end, she opened a door into the main area of the first floor, and it was then, in an instant, all our reservations about traveling all those many hours to Deer Isle evaporated. We’ve been moseying around New England looking at available properties for many years, but we can’t recall ever seeing a more beautiful interior.
It wasn’t just the open, airy feeling, or the large windows overlooking the forest on all sides — windows, like the doors, that had been hand-built in Sweden. Nor was it just the dramatic beams, made from trees cut on the property, and hexagonal pillars, milled onsite. It wasn’t just the spacious kitchen on the far side across from us, either — although, we must say, we were immediately taken with the cabinets and counters. Kendra told us later that they were all built with leftover wood originally milled for some of her sculptures, which, incidentally, have been described by art critic Philip Isaacson as “modernist in an extreme form” and “utterly exquisite.” Well, so were those cabinets and counters.
Actually, what impressed us the most during that initial moment was that everything — beams, windows, floors, ceilings, and each piece of furniture, all designed by Kendra, and even details such as the wooden clock on the wall — was so obviously an integral part of a harmonious whole. Breathtaking.
After several minutes of drinking it all in, we joined Kendra at the large, round dining-room table for coffee and a piece of Swedish cardamom bread that she’d mixed up earlier that morning, rolling cinnamon and butter inside before baking. On top, she’d sprinkled pärl socker, Swedish “pearl sugar.” When Kendra’s now-grown daughters, Ona and Isa, were teenagers, she lived for almost 10 summers in a house she’d remodeled on the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia in Sweden. So the Swedish influence in her house, her sculptures, and her cooking comes naturally. We’d planned to eat just one piece of her cardamom bread — but ended up eating three. It was warm, just out of the oven. Well, okay, we ate four.
Eventually, we walked with Kendra through her home’s 3,500 square feet of living space (plus basement), marveling at the fact that all the major rooms upstairs and down have those magnificent Swedish windows on three sides. Besides that, what stands out in our memory are the striking stairway (a sculpture in itself), the interesting shapes of the ceilings surrounding the upstairs skylights, the second-floor iron balcony (designed and built by one of Kendra’s dear friends), the upstairs “great room” — not as large as the one on the first floor but nonetheless spacious (it’s currently the master bedroom but has served as a studio, too) — and, overall, the sense of hand-craftedness everywhere.
We asked Kendra what she liked best about the house. “The serenity,” she answered without hesitation, adding that she and her daughters named the property “Andrum,” which in Swedish means “Breathing Spaces.” Somehow that struck us as the perfect name. Perhaps at this point we should add a few of the practicalities, however: two bathrooms, a modern heating system, a pantry, two Vermont Castings woodstoves, a fully equipped laundry room, three bedrooms upstairs, one downstairs, and a back entrance stairway.
It occurred to us as we meandered through the house that many of the large spaces (seems more appropriate than “rooms”) could so easily be adapted to various uses. That downstairs studio, for instance, would make a fabulous family/game/exercise/television area — and the view of the ocean from those triple 12-foot-high windows would be magnificent. Or could be. All a new owner would have to do is cut some trees, and we’re sure the value of the property would leap from the current $1,600,000 asking price to something far above that figure.
Speaking of ocean views, before saying our goodbyes we simply had to see those 381 feet of shore frontage, now so well hidden from the house. So, with Kendra, a very happy Hugo, and one of Kendra’s cats, Bates, who bounded along ahead of us, we wended our way down through the woods for about five minutes until we reached a small rocky point jutting out into Long Cove. Here, Kendra told us, she and Hugo take long swims every summer morning.
“I expected to keep this property until the end,” Kendra mused as we watched a lobster boat moving along the far shore and listened to the distant foghorn on Mark Island, just off Stonington. “But I’d like to live nearer my daughters,” she continued after a pause, “and I find now that I’d like to live where I don’t have to drive so much.” We hastened to assure her that as birthdays accumulate, things change in all our lives. In the ensuing silence, however, we found ourselves picturing the guest cottage with sleeping porch we’d build down here next to the water — with maybe a small dock, too. Nothing that would disrupt the mystery of the forest, of course.
You know, it’s fun to dream.