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Extra Bedroom: Designer Brendan Ravenhill’s Summer Sleeping Porch in Maine

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Extra Bedroom: Designer Brendan Ravenhill’s Summer Sleeping Porch in Maine

May 25, 2022

Lying in bed in what Brendan Ravenhill calls his “seasonal cave,” you can see the stars and watch the fireflies in July and the meteor showers in August. During the year, Ravenhill runs a busy design studio in LA specializing in minimalist, handmade lighting that is a longtime Remodelista favorite (see, for instance, A Study in Industrial Elegance). In the summer, Ravenhill and his wife and their young son relocate across the country to Islesford, on Little Cranberry Island in Maine, where he has been summering since he was a little cranberry.

These stays have been “ideas incubators” says Ravenhill: learning to build wooden boats in Maine—and with his siblings founding Islesford Boatworks, a non-profit boatbuilding school—led him to get a masters in industrial design from RISD and then launch his LA workshop. During the start of the pandemic, Ravenhill created a Floating Sauna accessible only by boat and open to the Islesford community. Today, we’re taking a look at another of Ravenhill’s summer projects, a sleeping porch on the forested edge of the old ice pond on his family’s property.

Photography courtesy of Ravenhill Studio.

after several summers of being crowded out of the main house and sleeping in a  9
Above: After several summers of being crowded out of the main house and sleeping in a tent, Ravenhill decided to build a permanent structure for his family of three. A mere 10-feet square and open to the elements but protected by wrap-around mosquito netting, it’s known as the Teahouse.

The name is a nod to plans of Ravenhill’s late father’s that never came to fruition—a Smithsonian Museum chief curator, his father had wanted to build a teahouse, Ravenhill says, “as a thank you gift to the couple who sold us the land. They had imagined that the banks of the ice pond would be a lovely place to have a spot of tea at this midway point between our two houses. It’s now a way to remember my father and people who enabled us to be here.”

the structure went up over the course of two weeks with the help of several han 10
Above: The structure went up over the course of two weeks with the help of several handy friends.

Ravenhill says the design was inspired not only by teahouses but by local sugar shacks, for boiling sap into maple syrup, and by the “sky spaces” of artist James Turrell, hence the large screened-in skylight, which has a retractable cover. The bed is a down mattress pad on a Japanese tatami mat with a simple angled pine headboard and side tables made from the construction scraps. The quilt is by Block Shop.

a cattail marsh edges the pond. the broom in the teahouse corner is from anothe 11
Above: A cattail marsh edges the pond. The broom in the Teahouse corner is from another important Ravenhill family place: “it’s a hand-me-down from my parents, who spent seventeen years living in the Ivory Coast, where my mother was born and raised, and where my family lived until the mid-1980s,” says Ravenhill, who was born and partly raised there, too.
brendan&#8\2\17;s wife and their son wake up in the teahouse. except on sto 12
Above: Brendan’s wife and their son wake up in the teahouse. Except on stormy nights or “when the rum punch is too strong,” the family of three sleep here throughout the summer.
an old wooden ladder is used to open and close the skylight. &#8\2\20;the s 13
Above: An old wooden ladder is used to open and close the skylight. “The skyspace in the roof is stepped up almost like a cupola above the standing seam roof,” explains Ravenhill. “On this raised section, we mounted drawer slides that connect to two retractable roof panels, each measuring roughly 2-by-4 feet.”
the timber framed structure is sheathed in rough sawn pine and protected during 14
Above: The timber-framed structure is sheathed in rough sawn pine and protected during the cold months by an outer skin of plywood panels that get removed and stored under the foundation at the start of the summer. It has a corrugated metal roof and a foundation of pressure-treated posts on dry-laid fieldstones.
all of the wood was sourced from maine and the posts are made from logs sawn on 15
Above: All of the wood was sourced from Maine and the posts are made from logs sawn on the island. The exterior wood is unfinished; the interior is whitewashed with Cabot stain. The horizontal window in the back was salvaged from a barn that used to be on the property.
the bedtime walk to the teahouse. 16
Above: The bedtime walk to the teahouse.
ravenhill&#8\2\17;s sketches of the structure. when it was complete, he and 17
Above: Ravenhill’s sketches of the structure. When it was complete, he and his family christened it with a tea ceremony.

N.B. We’re featuring Maine homes, destinations, and design details all week to celebrate the release of our new book, Remodelista in Maine.

For more simple summer quarters, see:

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