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Kitchen of the Week: A Hand-Built Kitchen with New England Roots Off the Coast of Maine

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Kitchen of the Week: A Hand-Built Kitchen with New England Roots Off the Coast of Maine

August 16, 2018

Back around Labor Day a couple of years ago, we first spotted the Soot House on Instagram: a tiny, charred-black house hand-built by a sculptor turned DIY builder, surrounded by scrubby pines and low-bush blueberries on the island of Spruce Head in Maine. Since then we’ve toured the small but hyper-efficient house (see Conjuring the Ghosts of Old New England on Spruce Head in Maine) and returned to it again and again as a pioneering example of Maine resourcefulness and artfulness in one.

Today, in honor of our Maine issue, we’re taking a closer look at the house’s deconstructed kitchen, reminiscent of the old New England root cellar. Join us.

Photography by Greta Rybus.

the house, where builder anthony esteves and designer julie o’rourke live w 9
Above: The house, where builder Anthony Esteves and designer Julie O’Rourke live with their young son, Diogo. It’s earned the name the Soot House, for the Japanese-style fermented soot paint Esteves used on the exterior of the small annex. (For more on the exterior, see Curb Appeal: A Classic New England Color Palette on Spruce Head in Maine.)
inside, the house is small but economical with space. 10
Above: Inside, the house is small but economical with space.
the high ceilinged living room and dining room give way to a sunken, low ceilin 11
Above: The high-ceilinged living room and dining room give way to a sunken, low-ceilinged kitchen. Esteves designed the layout with maximum efficiency in mind, particularly for the long Maine winters: Heat from the woodstove in the kitchen—the house’s only heat source—rises through the ceiling into the sleeping loft above, then is pulled back downward through a floor grate to create a convection heating system for the whole house.
the kitchen, with the woodstove in question, a concrete floor, and half wall, a 12
Above: The kitchen, with the woodstove in question, a concrete floor, and half-wall, and a deep sink and cabinet at right. Esteves made the molds and poured the concrete for the sink himself.

Above L: Herbs at the ready in a wooden bowl. Above R: Stacked firewood for the woodstove. Esteves says that, because of the efficiency of design, the family only goes through half a cord of wood a year: “roughly $150,” he says.

a concrete ledge provides a place for display. 15
Above: A concrete ledge provides a place for display.
esteves&#8\2\17;s hand built cedar shelves serve as both storage and room d 16
Above: Esteves’s hand-built cedar shelves serve as both storage and room divider.
another moment of economy: unused space beneath the main level floor is used to 17
Above: Another moment of economy: Unused space beneath the main-level floor is used to store dry goods (plus out-of-season clothes and bedding, out of sight).
opposite the woodstove: a deconstructed cook space, with a small cooktop atop a 18
Above: Opposite the woodstove: a deconstructed cook space, with a small cooktop atop a vintage hutch.
the top of the small set of stairs that leads down into the kitchen. 19
Above: The top of the small set of stairs that leads down into the kitchen.
the smeg refrigerator is kept out of the kitchen, in a niche clad with cedar bo 20
Above: The Smeg refrigerator is kept out of the kitchen, in a niche clad with cedar boards and hooks from Sugar Tools in Camden. (See Shopper’s Diary: Sugar Tools in Camden, Maine.)
the family outside their soot house. 21
Above: The family outside their Soot House.

We like these kitchens in Maine that draw from old New England, with pragmatism and artfulness in the mix:

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