Letting in the Light

words ERIK NEILSON  |  photography ROB KAROSIS

The team at Whitten Architects on Silver Street in Portland has been focusing on sustainable residential design for 30 years. From camps and cottages to luxury homes and even historic renovations, the firm adds this Hills Beach sanctuary in Biddeford to its robust portfolio.

“It’s a beautiful area,” says Project Architect Russ Tyson. “The home sits overlooking the mouth of the Saco River, and the views actually ended up having a big impact on the overall design. Since they face to the north, we wanted to ensure that careful window placement allowed the south side of the home to bring in as much natural light as possible.”

Tyson’s approach to design holds functionality in high regard, as can be seen especially in how the kitchen in this home came to be.

“In this particular case, it started with the sink,” he says. “The client wanted her work area to overlook the view, so the sink acted as somewhat of an anchor. From there, it’s always good to develop a tight ‘work triangle’ so that you’re not running around and have access to everything you need wherever you’re standing. We call it a ‘two-or-three-step kitchen.’ We also wanted to make sure to keep things open so that the client can entertain guests without feeling as if she’s off in another room. Finally, it was important that there be immediate access to the porch—also influenced by the view.”

Lighting—both natural and artificial—plays an important role in any kitchen. According to Tyson, recessed lighting is a subtle, effective tool for helping home cooks see what they’re doing more clearly when working in the kitchen.

“Properly located recessed lighting is perfect for work surfaces,” says Tyson. “When you’re standing up against the counter, your head isn’t blocking any of the light that’s coming down the way it might with other types of lighting, which can make it hard to see what you’re doing. You’ll notice that it follows an L-shape in the same way as the counter top, providing for even, consistent lighting from one end to the other. The chandelier over the kitchen table was brought in by the client and adds unique character to the dining area, which also opens onto the porch.”

Whitten Architects’ penchant for sustainability can be seen in the repurposing of a pre-existing foundation for this Hills Beach home, something Tyson and his team are quite proud of.

“I think the big thing for us was being able to make use of something that already existed,” he says. “The foundation, the site itself, saving the trees and the views and capitalizing on them by bringing in plenty of light—it really influenced the outcome of the project.”


Whitten Architects
Russ Tyson
Rob Whitten

Becker Structural
Nathan Merrill, P.E.

General Contractor
Trades Center Inc.
David Wade

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