A New Entry to Befit a Very Old House

Ten years after we completed a renovation on the Maine coast that transformed an aging bed and breakfast back to its original use as a private home, the owners approached us again for a small—but significant—new project.

While the original overhaul focused on opening the interiors out toward the sweeping ocean views near Bar Harbor, the front entry—which also faces the water—remained the same. Something had always seemed missing from that first impression as owners and guests alike approached from a long driveway that hugs this rocky shore:

maine-oceanside-house-water-view

The drive curves around from the left, only to arrive at this lovely but modest porch:

Before

Our clients wanted us to frame the entry from outside just as dramatically as we framed the water views from the inside, as you see here when you look from the foyer through to the dining room and out at the Atlantic Ocean:

Maine Cottage

Our challenge in this case was pinpointing exactly what we had to do to achieve this effect. Inspired by the home’s location, its existing style, and the natural wood and stone elements that accent the interiors, we chose to use old, weathered beams to frame the entry and hold up the center bay window.

Because the house was built in the 19th century, we knew this entry had to be hand-crafted with the same joinery techniques that its original carpenters would have used.

charpente

From there, it was a matter of selecting a reclaimed barn beam that could do the job. It had to be a certain length, so the entire frame could be crafted from the same timber, and it needed to come from a reputable source that could also treat it against weather and pests, and finish it with a sealer that would not change its natural patina.

Those qualities are a rare combination, but we knew Cochran’s Lumber in Berryville, Virginia, would have what we were looking for, since we’d collaborated with them successfully in the past.

What happened next was an example of great teamwork between the homeowners, the suppliers at Cochran’s, local builders and craftsmen, structural engineers, the trucking company, and our firm.

Cochran’s first identified the beam, reclaimed from a 120-year-old Pennsylvania barn. They brought it back to their Virginia lumberyard for our team to inspect:

ankie-cochrans

The carpenters carved out classic mortise and tenon joints, which were later pinned with wooden dowels.

entryframe

toparch

arch-done

The process involved authentic timber detailing and connections, along with invisible structural connections to meet new codes.

mortise

arch-closeup

Cochran’s treated the newly cut surfaces so they would be indistinguishable from the beam’s original exterior, which would have been shaped by hand with an adze cutting tool that creates the notches you see below.

arches-tenons

In all, that single beam made a journey from the inside of a barn in Pennsylvania, to the Virginia shop where it was treated and transformed, to the job site in Maine.

entry-forklift

The installation took two days, five carpenters and a fork lift. The blood, sweat and tears behind fabricating and installing something that looks simple and beautiful when it’s done is never evident in the result—and that’s exactly the point.

after2

The finishing touches include granite bases, local landscaping and a massive granite bench.

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Our clients love the result, now that the new entry speaks the same architectural language as their distinguished old house.

Many thanks and much credit goes to our collaborators in Maine who helped us and Cochran’s bring this entry to life:
Builder Chris White
Structural Engineer John P. Poulin

For more information on the rest of this home, check our project profile right here.