Proudly Modern

One couple’s determination results in a surprising house in rural Maine.

The completed stairway is made of steel and sandblasted glass treads. Norelius found a metal fabricator — “basically a company that makes ship hulls,” says the husband — in Brewer, Maine, to painstakingly measure and construct the challenging assemblage. It was delivered through the lower level as a single piece and hoisted into place on steel girders. “I remember when they were lowering it in — the guy who’d done the measuring and the guy who’d done the fabricating — they were standing there holding their breath,” says the husband. “It clunked, the holes matched up. You could see in their expressions. They were thinking, My God, thank goodness!

Because the couple visited the work in progress daily, they were able to adjust its details mid-construction. “Bruce [Norelius] originally designed it with many more layers of things, like wood paneling and built-ins, but we all agreed during construction that the house needed to be peeled back,” says the wife. “As it went up, we started to see that the house was, to some degree, a backdrop for the view and the art, so we ended up with monochromatic porcelain tile floors and no wood trim.”

The couple also modified the layout during construction. “It was hard for my husband to imagine how the rooms would work,” says the wife. Because the house has an outside skeleton with no interior supporting walls, we could play with the spaces. I could make my kitchen twice as big, unhindered by structural constraints — until the plumbing went in, of course.”

Now, finally, the couple can enjoy their modern home. “I wake up, make coffee, and sit in the great room to read the Washington Post online,” says the husband. “The dogs go out, bark at the world, and let everyone know they’re still here.”