This Couple Built a Modern-Day Treehouse in Maine That Blends into the Landscape

WMH Architects designs a home with a wall of glass and water vistas for would-be retirees on Mount Desert Island.

Photo by Brian Vanden Brink

Gazing down at Somes Sound from the summit of Flying Mountain in Acadia National Park, Diane and Steve Platts decided that when it came time to retire, they would call this area home. Ten years later, the Massachusetts natives—who live in a Houston suburb—secured 12 acres of unspoiled land on Mount Desert Island with views of that very sound. “We leave every vacation spot saying how much we loved it, but then never return because there are a thousand other places we want to go,” Steve says. “We actually went back to Acadia.”

The couple, who anticipate retiring in the next five years or so, engaged WMH Architects to design a house with clean lines that would blend with the landscape. Principals William Hanley and Heli Mesiniemi envisioned a distilled, linear structure with an exaggerated gable roof inspired by the modest A-frame lake house where Diane spent childhood summers with her grandparents. “The concept of the steeply pitched roof—this one is almost twice as steep as a traditionally pitched roof—is borrowed from Maine vernacular architecture,” Hanley says of the 2,500-square-foot, contemporary-meets-utilitarian design. “It sheds snow easily and creates a dramatic interior.”

Indeed, the ceiling in the living room reaches nearly 20 feet at the peak. That the rest of the first floor is a mere 8 feet high accentuates the drama. “The low plane sets you up for a wonderful transition into the soaring living space,” Hanley says. “If it were all one big, open interior, you would lose something; that play of contrast is important.”

A similar principle informed the architect’s disciplined use of glass, which he reserved primarily for the south-facing façade. The impressive expanse, which looks through the treetops to a saltwater marsh and beyond to Somes Sound, celebrates the island’s natural beauty. “If there are too many views, they get lost, so we highlighted defined areas,” Hanley says. “You need the opaque to appreciate the transparent.”

The scenery, be it from the living room, the crow’s nest, or the wraparound deck, is among the most cherished aspects of the couple’s visits. “Last time, we found such joy watching a pair of young bald eagles flying around,” Steve says. “This island has interesting people and a beautiful landscape. We love it here.”

WMH Architects

KSR Construction

Landscape Architect
Acadia Landscape + Design