cozy home in Rangeley, Maine

4 Cozy Maine Homes Near the Slopes

Ever dream of owning a ski retreat? Draw inspiration from four diverse mountain dwellings with charm and gear-storage galore — and style as refreshing as a bluebird day.

By Sara Anne Donnelly and Sarah Stebbins
From our December 2023 issue

Fantasy Camp

Blending In

The Portland-area owners of this Rangeley place (who asked that their names be withheld) never wanted a second home. “A pain in the neck,” the husband says. But they were tired of renting in the remote spots they liked to visit. So when they found a large, wooded, buildable lot on a pond teaming with brook trout near their favorite ski mountain, they caved. It was 2020, and Saddleback Mountain, where they’d brought their kids when they were growing up, was getting ready to reopen its ski operations after a five-year closure. “Even with the new chairlifts and updated lodge, it still feels like a small family mountain,” the wife says. The couple, who recently retired, sought a house to match that low-key mountain vibe. Working with Falmouth architects Kevin Browne and Jon Sevigny, they designed an inconspicuous one-story structure that reads like a series of staggered cabins and allows them to mostly avoid stairs — a key feature as they age.

combined living, dining, and kitchen space in ski house in Rangeley, near Saddleback Mountain
Photo by Jeff Roberts

Low-Maintenance Living

The couple also wanted to avoid lots of upkeep, so they clad the house in thermally treated poplar siding, which resists rot and pests and weathers nicely without finishing, and a standing-seam aluminum roof that’ll last 50 years or longer, Browne says. Overhangs above the front and garage doors divert snow away from the home. Inside, they went with white-oak paneling, which is less prone to cracking than drywall and needs no refinishing, on walls, ceilings, and cabinetry. Chocolate-stained oak flooring and a board-and-batten cathedral ceiling — the handiwork of Jeff Heseltine’s team at Portland’s Wright-Ryan Homes — in the combined living, dining, and kitchen space provides contrast. Ditto the strategic pops of navy and pine-green paint Falmouth interior designer Emily Mattei incorporated on cabinetry and beds from Saco’s Maine Woodworks

Photos by Jeff Roberts

Space-Saving Design

To facilitate the couple’s outdoorsy lifestyle, the team fitted out three garage walls with boot dryers and racks for skis and fishing poles. The adjoining mudroom has cubbies, hooks, and a built-in bench with drawers, but no closet. “They wanted things to be casual, no fuss,” Mattei says. The couple also skipped closets in the bedrooms, opting for armoire-like built-ins that conserve floor space instead. Eschewing a central staircase is another space saver, Browne adds. The home’s only stairs lead to the basement and guest rooms, where the couple occasionally hosts visitors. “This wasn’t meant to be a place where we’d have lots of folks up,” the husband says. “The two of us skiing a half day at Saddleback, then cross-country skiing or snowshoeing here in the afternoon — that’s a perfect winter day.”

Photo by Jeff Roberts

Architect: Kevin Browne Architecture
General Contractor: Wright-Ryan Homes
Interior Designer: E4 Interior Design
Cabinetry: McIntosh & Company
Square Feet: 2,757
Bedrooms: 3
Baths: 2½ 
Heat: Radiant flooring on lower level and in baths, woodstove in living room, air-source heat pumps in bedrooms, gas stove in primary bedroom, wired for future solar panels

Village People

Photo by Sean Lichtfield

In on the Ground Floor

In 2022, Lincolnville artist Mary Bourke and her husband, Michael Margolis, a retired electrician, spotted a Facebook ad for a new A-frame village on Saddleback Mountain, near Rangeley. Within a week, they put down a deposit. “Saddleback is a special mountain and we knew the A-frames would go quickly,” Bourke says. “And we felt like, what a great chance to have a place where we could bring our kids and grandkids.” At the time, what would eventually be a 22-unit development called Parmachenee Village was little more than dense forest. “We were standing in the trees, trying to envision what the view would be like,” Bourke recalls. “We picked the highest spot we could, hoping to maximize our views over Saddleback Lake and across toward the mountain.”

Dandy Scandi

Inspired by the clean lines and function-first efficiency of Scandinavian design, the home centers on “a generous-feeling community space,” says Mark Nordby, an architecture project manager at Barrett Made, the Portland design-build firm responsible for the development’s original eight A-frames. The combined entry, kitchen, dining, and living space is rendered in whitewashed- and natural-pine walls that culminate at an 18-foot-high peak. Near the front door, a seven-foot-long pine bench allows multiple skiers to wrangle with their boots beside matching cubbies for gear. A sealed-concrete floor equipped with radiant heat melts tracked-in snow for easy cleanups, while a bump-out, in inky clapboards that blend with the A-frame’s asphalt roof, accommodates a stairwell and a pair of guest rooms. With trundle beds, the Bourkes can comfortably host their two grown children, their children’s partners, and their three grandchildren. “It’s not a big house, but it has a nice flow that allows a lot of people to be in the building and not feel crowded,” Bourke says.

Photos by Sean Lichtfield

Slopeside Style

Bourke chose a mid-century–inspired, birch-framed sofa and oak dining table that complement the home’s precipitous pine paneling, then layered on color and coziness with hand-me-down wool blankets, patterned throw pillows and rugs, mix-and-match dishes on the kitchen’s open shelves, and art, including woodcuts by Bath’s Siri Beckman and paintings by the couple’s daughter, Molly Brosnan, of Bucksport. For the living area, Bourke painted acrylics of a Maine black bear and her great-grandfather and uncle fishing on Ellsworth’s Green Lake — a nod to Saddleback’s fishing-themed trail and chairlift names. “I wanted this place to feel personal, more like a home than just a ski home,” Bourke says.

Photo by Sean Litchfield

Architect and General Contractor: Barrett Made
Square Feet: 1,350
Bedrooms: 3
Baths: 2
Heat: Propane boiler, radiant flooring on lower level, gas stove

Bringing Their A-Game

Photo by Sean Litchfield

Dream House

For two years, Courtney and Patrick Ryan, of Massachusetts, hunted for an A-frame in a Maine ski town. But the ones they found tended to be dated, gloomy, and cramped. “A triangle makes sense for shedding snow and ease of building,” says Patrick, a cinematographer who spent childhood summers at his great-uncle’s A-frame on Lake Michigan. “But you’re only going to have windows on the front and back and, with tapered walls, you’re losing so much space.” So when they discovered a wooded, six-acre Bethel plot near Sunday River, where Courtney, a film director, skied as a kid, they decided to hire Bethel’s Clearwater Builders to erect a souped-up riff on their favorite pointy style. 

Hands-On Homeowners

The Ryans sketched their initial concept on paper and worked with Bethel architectural designer Tony Andrews to refine it, filling the south-facing triangular facade with windows and incorporating deep dormers on one side of the sloped roof. On the other side, a pair of bump-outs accommodate a mudroom, laundry room, and two baths. Patrick had his heart set on siding blackened with shou sugi ban, a centuries-old Japanese technique for preserving and finishing wood by charring it, but prefinished boards were pricey, so he opted to blow-torch raw pine clapboards himself. “I was like, it’s an A-frame, there’s not too much siding,” he says, laughing. With help from Courtney’s dad, the project took two full weeks. Patrick and a friend also poured the kitchen’s concrete countertops after watching “a million YouTube videos.” The ends of the island (as well as the home’s built-in benches) feature inexpensive oak half-round molding from a hardware store, lending an elegant, corrugated effect.

Photos by Sean Litchfield

Earthy Aesthetic

Inspired by homes they saw on a Mexico trip, the Ryans juxtaposed concrete flooring (equipped with radiant heat) and walls finished in American Clay plaster with the ceiling’s stained-pine paneling, installed vertically to accentuate the living area’s 28-foot-tall peak. The walls and floor are swirled with trowel marks and the floor is speckled with pine needles that snuck into the wet concrete, adding character, Courtney says. “When our son runs across it in wet, muddy boots, I don’t freak out.” To offset the home’s sharp angles, they incorporated arched doorways and curvaceous brass and rattan light fixtures. Completed last year, the dwelling, which the Ryans rent out for part of the year, “is not perfectly practical,” Patrick admits. But they relished the challenge of maximizing an A-frame’s shape. So much so, they’re currently building a second one on the property with Courtney’s parents.

Photo by Sean Litchfield

Architectural Designer: AVA Woodworks
General Contractor: Clearwater Builders
Interior Renderings: Mayra Coral
Kitchen Cabinetry: Bethel Kitchen Designs
Square feet: 2,200
Bedrooms: 3
Baths: 3
Heat: Radiant flooring on lower level, air-source heat pumps in bedrooms, gas stove

Custom Condo

Photo by Sean Litchfield

Ready for a Refresh

When Portland property manager Ann Marie Malone and her husband, commercial-real-estate agent Joe, bought their 1970s-era condo in Sugarloaf’s Birchwood development, in 1998, it was dark and dated, with “bowling-alley dimensions” that made every room feel cramped. “If you wanted to move the couch out to clean or put a new rug down, it would end up halfway up the wall,” Ann Marie says. “When we had people over for dinner, we’d open the table leaf and it would bump up against the couch.” The Malones considered moving to a bigger place, but this one’s proximity to family and friends in Birchwood, including their daughter and her family, kept them committed. So they set their sites on expansion.

Smart Moves

Removing a front deck allowed the couple to enlarge the condo’s footprint by roughly 30 percent across three floors. In the walkout basement, which serves as the home’s primary entrance, they tore down walls and created a combined game room and mudroom with hooks for coats, skis, and snowboards and deep pine shelving for boots and gear. (All of which is ignored by the couple’s three grandkids, who hang their stuff on the foosball table, Ann Marie says.) Walls also came down on the main floor, where the couple swapped structural posts for steel beams, allowing for an open-concept living, dining, and kitchen space with a new pair of awning windows facing the Bigelow Mountain range. Upstairs, they renovated a second-floor bath and converted a loft into a third-floor primary suite brightened by a pair of skylights. 

Photos by Sean Litchfield

Favorite Hangout

The Malones, who love to entertain, furnished the kitchen in rustic-glam fashion with reclaimed-barnwood cabinets fitted with antique stained-glass panels from Portland Architectural Salvage and an island of salvaged board-and-batten crowned with a soapstone countertop. A teak dining table seats six, as does a velvet sectional in the living room, which Ann Marie outfitted, with help from her son-in-law Ben Ray, of Portland’s Evangeline Linens, with an ocean-inspired rug from Angela Adams, in Portland, and ample blankets and furs. On most evenings, the Malones can be found here, hanging out with whoever happens to stop by from Birchwood. “The thing I treasure most about this place is how close I am to people I love,” Ann Marie says. “I see all of them in the summer, but they have to drive and it’s more of an effort to get together. Here, it’s as easy as falling out of bed.”

Photo by Sean Litchfield

General Contractor: Baker Hill Builders
Kitchen Cabinetry: Whit Horn
Square feet: 1,664
Bedrooms: 3
Baths: 2½ 
Heat: Direct-vent propane heaters, gas fireplace, radiant flooring in second-floor bath

May 2024, Down East Magazine

Get all of our latest stories delivered straight to your mailbox every month. Subscribe to Down East magazine.