Greenhouse Effect

It’s nearly impossible not to feel good in Luke and Sarah Cellier’s passive-solar home above the Back River in Georgetown.

passive solar house tour
By Lorry Fleming
Photos by Cait Bourgault
From our May 2018 issue

It’s nearly impossible not to feel good in Luke and Sarah Cellier’s passive-solar home above the Back River in Georgetown. Bright, airy, and filled with greenery, the house energizes and uplifts. It was designed and built in the 1980s by graduates of the Shelter Institute, Woolwich’s pioneering sustainable-house-building school. Luke, a carpenter specializing in energy-efficient construction, has updated the original woodsy-homestead design to create a stylish and comfortable 21st-century abode for the couple and their 12-year-old son, Jacob Diego.

In the living room, itiswhatitis, an ambrotype by Brunswick artist Michael Kolster, hangs above a 1960s-vintage black-leather sofa

The Living Room

Luke and Sarah have harmonious senses of design. Since they purchased the house five years ago, he’s transformed the building in numerous ways that include carving out ample workspaces for their respective home-based businesses on the second level and an open plan on the ground floor. Meanwhile, Sarah’s vintage clothing business, Rice and Beans Vintage, is a gateway for their eclectic furnishings. “I’m always out hunting for designer clothing,” she explains, “and I come across the best pieces on my travels. I love mixing old and new.” In the living room, itiswhatitis, an ambrotype by Brunswick artist Michael Kolster, hangs above a 1960s-vintage black-leather sofa. Sarah scored the silver trunk, which serves as a coffee table, at the yearly barn sale held at the Elijah Kellogg Church in Harpswell.

Generous windows offer views of the river and flood both floors with sunlight

Sun Washed

Luke and Sarah have named their home Casa Diego, after Jacob. Generous windows offer views of the river and flood both floors with sunlight. The open layout not only strengthens the connection to the outdoors, it’s also good for Jacob, who has a neurodevelopmental disorder that limits his mobility, and it will accommodate a wheelchair should he ever need one. “His motor skills improved dramatically after we moved here,” Luke says.

The Kitchen

Some prospective buyers “couldn’t get their heads around” the original kitchen, Luke says, but he was able to see past its quirks, which included a complex hot-water system that depended on there being a fire in the Rayburn wood-burning range cooker. “That took some real planning ahead,” Sarah says. Their renovations have resulted in a sleek and efficient kitchen that retains some of the original’s details, like the brick walls and a sun-drenched dining nook. Above the now-retired Rayburn is a piece of stars-and-stripes folk art that came out of Sarah’s parents’ garage. A cozy screened-in porch, Luke’s birthday gift to Sarah, sits off the kitchen’s north side.

one of the home's two plant-filled, south-facing sunrooms

The Sunrooms

For heat, the house relies entirely on two plant-filled, south-facing sunrooms — this one has a Georgetown-granite wall that absorbs the sun’s warmth — as well as a fireplace that Luke says “is designed more like a woodstove, with a sealed metal box inside.” The fireplace pulls cold air in from the bottom and spews warm air from a series of vents in the top. “There is a rhythm to living here,” says Luke, whose green thumb nurtures the plants. “You learn when to open and close doors, to allow the heat from the sunrooms in or out. You learn to keep the fire stoked and when to let it cool down.”

’70s-era Sacha platforms on a stack on magazines

Ruby Slippers

These jewel-toned, ’70s-era Sacha platforms are a thrift-store find that Sarah couldn’t part with. So rather than resell them, she uses them for a pop of color on this bookshelf. Every room holds a mini-feast — or, at least, an amuse-bouche like this one — for the eye. Has Casa Diego reached perfection yet? Sarah smiles. “A sauna is next,” she says, “then we’re done.”

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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