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How a Photographer Pulled Off Her Dream Home in Cushing

“I hadn’t known any single women who built a house without a trust fund or outside help.”

a picture window at Stella House in Cushing, Maine

ABOVE Bensimon says this living-room window seat is her “spot.” It’s where she reads, watches movies (projected on the opposite wall), and soaks up the woodsy view. A disco ball, purchased for $40 on Amazon, provides much joy, scattering light around the house like confetti.

By Rachel Slade
Photos by Sidney Bensimon
From our January 2021 issue

French-born photographer Sidney Bensimon’s Instagram portraits sparkle with life and laughter, like their creator. In slightly accented English delivered in a soft upper register, she describes the events that led her to the Cushing home that stars in many of her shots. “We were kind of nomads,” she says, recalling her family’s frequent moves around the United States when she was a teenager. As an adult, Bensimon wanted to put down roots. In 2016, she photographed a Lincolnville wedding and fell for the midcoast. She bought land on a tidal cove and, in a terrifying leap, enlisted Brooklyn’s DEMO Architects to help her design a Scandinavian-inspired abode. “I hadn’t known any single women who built a house without a trust fund or outside help.” Now, she gets DMs from women she’s inspired to build homes of their own.

Kitchen

British interior design of the ’70s heavily influenced Bensimon’s aesthetic, especially Terence Conran’s 1974 The House Book, in which she spotted wood cabinets with integrated pulls. Her red-birch versions by Washington’s Bench Dogs complement a backsplash and island top in Marmoreal terrazzo — an engineered marble with chunks of colorful aggregate, en vogue in interior design circles.

Dining Room

Bensimon traded multiple photo shoots for this sleek maple table by Fort Standard stationed beneath a fir-framed loft erected by the home’s contractor, Hatchet Mountain Builders in Hope. In fact, she estimates that about half the pieces in the house were bartered. The flooring is pine, the molded-plastic stool is by Martino Gamper, and the Bertoia wire chairs were Etsy finds.

Ceramics

The kitchen’s wooden floating shelf was designed to showcase a collection of handcrafted pottery by Bensimon’s friend Jordan Colón, of Brooklyn, where she lives part-time. A handmade ivory pitcher and a portrait Bensimon painted in graduate school punctuate the sand-colored concrete countertop.

Exterior

Perched on a hill overlooking a tidal cove, “Stella House,” named after Bensimon’s beloved Lab, almost qualifies as a passive house — a structure designed to meet a strict energy standard — with thick, heavily insulated walls and carefully positioned eaves and triple-glazed windows. It’s so tightly built, she often waits until winter to turn on the heat.

Bedroom

Snuggled beneath the Parachute duvet cover on her Floyd platform bed, Bensimon can watch the stars through a pair of skylights tucked between fir beams in her peaked bedroom, finished in a textured concrete overlay by SureCrete. Last summer, she married musician Devin Eiring, whose many talents include making furniture; he built the couple’s maple nightstand.

Cabinet

Bensimon found this copper kitchen cabinet at the famed Brimfield Flea Market, in Massachusetts. She chose not to replace the missing glass on the doors — too much to clean, she says — but had walnut shelves installed to house bar supplies, cookware, and cookbooks.

Living Room

Natural light was important to Bensimon, who wanted large windows and high ceilings, but she and architect Alessandro Ronfini struggled with the shape of the opening above the French doors. Ronfini presented a circle, which she disliked, so they kept it a triangle until he snuck the circle back into the final drawings. “When I saw it for the second time, I was like, ‘That’s my house!’” she says.

Guest Room

At night, a giant Noguchi lamp glows almost as brightly as the Two Dawson duvet cover on the guest bed. Bensimon finished the accent wall with Portola’s Roman Clay, a pigmented plaster. Soon, the home built for one will accommodate three: Bensimon and Eiring are expecting a baby girl, who will eventually inhabit this room.

April 2024, Down East Magazine

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