May 21, 2024


Creative meets living

Designers reimagine N.E. ski house decor

Josh E. Linder and Thomas Henry Egan III liken reaching Rangeley, Maine, to a trek to the North Pole. The designers, principals of Boston-based Evolve Residential, drove up in Linder’s hybrid right before the pandemic to install the finishing touches on a client’s new home. “It was a long, slow ascent up a mountain on black ice with fresh powder on top,’’ Linder said. “We didn’t see any other cars, just a tractor-trailer carrying logs barreling at us.’’

It turns out there is a less precarious route; reassuring given the region gets an annual snowfall of 200-plus inches. Linder and Egan’s clients, a Cambridge family of five, purchased the four-bedroom home last year, primarily to take advantage of the snowmobiling trails that crisscross the area, which also boasts a series of lakes. “The views are showstopping,’’ Egan said. “There are towering pines, and everything is covered in snow.’’

The house, however, was nothing special. Although nestled in the trees on a hill, the structure itself was essentially charmless. “It was a 1980s developer house in the most pristine natural setting,’’ Linder said. The first step was to remove the unsightly pressure-treated wood deck, which wrapped from front to back. To replace it, Egan designed a wide, covered front porch inspired by the Adirondack-style cottages that dot the area. “It needed a defining architectural feature,’’ he explained. “Now it looks homey and warm.’’

The revamped façade, now stylish and welcoming, set the tone for the interior scheme. While the whole family convenes here from time to time, the husband, teenage sons, and their friends visit most often. The directive was that the rooms feel relaxed. The décor was not to echo that of the stylish summer home the firm designed for the family on Massachusetts’ South Coast. “We had to reinvent the concept of a ‘man cave,’ ’’ Egan said.

The question became how to infuse their signature vibrancy into spaces that felt laid back and approachable. “It had to be tamer overall — less colorful and not too primped,’’ Linder said. The solution was to embrace the color blue and lean into natural materials, including fir, birch, leather, and jute. “Navy can go in many directions, but at the end of the day, it’s a masculine color,’’ Egan said. “The house had to be comfortable for men from the moment they entered.’’

Knowing everyone would enter from the side door, the designers turned the mudroom area into a cozy place to hang out. Two George Smith chairs that came from the wife’s parents are at the ready in front of a cast-iron wood stove against a new stacked-granite wall. The storage — baskets and hooks and a live-edge wood bench — happens behind them. “You can relax on the chairs while you warm your feet; it’s not just a repository for wet clothing and shoes,’’ Egan said.

‘We had to reinvent the concept of a “man cave.” ‘ –– Thomas Henry Egan II

In addition to dressing up the space with local stone and woodwork painted Benjamin Moore’s “Hale Navy,’’ the designers added whitewashed fir boards to the ceiling. It’s a subtle nod to the wood paneling often found in ski homes, done in a more modern manner. Ditto for the wide pine floorboards that run throughout, which they transformed with gray-tinged bleach.

Two wide doorways lead into the great room, which is light and bright despite the preponderance of blue plaids and weathered wood. White shiplap adds interest to the walls, and the kitchen cabinetry has a bleached-oak finish. The effect is reminiscent of the light-blue cast of the snow on a sunny day, ensuring that the family feels just as comfortable spending time here in the summer as they do in the winter.

In the great room, sumptuous velvet pillows dot the custom banquette, which is upholstered in a hearty plaid. “A banquette is the most efficient use of space and makes a dining table more approachable,” Linder said. The metal table with a rough timber board top from RH can take a ton of abuse and still look good. The designers replaced an oddly angled fireplace with a modern gas one. —Sean Litchfield

Tweedy wingback chairs in the seating area, also inherited from the wife’s parents, balance the steampunk-style coil stools in the kitchen. The classic forms help the designers skew more traditional than they otherwise might have and also infuse some age. “Handed-down pieces dilute the newness and make the spaces feel more evolved,’’ Linder said.

The gang kicks back on a deep sectional in the television room, where the walls are covered in paper printed with schools of funny-faced fish — an ode to ice fishing on Rangeley Lake. The dark and cozy space boasts rustic and industrial-flavored furnishings mixed with geometric patterns that leave little doubt designers were here. “The wife wanted the décor to feel like her, so we needed to counter the more casual aspects,’’ Linder said.

The TV room showcases the designers’ signature flair. Cole & Son “Aquario” wallpaper lines the walls and a raised, printed geometric paper by York Wallcoverings adds interest to the ceiling. The indoor/outdoor rug is from West Elm. —Sean Litchfield

The couple’s bedroom has a mountains-meet-the-Hamptons vibe. A whitewashed-fir feature wall accentuates the peaked ceiling, and the navy powder-coated metal canopy bed is a stark contrast to the textured seagrass rug and abaca rope-wrapped night stands. The wall treatment carries into the bath, where it’s punctuated by glossy, turned-wood sconces from local maker Dunes & Duchess. “I wanted to mimic the experience of a sun-bleached winter scene,’’ Linder said.

A steel canopy bed from Room & Board fills the tall, airy space in the couple’s bedroom. The designers used a luxurious embroidered geometric fabric from Ralph Lauren to reupholster the cushions on a rattan chair that the wife purchased at the general store in town. The space has a fir accent wall. —Sean Litchfield

While the designers turned ski house motifs on their heads through most of the house, they offered a great big taste of Maine in the bunk room: two sets of rustic log bunk beds. In the adjacent game room, a spiky antler light fixture is Elks Club chic, and the sheepskin-covered oak armchair and ottoman are downright irresistible. Flame stitch-patterned grasscloth wallcovering ratchets up the funk; even the sand-colored sofa and preppy striped rug can’t tame it. The designers also sneak it down the back stairwell, where a birch-branch handrail transmits a fresh New England feel.

The designers played with traditional motifs in the bunk room, where two sets of log bunk beds from the nearby general store offer plenty of sleeping spots for friends. Saturated blue walls are a cozy foil to the home’s lighter spaces. —Sean Litchfield

“We promised the husband we weren’t going to do too much, crossing our fingers behind our backs the whole time,’’ Egan said and laughed. “It’s the seventh time we’ve worked together, so he knows what happens when they hire us!’’

See more photos of the home below:

Inspired? How to get the products featured here

. —Marni Elyse Katz

1 Antler ceiling light, $345.37 at

2 GP&J Baker Rebozo’’ fabric, $138.10 at

3 Benjamin Moore’s “Hale Navy’’ paint at

4 Cedar Lake bunk bed, $1,289 at

5 Thibaut “Piedmont’’ wallcovering at Inquire about price.

6 Yeti sheepskin chair, from $2,695 at

7 Double Rachel sconce, $605 at

8 Rustic wooden wall rack, $199 at

9 Mauka reclaimed wood canoe bookcase, $1,499 at

10 Wyche wool ski pillow, $27.99 at

11 Banana leaf basket, $200/pair at

12 Accordion lamp, $462.50 at

13 Industrial coil stool, $530 at

14 Silver Stream of Fish from $22 each at

15 Echo Lake tealight, $75 at

16 Stowe pouf, $299 at

17 Kokoro pendant by Troy Lighting, $888 at

18 Striped pillow, from $45 at

19 Keaton nesting coffee tables, $699.95 at

20 Summit rug, from $300 at

Marni Elyse Katz blogs about design at Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @globehomes. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at