Advertisement

In Coastal Maine, a Writer-Carpenter’s Restored Home Is a Vision in Yellow

Matthew J.C. Clark has the kind of house you remember. It’s a beacon on his street—a glow of yellow in the distance like a cartoon sun. A field of daffodils. A bouquet of sunflowers. He has the kind of house where upon entering the front door the oven buzzes, sporadically, joyfully, as if to greet you. He has the kind of house where you might hear a soft flapping sound that signals that his tuxedo cat, Whiskey, has let herself in.

Matthew, a writer and carpenter, has a house with memories, stories, and excitement.

The house is painted in Glitzy Gold with a Solaria trim, both by Sherwin-Williams.

Built in 1860, the Federal-style home sits a street away from the Kennebec River in Bath, Maine—a small, coastal city with a strong identity in shipbuilding. Matthew returned to Bath, where he went to high school and just a few miles from the town where he grew up, in 2015. He and his then wife wanted a fixer-upper in the area, and with a winning foreclosure auction bid, this one became theirs.

Much of the furniture in the home comes from family (the coffee table) and friends (the Peruvian textile, the yellow couch and chair)—even the house of a high school love (the red chair).
Much of the furniture in the home comes from family (the coffee table) and friends (the Peruvian textile, the yellow couch and chair)—even the house of a high school love (the red chair).

Since Matthew spent his teenage and early college years learning carpentry from Morse & Doak Builders—and continued to do carpentry through grad school—his hands-on approach to the home was a given. The first memory Matthew has of the house begins at the first fix. “It had all this old faux wood paneling in blue and the chimney was leaking and crumbling. There were holes in the floor and insulation, animal smells, and it was so cold, it was so, so cold,” he says. “We got very little done, but it felt like we started on that journey—this journey.”

When Matthew bought the house, there was no floor in the kitchen because someone else had started remodeling and never finished. Since the living room floor had soggy, rotted joists, it just made sense to tear everything up and start over. Beyond the floors, the home was originally configured in an L-shape, with an additional structure and a bad sense of flow. A friend from Laramie, Wyoming, came out twice to help Matthew with the renovations.
In the pantry (painted yet another shade of yellow), the cat’s landing spot is situated. Through the window a glimpse of the wood shed can also be seen.

The renovation was slow and steady, as to be expected with a crew primarily of one, the harsh conditions Maine can create, and an old house with a community of gray squirrels living inside. “The basic vision was beautiful, I want it to be beautiful,” Matthew says. “I don’t think I understood how that was going to happen or, in reality, how all the plumbing was going to fit together and where the outlets were going to go—but it was going to be beautiful.” He was adamant about reusing as much as he could from the original home, which was expressed through his dad pulling a lot of nails from wood boards. He also found treasures, like the name of the carpenter who built the house penciled on the back of a piece of window trim (J.C. Harris).

Matthew’s attic bedroom (painted another shade of yellow) has some of his favorite floors—made from reclaimed and refinished subfloor.
“It must have a wood stove. It must have lots of storage built into it. It must have a bathtub,” says Matthew, who lists some of the musts of the home he envisioned. “We kept the bathtub that was in here, actually, so that was easy. That was the most the house had.” He built the shelving, the sink vanity, and painted the floors too.

After about two years, it was time to move in. The yellow house is now filled with reclaimed beams from Matthew’s grandparents’ barn in Whitefield, Maine. There’s a sturdy, toe-stubbing hearth made from locally collected rocks. There are unexpected color combinations—including but not limited to the Mediterranean teal, Anjou Pear orange, and tomato bisque–like red painted on the trims and used for the kitchen counters. Looking in from the outside, it’s hard to choose a favorite element. “I love the kitchen space, it feels so nice in there,” Matthew muses. “[And] I’m excited about the Wood Mill of Maine floors. I think they look beautiful.”

Matthew’s aunt Cindy made the stained glass for the home. “When the sun is going down, it shines this cool light in,” he says. The cut out where the window was installed hangs on the opposite wall.
Matthew’s aunt Cindy made the stained glass for the home. “When the sun is going down, it shines this cool light in,” he says. The cut out where the window was installed hangs on the opposite wall.

The wood floors tell a story as you move through the space. “​​You can feel the cup in the sole of your feet and it reminds you that you’re walking on a former tree,” Matthew describes. But beyond the physicality of the floors, they are part of a story Matthew began to write—a magazine-style essay about the Wood Mill of Maine, and specifically, the owner, Bjarki Gunnarsson. The writing and the home improvement became intertwined. Matthew acquired the mill’s pine for the floors, he installed the floors, he messed up the floors—a cupped floor is not good, as beautiful as it looks to an untrained eye—and more or less (a lot more than less), the journey and the essay morphed into his recently published, debut book, Bjarki, Not Bjarki.

From a five-degree shelf to childhood monster drawings to a stack of Bjarki, Not Bjarki drafts and books, the office is full of thoughtful touches. The Doritos art on the wall was a gift and a nod to one of Matthew’s pieces of writing, “6'3" Man with Doritos.”
Whiskey, known to be a bit anthropophobic, loves to sleep in one of the office drawers.
Whiskey, known to be a bit anthropophobic, loves to sleep in one of the office drawers.

The book is a lot like the house: It tells the story of transition and transformation. You move through it and you’re struck by Matthew’s thoughtfulness (little nooks for keepsakes, such as a hat that makes him feel a certain way), his humor (a years-old to-do list penciled on the kitchen wall), his kindness (a chair in the pantry as a step for his cat), his creativity (a parlor for screen printing T-shirts), and his uncertainty (doors without knobs and lightbulbs without covers).

Matthew made bespoke hand-printed shirts hyping the characters and themes in his book, which he brings along to tour events. His friend, Emily Trescot, helped him carve many of the images.

And yet, the home may continue to evolve. Perhaps Matthew will rebuild the porch and install door knobs. “I keep waiting for the perfect pieces of art to show up,” he says. “There’s very little on the walls and what’s on the walls has felt temporary.” The ideas keep churning, but it’s clear the basic vision—creating a beautiful house—has come to fruition. Matthew adds, “Maybe I’ll paint the floor.”

A vision in yellow, the renovation of this Maine home is the kind you remember.
A vision in yellow, the renovation of this Maine home is the kind you remember.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest


More Great Stories From Clever