A modern home that stays true to its Maine roots
Propane's flexibility and clean emissions profile
are key to achieving the vision of a Northeast residential architect and his
By Jeffrey Lee
fireplace in the House on a Hill, overlooking Casco Bay in Maine, is a
marvel of thoughtful design and intelligent planning.
home, designed by Corey Papadopoli, an architect with Elliott + Elliott
Architecture, Blue Hill, Maine, has a beautiful view overlooking the bay
through curved glass windows. Papadopoli's clients wanted to see the
fireplace's gas flame from both the sitting room and the living room, which
sit on opposite sides of the fireplace. And Papadopoli wanted to avoid
obstructing the view with a chimney or vent pipe. So the custom fireplace is
power-vented through the floor, underneath the sitting room, then into a
wall and through the roof.
"We ran the stone flooring into the
fireplace, and then inset the burners below it, so it looks like the
flames come out of the stone, which was pretty cool," Papadopoli
The unique fireplace is just one example of how propane can
help architects achieve their vision for home performance, comfort,
design, and sustainability. In areas such as rural Maine that have no
access to natural gas, propane is a versatile and cost-effective energy
source that can meet the needs of demanding clients.
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A small firm of eight people that
designs residential and small institutional projects, Elliott + Elliott
tends to work in modern interpretations of vernacular architecture. "We
look for historical precedents in Maine, or wherever we're working, and
find contemporary ways to update those and apply them to 21st-century
living," Papadopoli says.
The House on a Hill is a prime example.
The home replaced an existing, 100-year-old Cape Cod house. The
homeowners had grown up in the old house, but the systems were woefully
out of date, and it didn't meet their needs as they were aging. The
new design starts with three wood boxes that reflect the
quintessential Cape Cod style and then links them together with glass
connectors that reflect a modern building system. "It's contrasting the
solid, heavy wood boxes with their punched openings versus these very
light, steel-framed glass apertures," Papadopoli says.
architects knew early on that the homeowners were interested in propane
cooking, which they had in their previous house, as well as radiant
heat and a gas fireplace. "They wanted the sense of the flame, but
without having to deal with the wood," Papadopoli explains. The
architect discussed the pros and cons of propane and heating oil with
the homeowners, who quickly decided on propane for its cleaner, more
environmentally friendly emissions. In addition to the custom fireplace
and a gas stove, a propane boiler provides the home's radiant hydronic
heat and domestic hot water.
"We ran the
stone flooring into the fireplace, and then inset the burners below it, so
it looks like the flames come out of the stone."
says conversations about a home's energy source usually come early in
project planning, when there's plenty of time to decide how the propane
can be accommodated on-site and whether it can be used to fuel other
amenities in the home. "We have a questionnaire that we send to our
clients to help with our programming of projects, and that's one of
the questions that appears on there," he says. "'Have you envisioned
heating your home?' Sometimes clients come to us with very specific
requests, and other times it's more of a discussion in terms of pros
and cons of different heating sources."
The preference for propane
in Maine is often environmental and aesthetic, Papadopoli says. "Sometimes
people don't want to see the black smoke or soot that comes from the
chimney [with heating oil], whereas with propane you don't really see
anything." For the architects, too, it provides more options in terms
of amenities like fireplaces and outdoor living, in addition to its
cleaner emissions profile. And in Maine, it's often the most
cost-effective energy source.
In the House on a Hill, the custom
propane fireplace complements the homeowners' lifestyle. "They host a
lot of large functions and fundraisers," Papadopoli explains. "The wife
works with small groups, helping them with mission planning." The
home's attractive gathering spaces, highlighted by the custom fireplace
and views to the bay and the gardens surrounding the home, are ideal
for accommodating those lively gatherings.
Learn more about the
factors that make propane a clean and flexible choice for innovative
architectural designs. PERC provides architects with free, AIA-certified
continuing-education coursework on the application and installation of
propane products. View
our course offerings.