JOURNAL TALKS: NICK LAVECCHIA
BANKS JOURNAL: So first things first, Maine almost seems like it should be part of Canada. How’d a professional photographer plant his roots in the land of the North?
NICK LAVECCHIA: Well, I grew up in New Jersey. Youngest of 7 all of whom have somehow gone on to do their own thing or start their own business. Growing up we spent a lot of time in the mountains of Vermont, snowboarding and XC skiing. Those years in the mountains definitely solidified my love for New England. I eventually went to college in VT, graduated, and lived in Burlington for the next 8 years. I did graphic design work for 7 years for Burton Snowboards. All in that time was traveling a bunch and shooting hundreds of rolls of film. Many trips to the coast of Maine to surf, and shoot then lead to my move here 10 years ago. If you visit, you'll quickly see why one would want to live here.
Is it difficult balancing life off the grid with a life of professional photography or do you find it a bit easier since you are removed from all the hustle and bustle?
No doubt it takes some extra effort when you live in a quiet corner of the world. It also helps you focus and really fine tune what it is you want to do in life. Keeping things as simple as possible and creating solid bodies of work.
It’s often said that having the eye of a photographer is extremely valuable when it comes to architecture. How did it improve your experience, if at all?
I've always been a very visual person and really appreciate fine lines and negative space. I despise power lines. Being able to come to the design table with a clear vision of what we wanted to achieve really helped streamline the design process/fee. No doubt, working with an architect was an invaluable experience. They took our ideas and turned 978sf into an extremely productive and comfortable living space. Not an inch of room went unaccounted for.
You sent through some absolutely beautiful images of your homestead. What or who inspired you to build your own adult fort?
When Molly and I got the green light to pursue building our dream home, first came the high five, next came the google search for all the different types of shapes, lines and spaces we liked. The inspiration came from the love of clean modern lines matched with a farmhouse feel. The house would be sitting out in the 13-acre field that was once a working farm for Molly's parents and grandparents.
Did you take things like green design or sustainability into account?
First and foremost we knew we wanted to build a passive solar home. After years of research I was convinced we needed to take full advantage of the sun to collect, store and utilize all the free heat we could in the winter months. Everything from the energy modelling to where the timbers and cedar siding were coming from was thoroughly thought out. All of the wood for the job came from right up the road from our house. The concrete floor stores and releases the heat in the winter months, acting as a thermal mass. In the summers months it helps to keep the house cool. The house is 100% electric with the exception of a tiny propane tank used for the gas range. Standing seam metal roof helps to melt and shed snow quickly and it lasts waaaay longer than conventional shingles and can be recycled.
It’s like that age old adage, how every guy wants his own log cabin, built by his own hands kinda dream, but it’s always just a far-off flicker for the majority. What was your ultimate goal with this project, and, did you accomplish it?
I feel like we achieved what we set out to create with this home. Again, I've been told it takes a lifetime to get it fully dialed so I'm prepared for that. We decided early on that we wanted to downsize and simplify as much as possible, without sacrificing the aesthetics and design that we both love. Going smaller allowed us to afford some of the nicer details that almost got squeaked out of the budget.
Is it more attainable than one may think [to build your own house]?
I think it is. The most daunting task was the dozen banks we went through, over a year, to try and get a construction loan. Both being self employed didn’t really help our case. But determination will get you there. I was not gonna be told that now was not the time to build a home. Or maybe I should think about getting a "full-time" job with more security! Bottom line…. Be persistent.
Are you one & done, or do you have future plans for more buildings?
Oooh well for now were done. We did build a small 8 x 12 shed to house some of the toys. Maybe another shed out in the field someday will serve as the guest room.
5 things people should know about your neck of the woods [York or Maine in general] if they plan on visiting?
It's painfully beautiful and may have you relocating your family.
It's called Vacationland for a reason. A visit in the offseason would be smart.
Endless amounts of coastline and mountain tops to explore for the nature lover.
We have the coldest ever recorded sea surface temperature.
Surfing in the winter months is no joke. Iceland can feel warm in comparison!
You can view more of Nick's work on his personal site Nick LaVecchia or follow him on Instagram @nick_lavecchia.