Projects / New Homes      Portland, Maine

Super Studio


  • Maine Homes by Down East


Six years after renovating their 1960’s ranch house, Jesse and Betsy were ready for a new challenge. They envisioned a versatile studio that could be functional for every member of their family. It would serve as making space for Betsy – a garment designer and fiber artist – as well as a guest house and hangout for their teenagers.

The only untouched relic left on their property after the first renovation was an old pool house rotting in the backyard. In too poor a condition to be salvaged, the former structure was removed. Zoning requirements limited construction of a new building to the same long and narrow footprint. With the goal of creating a space that could do it all – but no freedom to alter its size or shape – they set to work transforming 360 square feet into something super.


Designed to maximize function with minimal impact, the studio serves up adaptable square footage in a wrapping almost healthy enough to eat.

The open interior space organically transitions from personal to communal with the guidance of an angled roof plane. Beneath the tallest elevation, a sunny workspace awaits creative endeavors. The high ceiling provides room for big ideas in a small space, while a cluster of windows offers a glimpse of the structure’s soaring eave. Solid walls hugging the workspace add both privacy and anchors for wall-mounted storage. Towards the studio’s southern end, the ceiling plane slopes downward into a more intimate gathering space with playfully angled lines.

The building is as sustainable as it is versatile. Its all-wood construction includes interior paneling sourced locally from the Wood Mill of Maine. Lengths of eastern white pine span up to 16 feet to reach from floor to ceiling, creating visual warmth from a material that doubles as a natural insulator. Non-toxic wood fiber insulation, made from sawdust and wax, partners with triple-glazed windows to further insulate against extreme weather. During the winter, the interior temperature is able to reach 70 degrees without any heat on.

As it neared completion, the studio became a family project with Jesse, Betsy, and their kids working together to add the finishing touches. “Our whole life is a bit of an architectural experiment”, says Jesse, “but this has become an incredibly useful space.”


  • Year Completed

  • Cost

  • Gross Floor Area

    360 sq ft
  • Partners

    East End Carpentry
    Jesse Thompson
    Betsy Scheintaub
    Miles Thompson
    Nina Thompson

Sustainability Achievements


  • Walkable location
  • Near public transportation
  • Renovation required minimal site disturbance
  • Reused materials from the site


  • Uses recycled or reclaimed materials
  • Uses locally-sourced materials
  • Designed for durability
  • Designed for low maintenance
  • Designed for minimal embodied energy
  • Low global warming potential insulation


  • Optimized for daylighting
  • Fresh air ventilation system for indoor air quality
  • Visual connection to the outdoors
  • Low-VOC finishes
  • Formaldehyde-free building
  • Contains no EPA chemicals of concern


  • Fossil fuel-free building
  • Uses renewable energy systems
  • Uses passive design strategies
  • Net zero
  • Super-insulated
  • Triple-glazed windows
  • Airtight construction
  • Windows R-Value: 5
  • Walls R-Value: 35
  • Roof R-Value: 35
  • Slab R-Value: 35