The Gathering Place

Artful design turns a developer’s home into a year-round retreat for his extended family at Sunday River
Words By Debra Spark
Photos By Jonathan Reece

If it’s winter, and it’s Wednesday, there’s a good chance Tim Harrington is busily texting his siblings and his friend and frequent business partner, Kevin Lord, with some pressing questions: “What are we going to eat this weekend? What are we going to do?”  

Winters past found Tim in his primary home in Miami or elsewhere, though summers were always devoted to the Kennebunks, where he has been a prolific developer of residential and commercial properties, including extensive luxury hotel projects. But everything changed in 2017. That’s when he and Kevin “decided summer is so fun with everyone around,” says Tim. “We wanted to keep the energy going in winter, so we each bought a house in Sunday River, and that really transformed our lives.”  

Now, Tim is in Miami less and less. It’s true, new business projects might be part of the reason. The progress of a 250,000-square-foot mill renovation in Biddeford, slated for luxury apartments and a 40-room hotel, is frequently in the news. He has recently partnered in a brewery business called Batson River Brewing & Distilling, which has a popular tasting room in Kennebunk (and will have a second location in the Biddeford mill). Plus, with his real estate development team at Atlantic Holdings, he has added yet another hotel—the Yachtsman Hotel & Marina Club in Kennebunkport—to his extensive offerings. 

Still, family is most decidedly the reason winter has become such a draw. To accommodate his siblings and their families, Tim purchased a large timber frame with five bedrooms and extra gathering areas, including an upstairs bunk room for children and (after a renovation) an adult game room with cocktail bar in the basement. Outside, a mountain-facing deck has Adirondack chairs with faux fur throws, a hot tub, and a fire pit. 

The original house felt a bit bland to Harrington, so interior designer Krista Stokes dressed the sheetrock of the walls and the existing cove ceiling with gray European oak. The substantial wall space allows for large scale artwork, including this 1977 still life of pears called “La Sombra” by Peruvian Elarf José López Salas.

Design for me has to be of place,” says Tim. Given this, the Sunday River house isn’t much like his bright, cottagey beachfront abodes. If anything, the mountain retreat has the smoky romance of one of his restaurants—the rustic elegance of Earth at Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport or the “dark and sexy game hunter” vibe of the Batson River Tasting Room, as Krista Stokes, who recently became the creative director of Atlantic Holdings, describes that new space. 

Framed in pine, and making use of European oak for the cathedral ceilings, the living room is furnished with items Harrington already owned (like the coffee table and a recovered antique chair in the far corner) and new purchases (including leather chairs and sectional from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams). Interior designer Krista Stokes says of the buck in the painting, “It’s almost like he is commanding the room.”

Initially, Tim charged Louise Hurlbutt of Kennebunk’s Hurlbutt Designs with furnishing his house in a month. He was rushing, because he wanted to host everyone for the holidays. “If you could see us three days before Christmas,” Louise recalls, “running back and forth, setting up, and getting sheets and pillows!” A year later, Tim and Kevin inserted additional elements into the design.  

“When he was describing what he wanted, I pictured an Argentinian ranch located in the mountains,” says Krista. “Bold art, vibrant color, animal hides, taxidermy, dark woods, and relaxed, generous furniture.” The house being very much a collaboration, a good deal of this had already been put in place—cowhides from Saddlemans on the living room floors, an antler chandelier in the dining room, an antler-rimmed mirror for the master bath, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams furniture in the living room, and multiple striking pieces pulled from storage or other of Tim’s properties, including the living room’s chocolate silk rug and a trunk that serves as coffee table.  Tim was once so sick of the Aztec fabric–covered item with leather trim—he has been moving it from place to place since he purchased it at a yard sale 30 years ago—that he gave it to Krista for her own home. Then he borrowed it back, since he felt he finally had a perfect place for the piece. 

Cowhide rugs are from Saddleman’s and the corner sculpture (“almost like a garden folly,” says Harrington) is from Kennebunkport’s Steve Doe.
Black paint turned the existing wood floor into a more dramatic checkerboard.

Clearwater Builders of Bethel executed the most recent changes. Black squares painted on the first floor create a bold checkerboard effect. For texture and warmth, select walls and ceilings were faced with a gray European oak with highly visible graining. The living room’s cathedral ceiling is lined with this wood, as are the dining room’s walls and the inset of the coffered ceilings. The dining room wood—combined with a round ebony pedestal table, gray upholstered chairs with turned legs, and gray polypropylene sisal ruggives the room an elegant hunt club feel without the cliché stodginess. Meanwhile, the newly finished basement has a bar that loosely references the Batson River Tasting Room.   

The kitchen with new mirrored backsplash tiles and high swivel chairs of soft gray canvas with pewter nail heads.

 Tim is an upbeat person, not given to saying that he is happy about something but “super happy,” and play is always emphasized in his homes. At Sunday River, actual games are stored in the Aztec trunk, and antique sleds, skis, and snowshoes serve as wall decoration. Humor, too, is part of the package. The living room mantel has a painting of a buck portrayed from the nose up, so he appears to be peering into the room. An actual buck’s head is placed off center on the dining room wall. Although Tim has used leather furniture and cowhide rugs, even in other projects, he was initially uneasy about taxidermy.  

Krista said, “You didn’t kill it. Don’t you think you can give it a majestic place to hang?”   

“I guess I’m OK with that,” agreed Tim. 

Given the celebratory spirit of the home, and even for those who disapprove of taxidermy, the buck may present itself less as a hunting trophy than a creature whose head is angled almost entreatingly toward the dining room table, as if asking if he, too, might join in on the fun.