Maine Home + Design


APRIL 2019

Design Alchemy

by Beth Dunlop
Photography by Jonathan Reece
Styling by Glenn Gissler & Craig Strulovitz 

A house in Sorrento surrounded by water blends seemlessly into the landscape


Shore House, as its owners call it, is a new house with deep roots in history, intimately connected to both to both time and place. Its architecture reflects the strong vernacular traditions of downtown east Maine but in a modern enough way that you know that it is of now, not then. Like so many of the best houses, it i a study in subtle contradictions, some yin and some yang. At once elegant but casual, buttoned-up but laid-back. Inside you’ll find family treasures mixed with auction house finds and up-to-date additions. Throughout, says interior designer Glenn Gissler, it shows the owners’ “appreciation for patina, quirkiness, and the willingness to tolerate less than perfection, giving the house a sophisticated and considered aesthetic with a ‘nothing precious’ vibe.”

It is a quiet retreat for two but near enough to extended family to be a gathering place for many. It is, as the owners spelled out, a house that is comparatively small but, as Gissler puts it, “lives spaciously.” Gissler, who is based in New York, had worked with the homeowners before; their home base is Boulder, Colorado, but they have a pied-à-terre in Manhattan that he designed. The architects–Kay Stevens Rosa and Augusto Rosa of Bar Harbor’s A4 Architects—had not previously worked with the couple but found that their goals and ideas for making the house were perfectly aligned.

First there was the site. The house sits on a spit of land with 270 degrees of shoreline, part of a larger camp that had been in the extended family for some decades, all in a particularly picturesque part of the state. Settled in 1762 and incorporated in 1895, the tiny town of Sorrento is often considered to be one of Maine’s most photogenic spots.

“Sorrento is a little town preciously tucked into the land, with a dancing coastline and amazing views of Mount Desert Island,” says Kay Stevens Rosa. “It has a rare combination of foreground, middle ground, and background, so we knew the house would be all about the view.”

Those nightlines were a prime goal in the architecture. “The desire was to maintain the natural landscape trees, and ledge outcroppings and to use the interstitial views to arrange interior spaces,” recalls Kay. In the living room, large doors and windows maximize the view of Mount Desert Island; the office looks out to the northwest, where the owners’ boat (a 38-foot Downeast cruise) is moored. The eat-in kitchen and adjoining screened porch gaze toward Hancock Point, and the owners’ suite—which gets bathed in the morning sun—has what Kay terms a “serene cove view.” Water, water, everywhere.

To clad the 3,500-square-foot house, the Rosas selected bleached white cedar shingles that will eventually turn silver, as well as ebony-stained trim. The padding and the organically laid stone patio are a clear nod to the historic vernacular architecture of the region, though simplified and modernized. “We feel it is important for a structure to be true to its own time as well as its context and history,” says Kay. Among the hallmarks of A4 Architects’ style are variations in scale, including varied ceiling heights, and the use of curves to accentuate the most important spaces—in this case, the entry porch and the living room.

For the architects, it was important that the Shore House would blend into the tree line and be less visible from the water. They preserved view corridors and sought to enhance indoor-outdoor relationships. “The desire was to maintain the natural landscape, trees, and ledge outcroppings,” says Kay. “On this site it was important that the house not be too imposing.” A hallmark of A4 Architects’ work is, she says, “the use of texture and color to evoke comfort, warmth, and scale.”

The first floor of the house has a grandly proportioned double-height living room with vaulted ceilings and a tile-clad fireplace. Other rooms include an owners’ bedroom suite, “his and hers” office spaces, and a kitchen—spaces that Kay describes as “gracious yet informal.” A butler’s pantry—inspired bar connects the kitchen and living room, the latter possessing a cozy corner library and TV nook for two. There’s also a multipurpose mud/laundry/gear room, a powder room, and a screened porch. The architects added a loft overlooking the living rooms. It is home to an art studio, an exercise space, and a play area for visiting grandchildren. Although it is, functionally speaking, a one-bedroom house, Kay points out tat several rooms, including the art studio and one office, can be used as guest bedrooms as well.

The sense of context inherent in the architecture is carried from the outside in, with random-length oak floors throughout and painted board-and-batten walls. Gissler drew his inspiration for the palette of the upholstery, paint, and window treatments from the hues of the landscape and from an existing rug with soft green and lavender stripes. To that end, one of his first purchases was a small one that set the tone: a grape—and gold-hued William Morris textile (the pattern is Kennet) that is used on accent pillows both on the sectional sofa and the twin velvet wing chairs.

Much of the furniture is American arts and crafts style, or at least from that period just after the turn of the twentieth century. Some of it, says Gissler, came from the original family house on the property, a large Victorian cottage. Other pieces are new, among them the living room sectional sofas and wing chairs, which came from the North Carolina-based Lee Industries, and the modern Gustavian chests in the bedroom, which Gissler sourced from the Texas furniture company Wisteria. “The furnishings and decorations have a solid confidence one might associate with homes at the turn of the twentieth century,” he says.

The floor coverings—including rag, cotton hooked, and sisal rugs—all have what Gissler calls “a summer ease.” To provide a sense of continuity between past and present, Gissler opted for a variety of vintage-style light fixtures throughout the house. “In places where other smight have resorted to recessed lights, we used pendant lights that provide a more pleasing kind of illumination. In some fixtures we used vintage clear Edison light bulbs,” he says. “Absolutely everything is on dimmers to allow for ‘ambiance control.’” A large-scale faux antler chandelier (from CDN Antler Designs) hangs in the living room; other light fixtures come from Rejuvenation and Schoolhouse. Although the new furnitures and fixtures reflect the aesthetic spirit of the house, they are very much of their time. “We do not fake antiques,” says Gissler.

For the interior designer and architects, the melding of old and new, time and place, formal and casual was the key to finding the perfect balance. It’s a combination of style, substance, and serendipity, along with what Gissler likes to call alchemy—a formula that creates and enchanting home.






Maximum Glamour

by Cara Greenberg 

A sophisticated duplex is a designer’s repository of art and antiques, a haven for its owner and a splendid space for entertaining


When interior designer Glenn Gissler went apartment hunting six years ago, the longtime Manhattanite had been to Brooklyn very few times before. He was astounded by the charm and amenities he found in the upper duplex of a circa 1890 row house in central Brooklyn Heights. “The apartment exceeded my list of ‘must haves,’” Gissler says, recalling his initial reaction: “You mean I can have all this—two floors, a fireplace, a washer-dryer and a terrace—ten minutes from Greenwich Village?!”

Now, furnished and decorated with what Gissler calls a “collage of art and artifacts,” the two-bedroom co-op is even more enviable. Sleek and cozy, modern and historic at the same time, it comprises a book-lined dining room, kitchen and guest room on the lower level, and two rooms with beamed ceilings, reminiscent of a Paris stelier. And who wouldn’t want to wake up to a view of a terrace filled with greenery?

Gissler’s atmospheric apartment, filled with intriguing places representing styles and periods from antiquity to the present day, is “a distillation of the designer’s development over the past three decades,” as the designer’s website puts it. Every item, from millicl-old clay pots to a Swedish mid-century lamp resembling a meteorite, from a Keith Haring poster given to Gissler by the artist at an anti-nukes demonstration his first summer in New York to framed childhood drawings by his now-teenage daughter, reflects who he is (an eBay addict, to be sure) and where he comes from. “Their cash value is irrelevant,” he says. “It’s whether it speaks to me.”


It was inevitable that Gissler would end up living in a vintage house (he also owns a 1840s farmhouse on eight aces in Connecticut). He saved his first building at the age of 18—a Gilded Age Milwaukee mansion he rescued by convincing his father, then an editor of Milwaukee’s largest daily newspaper, to write an opinion piece embarrassing the bankers who had refused to lend $200,000 to a preservation group to buy the building and keep it from destruction. The banks changed their tune and the Pabst Mansion still stands as a historic house museum.

At 19, as an interior design student at the University of Wisconsin, Gissler joined the board of the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation. Later, while earning an architecture degree from the Rhode Island School of Design, he lived in Providence’s College Hill Historical District for three years and found it a formative experience. “Walking home on a snowy night along 18th century brick sidewalks with gas lights was like a delirious dream,” he says.

Part way through his education, Gissler decided that historic preservation was not his calling. “The thing I found frustrating about historic preservation is you choose a date and time and freeze it. That wasn’t complex enough to keep me interested as a career.” After graduation, he veered toward interior design, retaining his special interest in historic architecture. “You have to think cleverly about how to insert a contemporary life into an old building and respect its historic character,” he says.

Gissler followed early stints in the New York offices of renowned designer Juan Montoya and architect Rafael Vinholy by founding Glenn Gissler Design in 1987. The four-person boutique firm has a portfolio of projects including residences in Manhattan, Westchester, New Jersey, Long Island, Florida and Martha’s Vineyard. Active in the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), Gissler recently served two years as president of the New York Metro chapter.

A designer’s own home probably says more about his or her taste than any project for clients. Gissler’s is masculine and low lit, with deep, rich wall color–glossy green in the kitchen and chocolate brown upstairs. Large-scale pieces of tailored furniture—not too many—provide comfort without clutter. Collected objects from design movements from Arts and Crafts to Steampunk are arrayed on the mantle and on tabletops, while framed art, including many contemporary works on paper, line the walls, the white mattes contrasting smartly with the dark paint colors.

When Gissler took over the apartment it was inn pretty decent shape, down to the “well-built kitchen cabinets” that contributed to his decision to purchase. He didn’t need to renovate but made a few of what he calls “architectural corrections.” Chief among them was “un-kitchening the kitchen,” which sits in the middle of the apartment’s lower level. The entry door opens right into it, and Gissler did all in his power to minimize the room’s utilitarian qualities and makes it as glamorous as the adjacent dining room. He painted the cabinets as high-gloss “murky green” and replaced their glass panels with mirrored wire glass that disguises their contents. The island top is an elegant slab of dark green granite suggested by the color of the existing Eastlake-stye fireplace. When Gissler entertains, as he frequently does for up to 40 guests, the kitchen island becomes a glittering bar.

In other tweaks, Gissler shifted the door to the downstairs guest room for greater privacy and more storage space, hung curtains on hospital-type tracks to completely enclose the dining room for intimate dinners, and added beams to the ceiling int he cozy upstairs sitting rom so it wouldn’t look “denuded” next to the bedroom, which had already beamed before Gissler came along.

The apartment gave Gissler abundant opportunities to deploy designers’ trade secrets, like replacing the recessed lights in the kitchen ceilings with surface- mounted fixtures with simple cone shades and lining the window frames with mirrored panels to bring in every ray of available sunlight. His dark wall colors are perhaps surprising in an apartment measuring only 1,250 square feet, but Gissler is not a believer in the oft-quoted maxim that light colors make spaces feel bigger. “Brighter, yes,” he says. “Not bigger.”

Gissler uses all his rooms to the fullest. The main challenge of living in a row house designed for 19th century living is “figuring out how to use the spaces in a way that makes sense for the 21st century,” he says. “Town-houses have challenges and opportunities.” Gissler has certainly made the most of both.

Story: Cara Greenberg
Photography: Matthew Williams
Styling: Vanessa Vazquez

Cultured Lifestyle Magazine


MAY / JUNE 2018


A Man of all Seasons

by Project Senior Designer, Craig Strulovitz
Interior Design: Glenn Gissler 
Photography: Gross & Daley

Not all professional interior designers have a signature ‘look,’ a Brand to call their own. Some have cleared the hurdle—Glenn Gissler being one—a designer who brings his own perspective and profession.


Layer architecture, 20th-century art, literature, fashion, historic preservation, architectural history and immediately you see Gissler’s expertise is not just interior design.

His interests and knowledge manifest the diversity of the work–exquisitely crafted and integrated into the architecture of the space.

Recently celebrating a 30th anniversary, Gissler has authenticated that he is a designer bringing a culminated perspective to the profession. The work is diverse.

What makes his work so special, is his ability to marry architectural concept with curator sensibility—a reverence for fabric, mixed with natural lighting—ultimately Gissler and client create environments built and nuanced around personalities and needs.

This project from a Colorado couple with a fantasy of the Ottoman Empire, richly figured carpets and ornaments for their two bedroom apartment in a 1920’s Greenwich Village building.

Gissler and Senior Designer Craig Strulovitz decided to articulate the room separations using casings, moldings, and portieres to create a greater sense of sequence to the rooms. To further emphasize room separations, the color palette colorations were changed from one room to the other, with a livid lacquered cinnabar as the color in the entry. Judiciously placed mirrors expanded and lightened the spaces.

Very interested in vintage textiles, the clients wanted to create a warm and rich oasis for the time they spent in NYC. Gissler introduced a layering of Persian rugs and embroidered or tapestry wall-hangings. A selection of patterned textiles, woven or embroidered rather than printed, and often antique in appearance, are carefully juxtaposed. Many of the upholstery and pillow fabrics are actually new, but they have a luscious, aged look.

The result is not a recreated Turkish Interior, but a place where imagined and actual travel meet the incomparable comfort of home in this case, a second home in one of the most charming neighborhoods New York City has to offer.

NOTEBOOK: The entry was lacquered in the Farrow and Ball color Loggia. Upon entering the apartment you are greeted by an 18th Century English oak chest of drawers placed in front of an oversized copper clad mirror, used to display an array of curated objects including a brutalist lamp and tramp art box. The room also includes a fantastic work by artist Giorgio Morandi.

The dining room became a Library Area which can be used for occasional entertaining, centered upon the Empire round table the clients brought from Colorado. The vintage chairs are from an Art Deco ocean liner. Meant to be flexible, the table may be set up as a dining table, buffet, or bar. At right, a portiere in Kavet’s double-sided “interweave” fabric marks the separation from the bedroom.

In the living room is an antique Tabriz area rug with stylized floral pattern in indigo and cream, is keynote of this richly patterned and textured room. The custom Belgian sofa is from Jonas. Interesting objects—two Paris of mounted oryx horns; a cross-legged Aesthetic Movement table—add detail and depth. Boudin armchairs upholstered by Jonas in Bellinger’s vibrant Paprika “Pasha” velvet flank the exquisite late 17th century English crewel embroidery with exotic floral motif, from Fuller’s Fine Art Auction. The antique Korean blanket chest made of elmwood with original iron hardware, severs as a shared table.

A Victorian Eastlake side table, in the sitting room, is juxtaposed with a pair of Dorothy Draper walnut tables from Assemblage, Ltd. The long English roll arm sofa in charcoal linen is from Restoration Hardware. The Patrick Naggar candle scones for Pucci are modern, yet Thomas Edison-like, of blown glass, with barequartz bulbs. Photograph above the sofa is by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Paint and light fixtures were used to transform the white kitchen to a warm and inviting gathering space.

The master bedroom is nothing less than sumptuous and enveloped in a soft green palette. The walls are papered in a Fiori pattern by Rose Tarlow, woodwork is painted with Farrow and Ball ‘Lichen,’ the curtains and portiere as a custom made from Corragio fabric in the same pale teal. Above the upholstered headboard hangs a vintage textile, from the clients own collection, printed on velvet.

Artists Magazine

Artists Magazine



Intersections: Art and Design

by Allison Malafronte
Photos by Gross & Daley

Lighting & Decor

Lighting and Decor



Last Look photos by Gross & Daley


Last Look

Clients come to Glenn Gissler for his style, but they stay for his art expertise. The New York-based designer goes above and beyond to help his clients choose artwork for their homes and has sage advice to share: Never buy artwork on vacation! See how Gissler composed this Chelsea loft.


1. It is a misnomer that white walls for art is a neutral surface: I think that white can be quite harsh. Art take out of a gallery setting and put in a home can have a strong effect on the art itself; the humanity is more legible and it impacts the experience of spaces profoundly. Art and objects are in a dialog with each other such that things from different time periods can be curated to be in a rich conversation. 

2. I tend to go for more understated furnishings and stronger art. Placement of art and furniture are both very important and require great consideration. Depends on the scale of the room. Too small is too small and too big is too big, and like the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, the challenge is getting it “just right.” There have been an abundance of articles on people doing so-called salon hangings—clusters of miscellaneous framed works on a wall. Quality matters. It is better to have a few well-scaled good things than a plethora of not-so-good works.

3. To learn more about art, join a museum and go reguarly, not just to the openings and parties. Engage with the curators and art dealers to learn more about wat you are looking at. Subscribe to magazines about art. Search out the best art dealers and talk to them to learn more. It is not something you can do overnight–cultivate your eye–look, look, look. Look at and read books about art.