This one uses New England as a jumping-off point but also incorporates some of his favorite Japanese techniques: traditional colonial clapboard siding, for example, which is a dying art in Maine — “the vinyl salesman is pretty big up here,” Esteves says with a laugh — is painted black, using a Japanese-style, fermented soot-based paint that he makes himself.
And though the dimensions of the “soot house,” as the family has affectionately named it, “are in relation to very common New England homes,” from the pitch of the roof to the volume of the rooms, part of it is built with what Esteves calls “burn boards,” slats of cedar that have been charred in the style of a Japanese practice called shou sugi ban. Inspired, also, by the Japanese penchant for efficiency, he carefully figured out how to heat the entire house with a single, tiny stove that burns just half a cord of wood each winter.
If it takes a village to raise a child, Esteves is upping the ante by essentially building his own village. Currently under construction, just behind the Cape, is a classic New England barn — to be finished in soot-paint, of course — which will serve as the family library, home to their collection of over 7,000 books.