A Great Room for Rest and Relaxation

The owners of a mountain retreat soak in the beautiful scenery and extraordinary views from the comfort of an addition to their home.



Photography by John W. Hession

An addition to a couple's Waterville Valley retreat has superpowers.

With its sunken hot tub, floor-to-ceiling windows, fieldstone gas fireplace and space to de-stress, the room has the power to soothe body and soul-and make jaws drop in awe.

When the homeowners, who live in Massachusetts, built the four-season vacation home in 2000, they envisioned longer-term plans for the backyard space that overlooks the Mad River. A hot tub was on the wish list, but they felt it would be most practical to enclose the tub area in a four-season room that would connect to the existing family room and open to a new patio.

"We wanted the sense of being outdoors but also being enclosed," they say. "We use the house on most weekends in the winter and we didn't want to spend our spare time shoveling snow to access and use the tub."

Snow in the winter and black flies in the spring are two good reasons why the couple decided to enclose the hot tub area. They also added floor-to-ceiling screened windows to open the space to beautiful views year round.

"We wanted a lot of windows," the couple agrees. "In the fall, the maple trees have gorgeous color. In the winter, there is a tremendous view of the river and the field covered in snow."

At the onset, the couple was open to all ideas. "Since we wanted to maximize the view from the new room without blocking the existing views from the house, the conceptual stage was likely longer than most projects," the husband says, "and we were pretty active in the design process." The couple had worked with architects and builders on a number of remodeling jobs at other homes and, thus, were well-versed in the construction and
design process.

For guidance, the couple chose architect Tom Samyn of Samyn D'Elia Architects of Ashland to design the new space. Rob Roy of White Ash Builders in Holderness headed up a team of subcontractors that included stonemasons, concrete and excavation experts, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and drywall installers.

"The design evolved over time," Samyn says. To avoid shoveling snow in winter, the hot tub needed a roof or some type of protection. A variety of ideas-including a glass-ceiling atrium-were considered. The final design integrated the new great room with a new patio (and its outdoor grilling and entertaining area) and the existing family fun room (with a pool table, television and more seating).

The new three-hundred-square-foot space has post-and-beam construction and features a sunken hot tub that turns on with the flick of a switch, as well as a floor-to-ceiling fieldstone fireplace that provides ambiance and heats the room quickly and efficiently.

The high-performance Anderson casement windows with divided panes include new finer mesh screens that almost disappear and don't obscure the view, the couple says. The roof's deep overhangs cover the exterior tops of the windows so they can be opened regardless of the weather. The great room's windows take in the view of the Mad River and a hiking trail that goes through the woods; the windows were selected to match those on the rest of the house to provide an integrated look.

The great room has an area with comfortable seating for kicking back, and built-in cubbies and cabinets for storage. The couple chose distressed cherry in a low-gloss finish for the cabinets to give the room a "warm, rustic feel."

Site work

Due to the slope of the property behind the house, the project required significant site work that included the construction of fourteen-foot-high, one-foot-thick concrete walls. The height and size of the concrete base allowed for the construction of a space underneath the hot tub area that would seamlessly hide the plumbing and mechanics as well as provide extra storage.

"We had to run the water and power systems from the main house so it helped to have that space underneath," Samyn says. The height of the addition allowed for the use of attractive barn doors on the lower level for easy access to the storage area and to provide the rustic look the couple wanted.

To further soften the look of the new space from the back, a terraced garden, a patio and stone steps were incorporated into the plan. "We didn't want it to look like an overly large structure from the river, so we planted junipers that will grow over the terraces," the couple says.

The homeowners and the architect both credit the can-do, creative approach of Roy and his team of subcontractors.

Roy praises the concrete and excavation work of Andrews Construction of Campton. "The concrete work was extremely detailed and required a lot of planning. Having an excavation company with a concrete division working side-by-side made the process easier," Roy says.

Outdoor landscape lighting was installed in the rails on the terrace and in the stone pilasters. "All of that had to be coordinated so that you could run the electrical conduit. It was challenging," Roy says.

Challenging, yet rewarding-Roy says this was a special project. "All the credit goes to the home-owner. He's a retired engineering consultant and has an eye for detail."

"We were very involved and active," the couple says. "The project was more complicated than anticipated, but the benefit was that Roy and all his subcontractors were real artisans. The level of detail that went into this was significant and very worthwhile."

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