A Versatile Vacation Home on Lake Sunapee

A new lakeside home was designed to be comfortable for two—or twenty—people.




For this family’s second home, designed by Jeremy Bonin of Bonin Architects and Associates, LLC in New London, the best seat in the house may be on the deck overlooking Lake Sunapee. 

When a couple from the mid-Atlantic region with ties to New Hampshire decided to build a second home on Lake Sunapee, they had an important goal: a house big enough to handle large numbers of friends and family members, and cozy enough for just the two of them when they weren’t enjoying guests.

The couple met that goal with assistance from Jeremy Bonin, of Bonin Architects and Associates, LLC in New London, who designed the 5,880-square-foot, six-bedroom house that gracefully addresses the lake and its surrounding environment.

From the outside, the shingled home with red trim and stone details fits in easily with its lake-house neighbors. Inside, an abundance of natural light and a neutral palette with casually elegant furnishings provides a counterpoint to the typical “lake-house” interior. “We went with a lighter palette in the interior instead of the more traditional, darker lodge or cabin look that you might typically find around the lake,” says the wife. “While we love the old lodge look, we decided that we wanted this house to have a brighter feel to it.” Another reason for the airy, uncluttered look is that it allows the lake to be the visual focus. “I love to wake up in the morning and see the lake,” she says. The home faces south and receives sunlight most of the day.

On the waterfront

Stairs from the house provide easy access to the lake—and water sports.

The clients knew Bonin’s work because he designed two other homes on their street. The design for the new house was dictated in part by the long, narrow lot that is common to lakefront properties, Bonin says. He situated the house to obtain maximum lake views, and to maintain access around one side of the structure so guests and family could travel directly from the front of the house to the lake. In addition to Bonin, the couple hired Old Hampshire Designs of New London to do the construction and Pellettieri Associates of Warner to handle the landscaping.

The finished home, with its roof peaks and half-mullioned windows that give a nod to lake style, nestles gently into the surrounding woods. The main “everyday” entrance for the family is through a mudroom (and also through the garage). The mudroom, with its mix of cubbies and closets for storage, leads past a pantry and then into the kitchen (convenient when coming in with groceries).

The kitchen, dining area and living room on the main level are open to each other; graceful white pillars separate the kitchen from the living room. This entire area, which is adjacent to the screen porch, offers excellent southerly views of the lake. In the basement, there is a large recreation room, a guest suite and a bunkroom, while on the second floor is the master suite, a reading loft, a laundry room and guest bedroom suites.

Drainage details

The homeowners also wanted plenty of outdoor living space, so landscaping was an important part of the overall design. It is also increasingly important in terms of environmental concerns. Pellettieri Associates designed and installed the patios, steps, dry wells, pavers and the property’s “perched beach.” Because the site sloped down to the water, grass was not much of an option.

“Drainage is always a challenge with lakeside properties,” says George Pellettieri, who used several innovative methods to meet that challenge, including “permeable pavement” for the driveway. Such pavement is made up of concrete pavers with a small joint between each that makes the overall surface permeable and creates a pleasing mosaic effect. A full three feet of crushed stone under the pavers serves as a large reservoir, capturing ground water and allowing it to dissipate slowly rather than flowing right into the lake. The same permeable technique applies to the stone walkways and patio, where gaps between slabs allow ground water to sink between and beneath them.

Even without snow, the ski trails on Mount Sunapee are visible across the lake from the deck. 

Another technique involved a “drip edge”— a strip at the edge of the roof that captures runoff and carries it to a pipe, which brings the water away from the house and to a dry well—a large area of crushed stone—where the water dissipates very gradually into the water table.

A third method was the property’s beach, which is perched above lake level between the house and the water. In the event of a storm, this terraced beach keeps its sand, rather than letting it be washed out into the lake, as would happen with a lake-level beach. The beach is also constructed with crushed stone underneath, and other features allow it to act as a repository for water, Pellettieri says.

Pellettieri did all of the plantings, using native varieties, such as summersweet clethra, ferns and blueberries. “We planted the blueberries along the walkway, so when you’re headed down to the beach, you can grab a handful and pop them in your mouth,” he says. His team also planted a number of native trees and shrubs, chosen carefully not to grow so high that they would obstruct lake views in years to come.

A bright interior

The clients hired Robin Rountree, of Three Trees Interiors in Old Lyme, Connecticut, an acquaintance of the wife, for the inside of the house. The clients wanted an overall neutral palette, so as not to compete with the beauty of the outdoors, and Rountree worked with them to add some color accents of blue and green in various places, such as throw pillows on the beds and couches.

According to Rountree, the homeowners were seeking a look that was lake-appropriate but not quite as relaxed as a typical lake house. Still, it needed to be rugged enough for visiting grandkids. “She [the wife] wanted it fun and comfortable and inviting for everybody,” Rountree says. “Year-round comfortable but completely conducive to lots of kids.” The floors are natural wood throughout, with area rugs used for style and comfort, and a carpeted runner added to the staircase.

The main living area—which is the center for activities, whether just the couple or when the whole extended family is in residence—has a stone fireplace and gray-painted walls, a few of them (under the staircase, for example) covered instead with cream-colored shiplap. The coffered ceiling combines beadboard with carpentry details to pleasing contrast. A beige rug and two comfortable beige couches are set off by the graphical elements of the iron and wood coffee table, and the dark-stained wood and iron staircase. Two leather recliners complete the comfortable space.

The kitchen features white cabinetry and a center island for food preparation and casual dining. The bathrooms are also outfitted in soothing neutral tones. Like the rest of the house, the look is simple, uncluttered and bright.

The bedrooms are again in a neutral palette, but with a few pops of color such as a blue and white striped area rug, a green fabric headboard, and colorful green and blue throw pillows.

A notable getaway

The owners love the house, the lake and especially the porch overlooking the lake. Their home recently earned Bonin Architects and Associates, LLC an Honorable Mention in Architectural Design from the 2018 New Hampshire Home Design Awards. As testament to the success of the house, Bonin says, “In the first week the house was complete, the homeowners had more than twenty guests staying!”



The driveway is made of “permeable pavement”—interconnected concrete pavers with a small joint in between each one. Crushed stone under the pavers serves as a reservoir, capturing ground water and allowing it to dissipate slowly.

Left: The living room opens onto a screened porch, where the homeowners can dine in nice weather.

Right: The main living area has a coffered ceiling with beadboard and finished woodwork. 

Left: A center island in the kitchen provides space for food preparation and casual dining.

Right: White kitchen cabinets contribute to a bright, sunny kitchen. 

Left: A green fabric headboard, a blue-and-white striped rug, and throw pillows decorated with blue lozenges add pops of color to a neutral-toned bedroom. Robin Rountree, of Three Trees Interiors in Old Lyme, Connecticut, did the interior design.

Right: Gray walls and white trim make for a clean and soothing bathroom setting.

Left: Members of the design team include, from the left, Bill Andrews of Old Hampshire Designs in New London; George Pellettieri of Pellettieri Associates in Warner; Jay Tucker of Old Hampshire Designs in New London; and Christopher Timberlake and Jeremy Bonin of Bonin Architects and Associates, LLC in New London.

Right: A bedroom sitting area features a beautiful lake view. 

Left: The outdoor stone steps are staggered so as to make navigating them safer and more comfortable for the homeowners. Pellettieri Associates of Warner did the landscape design.

Right: A fireplace helps keep the porch cozy.

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