A Contemporary Lake Home That Stands Out
A Boston family wanted a comfortable retreat with a modern aesthetic that also complemented the wooded setting.
New England lake homes often have a distinctive look: classic design, vernacular forms. But when a Boston family decided to build a new home in the Lake Sunapee area, they wanted something different: a spacious, contemporary structure that naturally complemented its wooded surroundings and could accommodate a crowd. “We wanted a space where our family and friends could be together,” says the husband.
Fortunately, the family didn’t have to look far. They already owned a home in an established neighborhood near the lake but wanted more land. When neighbors said they were selling their property, the couple jumped at the opportunity to purchase it.
Although the land was densely wooded, and convenient to the lake, hiking trails and more, the existing 1960s-era ranch home was dated—with a layout that didn’t fit the couple’s vision for their new home. Having decided to build new, the couple didn’t tear the existing house down. Instead, the family donated it to the local fire department, who burned it as part of a training exercise.
Ready now to begin reconstruction, the assembled team included architect Maggie Booz of Smart Architecture in Cambridge, Massachusetts; builder Dag Lidbeck, of Gracehill Construction in Wilmot; interior designer Lindsay Vieira, of Renovation Planning & Interiors in Boston; and landscape designer Terri Wilcox, of Terri Wilcox Garden Design in Wilmot. The result: a home that’s a warm retreat and a popular gathering spot for family and friends.
Inspired by a forested setting
Based on the family’s input, Booz designed a contemporary home that embraces the surrounding forest and contains spacious, functional living areas for the family. “We set the house far back on the lot so we could put as much woods as possible between the home and neighboring houses,” Booz says. “There are large expanses of glass, especially in the back of the house, and it feels like the forest goes on forever.” The new home has five bedrooms—including a bunkroom in the basement that sleeps up to eight—4½ baths, a screened porch, an outside deck and a patio.
The home’s exterior is inspired by its forested setting. Vertical, dark-gray stained cedar siding mimics the verticality of trees. It’s a distinct contrast to the attached garage, which is sided in lead-coated, copper panels that are durable and “last forever,” Booz says. “It’s a completely stable material, and its gray color is beautiful against snow and the New Hampshire sky.” Several exterior windows—created to look like shadow boxes—are trimmed in the same material; others are clad in low-maintenance black metal. Also distinctive are the mahogany front entry and door, garage doors, and eaves—the warm, honey color stands out against the gray siding and
The house also has a feature not often found in most New England homes: a flat roof. “The clients were committed to modern design, and a tenet of Modernism in architecture is flat roofs,” Booz says. “I thought snow would be an issue because a peaked roof sheds the weight.” Her solution: adding extra support beams and installing Sarnafil—a thick, well-insulated PVC roofing material often found on commercial buildings. “It’s rare to see flat roofs on homes in this area,” Lidbeck says. “And you usually don’t see steel beams in home construction. But, in this case, they do the job of supporting the weight.”
Contemporary inside and out
The contemporary aesthetic also unifies the interior spaces, designed by Vieira and Booz. “Our goal was a space that friends and family would want to visit and spend time in,” the husband says. “We wanted to entertain frequently, so a functional kitchen and dining room was important.”
For the main floor, Booz created a light-filled, open floor plan that seamlessly integrates the kitchen and dining areas with the family room and screened porch. Glass folding doors by NanaWall—placed between the living room and screened porch, and between the dining room and screened porch—open the spaces for entertaining. “They literally break down barriers between the interior and exterior,” Booz says. “They help turn the outdoors into another room and create full circulation through the space.”
For inside the home, Vieira chose a neutral palette, enlivened by punches of color. Interior walls are painted a cool white. Colorful contemporary textiles the family collected during trips to Africa are integrated throughout the house as is vibrant modern art, much of it purchased from the Boston area.
Inside the front entrance, there’s a separate mudroom lined with cabinets and shelves, perfect for storing coats, shoes and sports equipment. Steps away are the home’s primary living spaces.
The large, sixteen-foot-by-twenty-six-foot living room is the family’s primary gathering space. An eleven-foot-by-thirteen-foot sectional from Kravet makes the room more intimate, and enables multiple people to gather in front of the wood-burning fireplace while reading or socializing.
Adding to the entertainment space is the screened porch, accessed through the living room and dining room, where guests can enjoy the outdoors during nice weather or warm up around the gas fireplace on cold days.
The sleek kitchen and dining area are among the wife’s favorite spaces. “It’s changed the way I feel about hosting friends,” she says. “It’s very comfortable to have a number of people sitting at the island, and gathering in the space between the kitchen, dining and living areas. We can also seat fourteen people for dinner, which makes for great energy.”
Open to the dining room—with views and access to an outdoor patio and the screened porch—the kitchen is designed to be a center of activity. A large, marine blue kitchen island, topped in deep blue-gray Pietra Cardosa stone, adds color to the room as well as extra cooking prep space (countertops are also Pietra Cardosa, as are the backsplash behind the stove and in the wet bar adjacent to the kitchen). Open shelving and minimalist white custom cabinetry—built by Detail Woodworking in Billerica, Massachusetts—provide ample storage options.
The adjacent dining room features a large, walnut dining table from Design Within Reach and durable, easy-to-clean Eames chairs.
The upstairs media room and bedrooms are accessed by a central staircase that Booz calls “a real art piece. We wanted it to be a focus of the home because everything circulates around it.” The minimalist staircase—built by Gracehill—features mahogany stair treads and railings, with laminated white stringers and tapered iron balusters. “We had a metal worker custom-craft the balusters,” Lidbeck says. “That staircase is one of my favorite things about the house.”
Another favorite space in the home—especially for the homeowners’ young-adult children—is a comfy bunkroom in the basement that sleeps eight. Designed by Vieira and built by Gracehill, the bunkroom was added after the homeowners had moved in. “They discovered, after a sleepover, that they needed a maximum amount of beds,” Vieira says. The room sleeps eight and is full of natural light from two full-sized windows. Located off a game room, the bunkroom is a comfortable retreat for the children and their friends.
Landscape design that complements nature
The home’s landscaping was as important to the homeowners as the interiors. Wilcox kept the landscaping as natural as possible, creating a transition between the home and its wooded surroundings. In the side yard, a stone patio—accessed from the kitchen and screened porch—is a comfortable spot to relax, especially in summer when the space is surrounded by the homeowners’ pots of olive and citrus trees. There’s a pass-through from the area into what Wilcox calls “the secret garden”—a grassy berm ringed with plantings.
The landscape dovetails with the property’s natural landscape and berms; evergreens and other foliage create privacy. Plantings include Japanese maples, birch trees, native holly, ferns, salvia, Russian sage and echinacea. “We created very simple combinations of contrasting foliage and greens that soften the house’s front façade,” Wilcox says.
Everyone involved with designing and building the home agrees that it offered countless opportunities for creativity. “It was a pleasure to work with such a productive team and appreciative clients,” Booz says. “We were all on the same wavelength.”
The homeowners agree; they’re thrilled with the home. “The day we walked into the finished house was among the top-five best moments of my life,” the husband says. “It was so exciting to see our vision made into reality, right there in front of us.”