A Labor of Love
Concord architect Sheldon Pennoyer took on a new client—three generations of family members—to design an addition to his in-laws’ mid-century modern home on Squam Lake.
Summer homes are special to Sheldon Pennoyer. Not only does he design beautiful ones throughout New Hampshire and beyond for his Concord practice, Sheldon Pennoyer Architects, he also has a deep appreciation for place when it comes to where these homes are built.
Pennoyer grew up on Long Island, New York, and his family spent summers on Naushon Island, off Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “It was a place that gave us freedom to get everywhere by foot, horse or boat,” he says. “For the six weeks we spent on the island, we never used a car because the island has no cars. Time had a way of slowing down.”
This love of special summer places was something Pennoyer shared with Penelope Beal, whom he met in 1986 and married the following year. Penelope had spent summers on Squam Lake, thanks to the home her parents, Tom and Barbara, built there shortly after they married. “My parents built this home as a recognition of their need for a simple place, and ultimately it brought our family closer together,” Penelope says.
The Squam Lake home’s beginnings
Several months before Tom and Barbara married in June 1960, Tom purchased six acres on Squam Lake; by the time of the couple’s honeymoon, construction on the house had already begun. Tom—who wove his love of nature into his teaching of English at the Rivers School in Weston, Massachusetts, and the Fenn School in Concord, Massachusetts—wanted a home open to the outdoors. “Simplicity and having a retreat were important to him,” Barbara says of her husband, who died at age eighty-eight in 2017. “Tom was always enamored of the simple life, and he loved being near the mountains and on the lake.”
Tom was the son of a prominent banker and grew up in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts; but it was his summers at Camp Chewonki in Maine that sparked his love for the outdoors and the writings of Henry David Thoreau. Tom was a passionate teacher, even in summer. In 1962, he revived the Junior Squam Lakes Association, a day camp for children that continues today. He was also an active hiker of the surrounding mountains—Whiteface, Red Hill and High Haith—that provide exquisite views of the lake.
Although Tom came from a traditional architectural background, he took a different tack by hiring James Duane Smith, a then-student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, to design the Squam house. “Tom met James and was very impressed with him,” Barbara says. Smith, who was working on his thesis, was a student of Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus School and one of the pioneer modernist architects. Later, Smith contributed to the design of Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie’s pavilion called Habitat 67 at Expo 67, the 1967 World’s Fair held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
“For this house, Tom wanted as few walls as possible,” Barbara says. “He liked the feeling of an open space and wanted the family to be together.”
“Smith came up with a scheme to support the building with a module that’s open to the lake,” Sheldon says. “Focusing on the great views of the lake was a result of the Harvard studio environment’s influence on Smith, I believe. In 1960, this house’s mid-century modern design was unique on Squam Lake.”
Although Sheldon goes on to explain that many aspects of Smith’s design are sophisticated, such as the way the building’s structure meets the foundation, there were other aspects that needed changing: the size of the rooms, the way people enter a room, where closets are located, the choice of jalousie windows and the open, second-floor balcony railing. Sheldon’s trained architect’s eye told him the building needed many things tweaked, updated or replaced.
Over time, he realized: “This home provides roots for our sons, Pier and Chase (now ages twenty-nine and twenty-six, respectively). This being a family property made this project more complex.”
Adapting to a family’s life changes
As the years went on, Penelope and her two brothers and sister married, and had children of their own. The family grew to fourteen members— and that was a lot of people for one full bath-room when everyone was at the Squam Lake home. What’s more, all the bedrooms were on the second floor; in 2015, when Tom became ill, climbing those stairs became more challenging for him and more of a concern for family members.
In 2016, Sheldon began talking to family members about a renovation. One thing they all agreed on was that Tom and Barbara should be able to live on the first floor. One thing they didn’t agree on: everyone but Sheldon and Tom wanted a dishwasher in the kitchen. “We felt having a dishwasher would ruin the sense of community,” Sheldon says, “but the majority voted against us. So when the dishwasher became a reality, we redesigned the kitchen and got rid of the entry door to give us more room.”
A plan began to evolve to use the front door as the primary entrance; to add a south-facing terrace off the kitchen for additional outdoor living space when the lake got windy; to turn the half bath on the first floor into a full bath; and to add a connector with a pantry that leads to the master-suite addition.
Sheldon brought in project man-ager Jasmine Pinto, who, he says, “played a key role with her artistic vision, technical skills and attention to detail.” Sheldon and Pinto’s start-ing point was that the addition had to “have a connection to the original design in order to have value,” and on that they hit a home run. When this project received an honorable mention for Excellence in Renovation Design at the 2019 New Hampshire Home Design Awards, the judges said, “The addition and renovations pay homage to the mid-twentieth-century modern New England-style hybrid in a sensitive, responsive manner, while enhancing the home’s relationship to the lake site.”
In the new master bedroom, Barbara wanted floor-to-ceiling glass, which is sixteen feet at its highest point. “I love seeing the sun reflecting on the trees and on the shoreline in the morning,” she says. “The moon at night is beautiful.” She also enjoys her new roomy closet and the spacious master bath with a curbless shower. On occasion, she will retreat to her bedroom to enjoy the view or to read.
As with many homes, Penelope says: “The kitchen is the focal point for our family. Meals are a time to connect and gather.”
Barbara, who everyone in the family agrees is a fantastic cook, adds that “mealtime is the high point of our being together.” She also loves the addition. “I’m so grateful for the pantry,” she says. “When I think of what I had in the old kitchen—it was so jammed!”
Penelope says the story of the renovation brings to mind a favorite quote from then Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1944: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”
The renovation was completed in June 2018, thanks to help from Beam Construction Associates in Center Sandwich. From the outside, the addition looks like it has always been part of the original design. “The renovation has sensitively transformed my parents’ vision and original house, built for a family of six, into a multi-generational family place,” says Alex Beal. “Even my father, who sought simplicity at Squam but passed before the renovation was finished, would find it consistent with and extending his original vision for his family’s lake house.”
Like it has for Penelope, the Squam Lake house holds a special place in the hearts of Pier and Chase. “Squam is about catching up with my grandmother on her past week’s endeavors and hearing updates on the recently hatched loon chick,” Pier says. “It’s about finding one of my grandfather’s well-used maps of the White Mountains to begin planning the weekend’s adventure. Squam is about returning from that adventure to share stories and reflect. Squam is about the people who fill the house and give it a sense of place, which I am lucky enough to call my home.”
“Our family’s home on Squam, including its recent renovation, brings three generations and many summer guests together as one,” Chase adds. “The communal design, as well as the focus on the beauty of the lake and simple comforts ensure our time together creates treasured memories for years to come.”
Preserving and conserving this special place is important for this family. Following the footsteps of two previous generations, Pier and Chase are land monitors for Squam Lakes Conservation Society in Holderness. “They make yearly visits to ensure that landowners are adhering to the conditions of their easements,” says Penelope, who is a director of the organization. “We try to instill in our sons the importance of giving back, and they do.”
“Both Pier and Chase are so rooted in the Squam community and, through them, it is so wonderful to always feel Tom and Barbara’s presence on the lake,” Sheldon says.