Building a Better Cottage

A Lake Sunapee home now makes the most of the view and fits perfectly into the neighborhood.

Photography by Bill Fish of W.N. Fish Photography

In the Newbury neighborhood of Blodgett Landing, residents are close. Not only have their families known one another for generations, but the Victorian cottages there today are on land that was previously designated for a religious community's tent sites.

"The property setbacks are only four feet-meaning that each person's building had to be four feet from the property line, so eight feet away," says Jeremy Bonin, the principal partner/lead architect of Bonin Architects & Associates, PLLC in New London. "It's unique on Lake Sunapee."

So when Chasity and Peter Santoro wanted to renovate their Blodgett Landing space to accommodate their four boys and friends while capitalizing on the lake view, they knew the project wouldn't be run of the mill.

To achieve these goals, Bonin developed plans to take down the existing cottage-with its rear-facing living space and a stairway that blocked the lake view-and build a tall, narrow, gray-clapboarded lakefront house that melds with its neighbors.

"Blodgett Landing residents prefer that you stay in building guidelines-steep gables, intricate detail work on porches, brackets," Bonin says. "These are Victorian details but on a different scale from a typical Victorian house. These are Victorian cottages."

The result is a home that suits the Santoro family lifestyle and their many visitors. The four-tiered house features six bathrooms, four bedrooms and a walkout basement on the lot that slopes down to the lake.

"One thing we like about the community is it's very tight-knit," Chasity says. "You can have two small boys or the whole neighborhood over. You never know what you're going to get each day."

Lakeside living, Victorian style

From the lake, the roof looks like a gable within a gable, with a double-peaked appearance. At the top of the house is the guest suite. Below, a balcony off the master bedroom overlooks the lake. Under the master balcony, a porch provides another lake view and stairs to the ground below. On the basement level, French doors open to a private patio nestled between the curving walls of a winding rock garden, which leads down to the dock.

That patio serves several purposes, says Peter Schiess, owner of Landforms, Ltd., a Bow-based landscape architectural design/build design firm. First, the patio provides a private, outdoor area. "We wrapped one of the walls in front of the glass doors to create some privacy from the road," Schiess says. "That's why the wall curves around. We were really trying to create a little outside room there."

In addition, the patio is completely pervious, meaning that all rainwater from the site runs under the patio. "You don't want surface water to be running into the lake," Schiess says. "So this collects all the on-site water, and then it just percolates into the ground-not into the lake."

Climbing art

Inside, the home's artery is the beautiful winding, open staircase that's visible from one end of house to the other.

"It's not your typical enclosed stair because the house is narrow and there's so much travel between the floors," Bonin explains. "It didn't make sense not to celebrate the fact that it's a tall, narrow home. Since the Santoros will use it so often, it needed to be a design focal point."

Coiling through the home, the stairs benefit from windows on two sides for the entire height of the house. This means the look of the staircase changes throughout the day as the sun hits it from different angles.

"The stairs are kind of floating in the space," Chasity says. "It's like a work of art."

But it's not a delicate work of art. With many children running up and down at one time, the staircase takes a lot of beating. "If the kids have their friends over, sometimes they can have fifteen kids running up and down the stairs," Chasity notes.

Open living space

The living space is built using an open concept: the living room, dining room and kitchen all flow into each other. "I live in the kitchen," Chasity says. "So it's nice not to have a wall obstruct your view. I can stand at the kitchen sink, and look out at the lake and the kids playing on the dock. Plus for entertaining, it's wonderful to have that open concept-people in the dining room, the living room, on the porch …"

The living room is built around a massive stone fireplace, with views to the lake, and the dining area features a wet bar with glass-enclosed upper cabinets that allow more light to come through from the stairs. "We wanted to continue to pull in as much light as we could," she explains.

The bathrooms

"The biggest thing when we started this whole project was wanting to maximize the views of the lake," Chasity says, "but for me, it was really the bathroom and the details in the bathrooms."

All the bathrooms have color-coordinated stone or tile surfaces. Several showers have natural pebble floors. The bathroom in the basement has a walk-in shower for the kids to rinse off after swimming.

In the master bathroom, a window above the mirrors lets in light to illuminate the twin, beige, stone sinks, set side by side. Also, the sliding master bathroom doors are reminiscent of barn doors-a touch designed to continue the house's "modern cottagey look," says Chasity, who worked with Bonin Architects project manager Jessica Cook to choose most of the details.

"Having spent lots of time in New York City (Peter is a Wall Street banker), we wanted that modern feel but we also wanted that lake house/cottagey feel," Chasity says. "Peter spent childhood summers on Lake Sunapee, and our family now enjoys this area year-round."

Categories: Architecture and Interiors