Charting a Course for a Forever House
Thanks to help from TMS Architects in Portsmouth, a couple built their retirement dream home—designed for aging in place—a stone’s throw from Lake Winnipesaukee.
When Greg Jonas and Diana Scott started thinking about where, and how, they wanted to retire, they did what came naturally: they created a plan.
The couple—both accountants—have lived, and built or renovated homes, in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and the
greater New York City area. For this next phase of their lives, they wanted to be methodical. “We’re planners by nature and were determined to think about what we really wanted and where we wanted to be,” Jonas says.
Many months of research later—together with their talented team of architects, designers and builders—the couple charted a course to build a beautiful, year-round home on Lake Winnipesaukee.
A lakefront location
Jonas and Scott wanted to live near a lake in the mountains, two hours from a big city and experience four seasons. The couple researched towns online and discovered Wolfeboro, on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. Their first visit was during an especially snowy winter eight years ago. “It was 18 degrees with a 30-mph wind, and we had to walk by the lake at a 45-degree angle,” Jonas says. Later, as they warmed up over dinner, Scott said they should move to the community. “We loved how down-to-earth and genuine everyone was,” she says. “We didn’t even bother researching the other areas we considered!”
The couple applied the same thorough research to finding a lakefront property, then determining what type of home to build. They photographed area homes they liked, then compared the images for recurring themes. Jonas and Scott then contacted the architects who designed the homes they liked most. The couple interviewed three firms and selected TMS Architects of Portsmouth after sitting down with principal Bill Soupcoff. “It was the most amazing meeting,” Scott says. “Instead of showing us pictures of other homes he designed, Bill spent time learning about us, talking to us about how we live and why we wanted to move to this spot in New Hampshire.”
From there, the rest of the team fell into place: project manager Lafe Covill from TMS; interior designer David Kaufman, of Kaufman Segal Design in Chicago; Glenn Farrell, of YFI Custom Homes in Cape Neddick, Maine; and David Alessandroni, of Carroll County Landscape, Inc. in Wolfeboro. Scott and Jonas—who lived in Washington, D.C., while their New Hampshire home was being built—supervised the project from a distance, holding weekly conference calls. “It required a lot of trust,” Jonas says. “We tried to plan everything up front to minimize mistakes.”
A design that fits the natural surroundings
Among the couple’s wishes was a home designed for aging in place, with easy main-floor living. Also important was integrating the house and landscaping with its wooded location. “We wanted the feel of a woodland property without sticking out,” Jonas says. Before construction started, Farrell’s crew cleared almost one hundred loads of boulders from the property. Some were delivered to a nearby gravel pit; others were incorporated into the landscape. “We removed a lot of boulders, but there wasn’t any ledge,” Farrell says.
The three-floor home is filled with smart details. Outside, undulating curves, gable overhangs and tapered columns evoke a grand, Shingle-style lake home. Eyebrow flares over several rear windows mimic the features of a ship, a detail that “adds to the classic style of the house and feels very organic,” Covill says.
A diamond theme is carried through the home, from exterior shingles and mullions on mahogany-trimmed windows to kitchen cabinetry and interior railings. “It helps give the lake-facing side of the house a rhythm because there’s so much glass,” Covill says. Porch railings on the back of the house, facing the lake, are sited to not impede with water views. This three-dimensional quality adds warmth to the design.
Inside, views are all about the lake. Interior rooms are organized on a spine so main living spaces—living room, dining area, kitchen, study, master bedroom, screened porch and other public rooms—run parallel to the water. “When you open the front door, you’re looking right through the living room to the lake,” Scott says. “You feel like you’re in a retreat.”
Cornice molding and wainscoting throughout the main floor add to its flow. The main floor has easy access via stone steps (or an elevator) to the ground level, where there is a game room, a gym, Jonas’s woodshop and a large stone terrace. The third level and rooms over the three-car garage offer plenty of space for visiting guests.
Segal, who worked with Scott and Jonas on previous homes, designed interiors to reflect the couple’s desire for casually elegant living. Soothing shades of blue (Scott’s favorite color) and green emphasize the natural environment.
The main floor is fresh and functional. The open-concept living room has soaring, eighteen-foot ceilings (Farrell’s team brought in a temporary floor to install the ceiling trim, which is repeated throughout the house), with fun details like petrified wood side tables and a standing lamp shaped like a tree. “We tried to make it sophisticated but a play on whimsy,” Segal says. “It’s less fussy, more suited to a lake house.”
That casual elegance is repeated in the kitchen, which is separated from the dining and living rooms by a bar-height, mahogany-topped counter. All necessities are within easy reach in custom-built cabinets with diamond mullions. Anchoring the kitchen is a large, custom-built island topped by a mahogany, end-grain butcher block. Another highlight is the backsplash—beautiful ceramic tile from Motawi Tileworks, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, featuring an animal motif—which repeats the home’s lakeside theme.
Relaxed formality is reflected in other public spaces, such as the study, with its antique reproduction partner desk by William Switzer Ltd., in Barnaby, British Columbia, and fireplace with custom surround by Francois & Co. of Washington, D.C. But Scott and Jonas’s favorite room is the screened porch. Anchored by a large stone fireplace, the room brings the outside in with classic but elegant wicker furnishings, a built-in grill and kitchenette. Heavy, transparent vinyl shades can be electronically lowered over the mahogany-trimmed screened windows to block wind and rain. “We live in that room about eight months of the year,” Scott says.
The home’s bathrooms are also points of pride. The powder room on the first floor is especially vibrant, with green ceramic subway tile on one wall, accented by Art Noveau-style wallpaper with geese and trees, repeating a hand-painted pheasant design in the sink. Other bathrooms are polished and functional, with custom vanities, porcelain tile, and marble or quartzite countertops. The master bath also has a large custom-built cabinet that does dual duty as a wall between the bathroom and the homeowners’ walk-in closet.
A tour of the home also reveals Scott and Jonas’s fanciful art collection, commissioned from local artists, that reflects animal and nature themes. A deer sculpture sits near the front drive, by Ethel’s House, where Jonas keeps Ethel, his John Deere tractor. Inside the main house, TMS Architects created art niches to showcase pieces including a 3D-sculpture called Walk in the Woods by Rick Epstein Clayworks of Westfield, Massachusetts, that hang in perspective at the end of the first-floor hallway. “It seemed natural to place it at the end of the hall where the rooms spin off,”
Covill says. “It anchors the space.” Elsewhere, playful carved deer and diamond baluster finials add whimsy.
Native plantings enhance the property
Alessandroni, together with Norm Fracassa, of Fracassa Designworks in Dover, created a landscape that enhances the home’s woodland setting. “We wanted to keep natural woodland vegetation and enhance it in high-profile areas,” Alessandroni says.
The homeowners wanted little or no lawn (the one concession is a small grassy area where they can set up a badminton court or play croquet). The area adjacent to the house is enhanced by native plantings, including different varieties of dogwood trees, witherod viburnum, azaleas, winterberry and high-bush blueberries that provide bright red foliage in the fall and berries during the summer. Jonas and Scott do much of the yard maintenance themselves, with Scott working in her perennial garden off the downstairs patio.
Now, nearly two years after their home was finished, Scott and Jonas are enjoying retirement and their lakeside retreat. They’re still in touch with their building and design team, an indication of how successfully everyone worked together. “It really took a village to put this house together,” Covill says. “Diana and Greg were wonderful to work with. They asked questions, but also took our advice and just went with it.”
The couple agrees. “We worked so well together,” Scott says. “The project was really collaborative and fun. Our team is really the reason everything worked out so beautifully.” Which, perhaps, was part of the plan.