Sister Act

Conceived by two siblings with one shared vision, this energy-efficient lakeside camp offers simple but modern amenities for multigenerational gatherings all year long.
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In a beautiful lakeside setting, weathering ipe boards and a galvalume steel roof give this four-season retreat the rustic look of a classic New Hampshire camp.

As the legend goes, their grandfather won the property in a poker game. On it, he built an unassuming cabin using salvaged doors and windows and lumber milled from trees felled by the Great Hurricane of 1938. “He owned a hotel on Lake Sunapee and brought hotel guests to the lake for the camp experience,” recalls granddaughter Loren. “We grew up going there our whole lives, having picnics, canoeing, swimming,” adds Loren’s sister, Dana.

Set on the shores of an isolated pond in New Hampshire’s Lake Sunapee region, the camp came alive every summer with children, grandchildren and guests. For anyone lucky enough to visit, it was a happy place in the mountains—private, peaceful and serene, yet full of life.

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A square of four timber beams delineates the open-concept first-floor living room.

Over time, camp ownership transferred to all family members, including Loren, Dana and their cousins. As the family grew, so did the camp’s popularity, resulting in crowded summer weeks. A solution to this situation arrived in the form of a “For Sale” sign on a neighboring property, noticed by Dana’s husband while canoeing on the pond.

“We thought it would be the perfect overflow space,” Loren recalls, adding that when they purchased it in 2015, the parcel’s amenities were few—besides the beautiful setting. “It was a postage stamp of land with a tiny cottage, compostable toilet and no running water,” she remembers.

Their first inclination was to fix it up DIY-style but soon discovered the bones weren’t strong enough to warrant an upgrade. In addition, since the cabin rests on a ledge of rock, installing a septic system wasn’t feasible. At this point, the two sisters realized the project was more complex than they had originally thought.

As previous business partners—they operated Viewpoint Gallery in Newport, Rhode Island together for 24 years—Loren and Dana were confident in their ability to collaborate on a new build as a unified team. “We had put in so much effort already; we decided to commit to developing a year-round home for our own expanding families,” says Dana.

Step one in their camp construction journey involved purchasing an 80-acre parcel set behind the lakeside property that would accommodate their septic system and leave the rest of the acreage preserved as open land. Step two involved researching architects, a process that led them to Jessica Cook, AIA, principal of Eagle Pond Studio.

“We connected with Jessica right away,” says Dana. “We saw pictures of her own house and really liked its design and her take on simplicity.”

“Her ability to pull nature inside made us feel completely comfortable with her in the lead,” adds Loren.

They envisioned a camp, similar to their grandfather’s, but with plumbing, heating and a fully outfitted kitchen. They requested a simple, clean design, without a lot of furniture, rugs or clutter. They also didn’t want a house that was overly large: “This lake is so precious to us. We didn’t want our construction to impact its natural beauty in any way,” says Dana.

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Gray painted cabinets and white quartz counter-tops keep the kitchen feeling light and airy. Using every available square inch, Cook tucked a handy coffee station underneath the stairs.

From the beginning, Cook worked diligently to maintain the look and feel of a classic New Hampshire camp while creating a four-season, energy-efficient retreat. She also had to contend with both shoreland and wetlands restrictions. “We would have been limited to the existing footprint if we had stayed within 50 feet of shore,” explains the architect. “Building just behind that setback meant we had fewer limitations for the lot.”

After a couple of iterations, Cook and her clients settled on a modest lakefront presentation with a tall central gable flanked by low rooflines on either side. In the center, an open-concept kitchen and living room arrangement overlooks the water through large sliding glass doors. On either side, the dining room and screened porch have doors leading to the pond.

“When you’re sitting in the living room, with those big doors open fully, it feels just like being outside,” says Loren.

A central feature of their grandfather’s camp was an old fireplace built with local stone. Similarly, the sisters wanted a large, central, masonry chimney, and Cook delivered a two-sided design, with a wood stove facing the living room and an open hearth facing the porch. “The dry stacked stone masonry has the modern look the clients wanted.”

The project’s builder, Old Hampshire Designs, handled all aspects of the construction, from the timber frame to the wood finishes. “Luckily, we didn’t have to remove much ledge,” says project manager Bill Andrews, adding that the remote site presented certain access challenges, but the view made it all worthwhile.

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A combination laundry/pantry/mudroom.

Bill Demers, also a project manager at Old Hampshire Designs, applied Eastern white pine tongue-and-groove boards to walls and ceilings in every room. “We only used three pieces of sheet rock in the whole project,” notes Demers. For the floors, they installed natural ash. “I had to find something to complement the pine, and I think the two grain patterns work well together,” relates Cook.

A whitewash coat—applied to both walls and floors—not only lightened the boards but also prevents against yellowing over time. The predominance of wood on the interior evokes the feel of an old timber cabin, but the whitewash sealer and the knot-free lumber lend sophistication to the rustic theme.

At the heart of the layout is the kitchen, where painted cabinets are a contrast to the warm pine. Constructed by Pepi Guggenberger, a Vermont-based cabinetmaker, the doors feature random-width vertical boards supported by a Z frame behind. “This cabinet style feels more camp-like than traditional stile-and-rail cabinets,” notes the architect.

Maximizing as much available space as possible, Cook tucked the coffee area underneath the stair. Loren and Dana surprised their architect—pleasantly so—with some of their material choices, specifically the pale gray paint for the cabinets and the white quartz for the countertops. These selections make the kitchen feel bright and welcoming.

Behind the kitchen is a multipurpose room, where Cook combined the functions of a mudroom, pantry and laundry area. “A typical home would have three separate rooms dedicated to these uses,” explains the architect. “It took a lot of sketching and diagramming to fit all of this programming into a modest 8-by-14-foot space.”

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A bedroom with a vaulted ceiling overlooks the woods.

Capable of sleeping up to 12 people, the camp has three bedrooms. One, on the ground floor behind the dining room with a cathedral ceiling, overlooks the woods. Another on the second floor—dubbed “the observatory”— enjoys panoramic views from within the central gable. Its multi-slide Marvin window achieves an expansive opening, with a custom metal guardrail for safety. “When that window is fully open, it feels like you are floating on the lake,” describes Cook.

Tucked into the gable’s peak is an attic bunkroom, where Old Hampshire Designs installed six custom-built beds. Each has a niche for books and USB outlets for charging electronics.

Jay Aubertin of J.A. Metalcraft executed the camp’s custom metal work, including the staircase balustrade, railings for the screen porch, guardrails for the upper window, and a metal cordwood rack that also supports the front porch roof. His clients, no strangers to craft, appreciated his talent and artistic eye.

To withstand the mountain elements and New England’s long winters, Cook sourced prefinished fiberglass and aluminum windows and doors with triple glazing. On either side of the fireplace, large glass pivot-hinged doors, custom-made in Maine, close off the porch, creating a weather-proof seal. During the summer months, these doors remain open, allowing for easy circulation.

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Custom railings by J.A Metalcraft adorn the stair leading to the bunkroom.

Under Cook’s supervision, all exterior material selections had to be durable, low maintenance and energy efficient. The siding is ipe, left untreated to weather over time. The builder applied this siding using a rain screen technique: “Clips hold the boards off a waterproof membrane, leaving space for the wood to expand from moisture and contract when dry,” says Old Hampshire Designs President Jay Tucker. Meanwhile, the galvalume steel roof is “one of the greenest choices out there,” he says. “The coated steel is extremely long-lasting.”

Making only a modest stamp on their beloved woods was an easy choice for the sisters, who gravitated naturally toward sustainable building practices. At the outset, they insisted the property’s existing camp be salvaged. “It seemed wasteful to tear it down,” says Dana. It was challenging, but the builder moved it to their large parcel for use as a storage shed.

Now that the project is complete, Loren and Dana are making memories with their children and grandchildren, doing much the same activities they loved as kids. Their days at camp involve swimming, fishing, kayaking, relaxing and cooking big family dinners.

And thanks to their forward-thinking decision to invest in a year-round structure, the fun doesn’t end when fall descends. “We are now getting to know the lake in winter,” points out Loren, “and we’ve even bought snowmobiles.”

Old Hampshire Designs Are L To R Bill Demers Project Manager Jay Tucker Owner And President Bill Andrews Project Manager

Old Hampshire Designs team, left to right: Bill Demers, project manager; Jay Tucker, owner and president; and Bill Andrews, project manager.


Eagle Pond Studio Architects
(603) 456-8553

J.A. Metalcraft

Old Hampshire Designs, Inc.
(603) 526-6945

Categories: Architecture and Interiors