Updating A Lake House
Paula Daher, of Daher Interior Design in Boston, helped homeowners refresh the look of their home on Lake Sunapee.
Today, the Vachons’ Sunapee lake house has a timeless ease and elegance. The home’s color palette complements the gray-blues of the lake, flecked granite of the fireplaces, and the greens of nearby pines and hardwoods.
Homeowners Karen and Mark built the house in 2004, and it was their dream home. Ten years later, they decided to spruce it up. Not to rebuild or remodel, but to re-imagine its interior design.
“I was the original decorator,” Karen says, “and there were a couple of things that never got worked out. I enjoyed shopping for antiques. I also collect old sleds. Anyway, at that time we had a loose, woodsy approach to the décor, but we were ready for something new. We wanted to reconfigure some spaces, add more comfortable furnishings and just have an updated, more sophisticated look.”
The importance of planning
Karen and Mark enlisted the expertise of Daher Interior Design, a Boston-based firm that has been winning design awards for more than twenty years. “With each of our projects, we want to speak to the homeowners’ aesthetic and lifestyle,” says Paula Daher, principal. “Yet, we also look to accomplish an unpretentious feel that has an understated elegance. That look is the hallmark of my firm.”
When Daher describes how she and her firm work with clients, she emphasizes that first they listen. To translate their clients’ vision into reality, the team creates sketches and renderings that offer a variety of choices. As refinements become finalized, communications and schedules go into high gear.
Working with her team—notably Ryan Donnelly and Virginia Seherr-Thoss, as well as the homeowners—Daher made recommendations, moving from room to room. Daher obtained the original architectural plans for the house from Peter White and Associates, an architectural firm in New London. The house was designed by Deirdre Sheerr, who is now retired from Sheerr & White; White has continued the practice. Using these plans, Daher mapped out precise measurements for new furnishings, paying meticulous attention to sight lines. With lake houses, sight lines are critical. Capturing the expansive feeling of a full lake view from the house takes planning. This means preserving unobstructed views from inside the house, past doors, windows, porches and furnishings. Of course, the finished look should appear effortless.
The great room
The great room with its fieldstone fireplace and lake view was a challenging space to furnish. The room has many functions, and Karen had noted that getting the seating right was difficult. Daher made some bold moves to infuse modernity into the room. She replaced small rugs with one large, beautiful, custom-made Tibetan rug from Landry and Acari in Boston, which has an abstract design with a lot of charcoal and dark bronzes, as well as oranges and yellows. “That rug was the launching pad for our design,” Daher says. “It really grounds the room.”
The green walls were painted a light taupe, which softens and highlights the fir woodwork. Two off-white sofas were added along with two small comfortable armchairs covered in a soft celadon fabric. A cast bronze chair by Holly Hunt covered in smoky blue green mohair is both sculpturally beautiful and delightful to sit in. It anchors the room and visually connects to the blue lake seen just outside. (Daher says a Holly Hunt showroom recently opened at the Boston Design Center; visitors are free to browse the center’s showrooms, but purchases are “to-the-trade” and available to homeowners through designers.)
The Vachons’ great room was transformed by the new furnishings and configuration. “We can now seat twelve people comfortably,” Karen says.
With modernity comes the challenge of finding a way to hide the black television screen, yet have it easily accessible. Daher’s innovative custom-designed chest, fabricated by Salmon Falls Woodworks in Dover, provides a stunning solution. The materials—brass and glass rondels—are somewhat industrial and refreshingly different. The small armchairs can be turned for viewing.
Part of the discipline and skill of an interior designer is to choose just the right elements to finish a room. Daher added two custom-built pieces to the great room. One so subtle it almost escapes notice: a narrow table with a light gray soapstone top behind the couch. Built by Salmon Falls Woodworks, owner and craftsman Fred Loucks says the table is bigger than you might think: “It’s about five feet long. Those L-shaped legs can really fool your eye.”
Loucks and his team also custom-built the round walnut cocktail table in the great room. “To give it a less uniform finish, we hand-planed the top,” he notes.
The dining room
In the dining room, Daher brought in a bigger, modern dining table to accommodate more people. It’s by Brooklyn-based Hellman Chang. To complement the table, Daher added luxurious dining chairs by Mattaliano as well as host and hostess chairs by Gregorious|Pineo. Mattaliano and Gregorius|Pineo are represented at Holly Hunt Boston. Dramatic lighting from Urban Electric brings focus and mystique to this space. Their lighting collection can be viewed online, but only designers may make purchases for homeowners.
“The dining chairs are really comfortable,” Karen says. “And again, it’s great to be able to entertain plenty of guests.”
“We’re not always dragging out the kids’ table anymore,” Mark says.
“The bell fixtures were a bit of an adjustment,” Karen says.
“They’re quite modern,” Mark says. “Maybe a little beyond the midpoint, but that’s a tension we like.”
“During the day, they’re like mirrors,” Karen says. “At night, they glow like lanterns. Kind of like mercury glass.”
A white, wool flat-weave rug in the dining room keeps it casual. Plus, chairs slide in and out smoothly.
For the adjacent screened-in porch, Daher added a sleek modern sectional, updated fabrics and a cool galvanized metal table with a built-in ice bucket.
But perhaps the best new feature is an outdoor living space atop the boathouse that Daher created with new furnishings, which included an outdoor living room, dining area and grill. She also installed a wonderful umbrella by TUUCI. “It can withstand up to 50 mile-per-hour winds,” Daher says. “They’re very common on the lake.”
Throughout the rest of the house, small touches, new paint and sometimes tile, and even a fireplace surround continued to refresh the look.
A small den really transformed into the perfect summer hideaway with just the right touches. “We had a beautiful black-and-white sectional made,” Daher says. “We didn’t want to conceal the view, so the height is just at the window sill. We designed the small table, which was made by Salmon Falls. The boomerang stone was carefully selected to surprise and bring the room together. We always work to create moments in a house. Those layers of experiences make a home relaxing.”
Loucks says: “Any time you work with wood and curves, it’s tricky. We used an old-fashioned technique when we made that table—hammered veneer.”
Other professionals Daher worked with include the home’s original builders, McGray & Nichols of New London, and Prana Design Painting of Newbury, the home’s original painters.
That’s the way it is in Sunapee, according the architect Peter White. “We’re very fortunate to have so many talented tradespeople in the area,” he says. “It’s a small, friendly community. I often run into clients, such as the Vachons, walking downtown or by the lake.”
The Vachons have become a part of the Sunapee community through their work with Project Sunapee, a local nonprofit that organizes events such as Green-up Day and a celebration of the town’s 250th anniversary.
“Our home has a lot more style now,” Mark says. “It’s got a modern touch, but it’s not urban. It’s still a lake house in New Hampshire.”