A Camp for All Seasons
An architect and designer husband-and-wife team build a cottagey, cabin-y camp in Naples.
In order for a vacation home to qualify as a camp, it needs a few key components: water access, a fireplace, and sleeping space for the entire family. A camp can be rustic and bare-bones, or it can be sophisticated and ornate—the thing that links the buildings isn’t the aesthetic but the purpose. Camps are for getting out of town, leaving the world behind, escaping into the wilderness. They tend to be very personal; they reflect the owners’ ingenuity, their hobbies, and their habits.
The Battles’ house on Long Lake in Naples doesn’t look, on first glance, like a traditional camp. It’s lofty and spacious, with cathedral ceilings and big glass windows. But that makes sense once you meet its makers. John and Janice Battle worked hard to bring their Maine getaway into existence—he as the architect, she as the designer. These were the roles they played in their nine-to-five existence, so it wasn’t a stretch to apply their professional skills to their personal life. But the Battles had one thing that many of their clients did not: a budget.
John and Janice have a knack for landing high-end jobs. “We’ve done a lot of houses that are very extravagant; some are even over-the-top luxurious,” John says. “Our house is a little different. I wouldn’t say it’s humble, but in comparison to some, it’s modest.” The size of the structure was restricted by zoning, and its position on the lot was, too. There was a little shelter by the shore that was grandfathered in, “just steps from the water,” Janice says. They gutted and renovated this space, transforming the old bunkhouse into a little one-bedroom cabin with a living room and bathroom. But while the “love shack” (as they playfully call it) could easily house a couple, it wouldn’t have worked for the Battles and their three grown children, plus their social circle and extended family. John and Janice wanted to serve friends dinner al fresco, host family members for long summer weekends, and spend a few cold winter nights cozied up above the frozen lake. And so, during 2019 they came to Maine and lived in the love shack while working on their cottage-inspired, camp-adjacent, timber-heavy home.
The final space is all of those things, and though the two-tone, gabled exterior is reminiscent of the quaint style, it’s not quite a cottage. Still, it’s a bit more than a camp (with five bedrooms and several dining spaces, it’s a bit bigger than most), and it’s definitely not a timber frame (despite what the big beams might tell you). Pulling traits from all those sources, John and Janice created a winterized vacation house that satisfies John’s desire for architectural authenticity and speaks to Janice’s admiration for all things beautiful. “Because of timing and cost, to do a true post-and-beam, that would not have worked for us,” explains John. “So we made a hybrid.” The shell of the primary house was built using conventional construction methods, but John designed a “wood-enriched center component” that could be inserted into the heart of the home. Using large planks treated with clear finishes in a canopy formation over the main living area, John mimicked some of the spacious-but-weighty qualities of a timberframe lodge at a fraction of the cost.
“It was really cool how it worked out,” says Eugene Jordan of Jordan Custom Carpentry in Lovell. In addition to serving as the general contractor, Jordan also cut all the interior posts personally “right in the living room,” he says. “It was after the roof went on, so we were able to do true timber-frame joinery and work on the detailing from below rather than from above.” This gave them time to get the aesthetics right, and since the main purpose of adding these beams was to showcase the craftsmanship typical of Maine, it made sense to introduce multiple tones and grains. “I love working with mahogany to add contrast,” says Jordan. “Next to the Douglas fir, the mahogany pegs and splines really pop. With the roofline the way it is, and the detailing inside, I think it looks really authentic even though it’s a new build.” John adds, “The carpenters did a great job of using authentic detail conditions to give it a very articulate feel.”
According to John, a well-designed building is one that expresses its purpose. It tells you what to expect. The purpose of a camp is to be in the woods; this central room embraces guests with the raw, warm shades of maple, mahogany, pine, and fir. The purpose of the Battles’ camp is to be with family; this house invites everyone to gather together in one area, to sit by the fire and the windows, to be by the water.
In contrast to the central great room, the bedrooms are “relatively simple with standard proportions,” says John. The upstairs bedrooms have vaulted ceilings, since John saw no need for attic space. But none of the five bedrooms—not even the owners’ suite—is particularly grand. “You really only go back to bedrooms to sleep,” he says. “When we’re up here, we’re often outdoors or on the water or celebrating with fun activities.” If they get a rainy day, the family tends to migrate out of their separate spaces and into the living room. To further unite the occupants, John designed an alcove in the glass wall overlooking the lake, for their stove. “Frequently, in many jobs, we have the view one way, and the fireplace is the other way. Here, there is a singular focus,” he says. For purposes of “cleanliness and convenience,” the Battles opted for a gas stove rather than a woodstove. “But we had to have a hearth,” John says. “This works better for us.”
While they made several budget-conscious choices during construction, John and Janice had worked on enough homes to know the importance of having a great “stair guy.” In a multilevel home, stairs matter. And if the grand “wood-forward” canopy room was to be the heart of the house, they’d need a suitably stately artery. That’s where Bob King came in. John first worked with the master stair builder and owner of King and Company on a project over 20 years ago. Recently, a stair John designed and King built won an award from the Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association. For John’s house, King constructed a slightly less ornate stair, but thanks to the mixture of woods (mahogany and maples), it still has “plenty of character,” says King. “A home like that, which had a lot of timbers and a lot of weight in the thickness of the floor, it made sense to keep the designs and shapes on the simpler side.” But instead of having straight lines, the stairway “flairs out and invites you in,” says King. John reveals that his favorite part of this feature is the newel. “I liked the idea of having a strong anchor,” he says. “I tend to be very animated in the way I move about a place. I use the newel post almost as a pivot—you grab on to it and swing yourself up the stairs as you’re zipping about.” Janice adds, “Everyone who walks up those stairs comments. They put their hand on the railing and feel it—it’s special.”
But not every element of the design needed to speak with such gravitas. Janice was in charge of choosing the color schemes, all the furnishings, and the finishes. “I go with my gut,” says the designer. “I do like things to be pretty.” In their Naples house, this translates to earth-tone floral drapes and duvets, subtly shimmering kitchen tiles, and a considered collection of antiques scattered throughout the rooms. “While I was working for other clients, I would set aside certain fabric samples that I liked,” she explains. “The design happened slowly and organically.” Early on, she pulled out a flatweave Swedish rug in a cheerful shade of blue. “I tripped over it when I was looking for rugs for a client. I knew right away, that’s what I want at the lake,” she says. This durable textile became the jumping-off point for the color scheme of the entire central space, which encompasses the sitting area, dining area, kitchen, and entryway. The kitchen got the brightest tones, with punchy blue cabinets and tiles from Discover Tile, but Janice toned down the hues a bit in the sitting area by bringing in a lot of neutrals. “I kept the sofa very simple,” she says. “But for the rattan chairs, I used a fabric that I really love—in our old house, I had a wallpaper made that was this fabric, the same thing. It’s really interesting without being too formal. It felt like the right fit here.”
Over the course of several years, Janice found the rest of the furniture for their lake house at various antique markets. On a trip down to Atlanta for a client, she picked up a set of dining room chairs (“they wouldn’t have worked for the client,” she says) that went nicely with a table she found at Cornish Trading Company in New Hampshire. She was able to hire some of her favorite woodworkers from other jobs to create custom pieces for their new place, like the rustic live-edge coffee table that sits in the living room. “I’m really blessed to work with amazing craftspeople and artisans,” she says.
The couple also consider themselves quite fortunate that they managed to finish their lake house when they did. They were just winding up construction when the pandemic hit in March 2020. “Right about the time when everybody was starting to panic, we were just about done,” John remembers. With the five bedrooms and big living area, their three children were able to come stay, telecommuting to their jobs from the Maine woods (although John does admit that the Wi-Fi isn’t as strong as these urban-dwelling millennials had hoped). In truth, the Naples cabin wasn’t designed for long-term occupation by that many adults, but the Battles were grateful anyway. “It’s such a comfortable house,” says John. “It’s warm and well made. We didn’t plan to live here during the winter, but we can. The fundamentals of it are terrific. It’s been an outstanding place to be. We’ve been so lucky.”