Luxury on the Lake
A Craftsman-inspired vacation home built to accommodate everyone and meet every need.
There are thousands of freshwater lakes and ponds in Maine. These bodies of water can start to look alike after you’ve visited a dozen, and yet each one is distinct. Sure, there are hundreds of lakes with pine-needle-tinged water, a good fish population, and serene little islands topped with birch trees, and sure, there are other lakes that even have the same name as your lake. But it’s not your lake. Your lake is special.
For Greg and Patty, the lake they love is named Thompson. There are several bodies of water called Thompson, but theirs is in Oxford County, north of Sebago and south of Rangeley. They have been vacationing on this lake for decades, driving up from Rhode Island during the summer months to paddle and swim. “We knew we wanted Thompson Lake to be part of our future always,” says Patty. “But we have four noisy kids. So where would we stay?” They had a house on the water, but it wasn’t the right fit. Greg spent years scouting the lake, and there was one piece of land that he decided was the very best of them all. “It’s on an island with a causeway connected to the mainland, so you get the best of both worlds,” Greg explains. “There’s the privacy of the island, but you can drive there. You’re surrounded by water on three sides.” And, adds Patty, “You can see such beautiful sunsets.”
The only problem seemed to be that there was a house there already, though this turned out to be a good thing in the end. After Greg contacted the owners, convinced them to sell, and bought the land and the house, he realized that the “not ideal” lake home was “grandfathered in, in the right place by the shoreline.” This meant he could build the lake house of his dreams, complete with radiant floor heating, room for the four noisy kids, and views of the water from every bedroom. “You can see for miles and miles from there,” he says appreciatively.
Designed by architect Joe Delaney of Whipple Callender Architects and built by Joshua Gregoire of Bartow Construction, the house is larger and more luxurious than its predecessor. The major challenge was making the home feel congruous with the landscape while working in all the creature comforts the homeowners requested. “We worked hard to site the house correctly,” reveals Delaney. “It was going to take a fair amount of square footage, so it was important we made sure it sat well in the landscape.” Greg describes their Thompson Lake house as “batwing-shaped,” and Delaney adds that this allowed them to create an entryway that feels “welcoming and nestled in.” After much discussion, they settled on an exterior paint color that would help the house recede into its surroundings (a dark, moody, modern blue) and used natural stone cladding that matches the patio to further connect the building to its environment.
“Like on any lake in Maine, there are a tremendous number of influences visible in the houses around Thompson,” says Delaney. This freed them to pull architectural inspiration from a variety of sources to create a “variation on a Craftsman house,” Delaney says. “We all really liked the tall pine trees, so we wanted to preserve as many of those as we could. The dark green palette affected the choice of blue, and I think they look really nice together.” They also chose to keep several large boulders on the property, which help merge the hardscapes (including the front patio, back patio, barbecue pit, and stairs) into the land. The landscape designers at Richardson and Associates selected native plants (including ferns, blueberry sod, and coniferous shrubs) to plant around the front of the home and the borders. The thoughtful, naturalistic landscaping helps ensure good water quality while providing a bit of low-maintenance structure. “We planted a lot more plants than we took out,” Greg says. “And the boulders help make it feel like the house was always there. My favorite ones have moss on them, and some even have little pine trees growing. We were careful about where we placed them to make it look natural.”
The commitment to subtle craftsmanship continued on the interior of the house, where Gregoire’s team worked closely with the homeowners to select just the right stains and finishes. While most of the interior walls are painted white or blue, Greg wanted a wood-paneled “lake room” for entertaining family and friends. “Finding a color we wanted to use was a challenge,” says Patty. “We had a friend who built a wood room, but they had no idea what the color was. We wanted what they used.” Gregoire and his team brought over dozens of samples to go through until they found the right warm honey tones. “We had to nail that room,” Greg says. “We had to get
it exactly right. We wanted long, wide boards.” The first batch of lumber that was delivered, Gregoire recalls, fell short. “There were color differences and sizing differences that we didn’t feel was appropriate,” he says. So they tried again. “We were working with prefinished wood, so you couldn’t cover up mistakes with staining after the fact,” Gregoire explains.
The kitchen was also prefinished, which meant all Gregoire’s crew had to do was manage the installation. But there were challenges there, too. The heart of the home is a large, open-concept living space that flows from kitchen to dining area to lake room. There’s a walk-in wine closet, a copper-topped bar, and two fireplaces. “The owners had a lot of input on the fireplaces,” Gregoire says. They wanted to have built-ins for wood storage and board games, plus a live-edge mantel, which is reminiscent of the original home. “One of the cool things about the old house was the fireplace,” the builder continues. “It took us a couple tries because there were some bugs inside the hemlock that wanted to eat the bark, but we made it work.” The heavy hemlock mantel echoes the strong lines of the timbers used throughout the house. “It’s not a true timber frame,” Gregoire reveals, “in that there’s steel in there, too. But it has the right look.”
For Greg and Patty, it was important that every element feel unified. “We’ve built three houses together,” says Greg. “We know what we like.” One thing Patty agonized over was the light fixture that would greet guests as they come in the main entrance. “Our staircase wasn’t centered over the door. It’s a little off-center from the windows upstairs, and I’m a really symmetrical person,” says Patty. “I just wanted one big fixture. And it was going to drive me crazy that it would look off-center.” She asked everyone, she remembers, who was on-site. Someone suggested using several tiny spotlights, and the idea resonated with Patty. “It flipped a switch in my head,” Patty says. “Ding! I could have little stars. They wouldn’t have to be centered.” Now seven glass stars hang above the stairs that lead to the guest quarters. They’re not symmetrical, but clustered like a constellation instead.
While many vacation home owners choose to have their owners’ suite upstairs, as far away from the main social space as possible, Patty and Greg wanted to be on the first floor. Wheelchair access was important, since Patty’s brother often visits, and he needs to be able to roll out. “When he comes to stay, he has that room,” says Patty. “The doorways are bigger there, so the chair fits. We have a curbless shower too, so he can use that if he wants.”
That’s the thing about a lake house: it’s about sharing your lake with the people you love. The finished Thompson Lake house is designed so that the whole family can visit. “It’s the lake lifestyle,” Greg says. “It has to do with coming up on a Friday and not getting back into your car, going to visit your friends by boat, staying on the lake, and not needing to leave at all. We designed a house that has everything we need, right here.” From the backyard pizza oven to the “bourbon bar” in the lake room, this home is completely and totally theirs.