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This lakeside retreat is designed to comfortably accommodate up to three generations at a time


Vacations can be wonderful opportunities for extended families and friends to get together and relax. Sometimes, however, what's really needed is a quiet weekend away on your own, without children or grandchildren.

The owners of this lakeside vacation home say they wanted a small retreat where they could go and feel refreshed and renewed, but which was also large enough to accommodate their extended family.

They found a site by a lake and approached architect Jim Nagle, whose own vacation home they had seen and admired.

"We wanted a house that we could use all year round, and that was completely different to our city home, which is very traditional. We wanted lots of light, and enough space for our adult children and eight grandchildren," says one of the owners.

Nagle says because the property slopes down towards the lake it made sense to build a two-story home.


"This enabled us to design a house that didn't feel too big and didn't appear to dominate the surrounding environment – but had plenty of space."

The upper level is a self-contained space for the owners, with a front entrance, a large living, dining and kitchen area, open and screen porches and the master bedroom and bathroom. Full-height, pivoting, swing doors separate the bedroom and living area, so when the owners have guests, the bedroom can be separated from the living area.

Down a flight of stairs from the front entry are three bedrooms, a bathroom, bunkroom, recreation room, and more open and screen porches, making a second, self-contained area for visitors.

"When the owners stay here on their own, they can live comfortably in the smaller upper level. The way the house is designed, they don't need to go downstairs at all," says the architect.

With its rectangular design and almost flat roof, the house is contemporary in style. A separate two-story garage balances the house on the far side of the site. It is as deep as the house and provides garaging at road level for cars and a boat. The basement level is accessed from the lake side of the property, and provides storage for kayaks and other boating paraphernalia.

To create privacy from the road, the front and side walls of the house have few windows. Instead, the design incorporates skylights and narrow clerestory windows that can be opened for ventilation and to bring light into both levels of the house.

On both levels of the house, windows and French doors open up onto screen and open porches, making a strong connection between the house and the lake. The two screen porches upstairs are separated by an open porch, increasing the effective size of the living areas.

A decision was made to use natural, locally available materials as much as possible, both on the exterior and interior.

Exterior walls are clad in clear-stained cedar, while locally quarried limestone is used for stepping stones and walkways around the property and for fireplaces inside the house.

Inside, the floor is hickory, and ceilings are lined with local maple. Cabinetry throughout the house is also maple, and slate is used on countertops and other hard surfaces.

"Because the house is not large, the interior has been detailed very carefully," says Nagle.

For example, to ensure the basement area feels like a regular house, open bookcases line the side of the staircase leading down from the entry. These add interest and bring light into the lower level.

Soft, muted colors on walls and modern furnishings, using natural woods and fabrics, ensure the interior always feels restful and welcoming.

First published date: 17 November 2005

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Credit List

Architect and kitchen designer Nagle Hartray Danker Kagan Mckay Penney Architects, AIA (Chicago, IL)
Interior designer David M Russ Interior Design
Builder Design Specialty Builders
Structural engineer Graef, Anhalt, Schloemer & Associates
Windows and doors Marvin Windows
Paint Sherwin Williams
Flooring Hickory by Birger Juell
Lighting Halo downlights
Heating Carrier
Home audio Audio Plus
Furniture Holly Hunt, Ligne Roset
Kitchen cabinets Crystal Cabinets, with custom maple veneer plywood
Countertops Honed black granite
Faucets KWC
Oven, cooktop, ventilation Dacor
Microwave General Electric
Refrigerator Sub-Zero
Dishwasher Fisher & Paykel
Waste unit Wasteking
Bathroom vanity cabinetry Crystal Cabinets
Bathroom basin Duravit
Countertop Honed gray/green granite
Faucets and shower fittings Grohe
Bathroom floor Vermont slate
Toilet Duravit