We’re excited to be working with Jim and Tina to create their family heirloom home in the Finger Lakes. While there are very few flat build sites available around the Finger Lakes these days, the couple found a special spot on Cayuga Lake in New York that is not only flat, but includes a point, known locally as Allen’s Point.
Views all around! Our build team has been enjoying the lake while completing the foundation and floor framing for the Allen’s Point home. They’ll continue readying the project for the timber frame raising taking place later this month.
The home design took special focus on entertaining, employing a modified “L” shape for the home that allows private spaces to reside in the long straight of the “L”, separate from the open public spaces. At around 5,000 sq ft the plans include bunk rooms over the garage, two guest rooms, one master suite, and one guest suite meant to comfortably accommodate many.
“It’s a destination, a resort for the whole family. With NEW’s help we built the forever home in New York. The meaningful pieces are already there and we hope to pass it on to the next generation. To keep it in the family for decades.” –Homeowner, Laurie
On one of our typical cool, rainy, and windy Autumn days in upstate New York, I had the chance to chat with Laurie who was enjoying some sun and warmth down in Texas. We worked with Laurie and her husband Dan for over a year designing, building, and completing their multi-generational lakeside retreat home in nearby Canandaigua, NY. I asked Laurie if she would share her take on what it was like to build and decorate a custom timber frame home. Her enthusiasm was infectious and I know I spent much of our conversation nodding and smiling. Here’s what she shared:
Laurie and Dan (left) captured images as the frame came together for their lake home.
Megan: So much is about the build site. Why Canandaigua?
Laurie: Actually, Dan and I are both natives of Rochester [city north of Canandaigua]. We grew up in the area and were always frequenting the surrounding Finger Lakes. We admired Canandaigua Lake and wanted to build there specifically. It took a few years to find our site, but we were patient and persistent. What we found had an old fishing camp on it and the grade was pretty steep, but we loved it. It was December when we asked New Energy Works to take a look at the land with us. Ty and Pete came out, looked around, and told us ‘yes, we can definitely make something special here’.
The design for Jim and Regina’s home on Oseetah Lake (connected to lower Saranac Lake in NY) is affectionately referred to as a modern take on Adirondack style architecture. Oseetah Lake is well-known for paddling and fishing, as it has a mean depth of 3 ft. This build site is one of nine lots on a 500 acre privately owned natural preserve around the lake. The home will be situated on a small swale off a ridge with lake views.
The couple referenced both contemporary and traditional mountain style architecture as they described their vision to our team. Adding to our road map for design was their design questionnaire – one of the most thoroughly completed we have ever received. These questionnaires are an invaluable tool when we’re beginning the design process. Many thanks to Jim and Regina for sharing their time and attention to detail!
The resulting first draft plan is very open with with overlapping living spaces. The form of the home calls for opposing sweeping lines in a contemporary, ‘lighter’ timber frame full of natural light and lake views.
Starting with the entry the home shrugs tradition with a “void” of space rather than an outreaching covered porch. Immediately upon entering, the plans call for a 90 degree turn that open to lake scenery and, as one steps further in, it becomes capacious, with clear volumes to upper level. Planning focused on eliciting views and letting the space grow as one progresses deeper within the home.
In total the home is about 2,650 sq ft. It will primarily be a two-person residence as the couple enters a ‘work from home, transitioning to retirement’ phase of life. A full-time home office will occupy a ‘tower’ and provide space for various work and play interests. For visiting guests, there are two guest bedrooms and a few spaces that could serve as additional accommodations when the house is full.
Jim and Regina are avid outdoors people and, of course, enjoy paddling. Approximately half the lower level of their home will provide storage for outdoor gear and paddle needs. There will be space for several water vessels with walk-out access to the lake.
It is always a privilege to work with homeowners to help bring their dream projects to fruition. We’ve passed through the beginning Schematic Designs with Jim and Regina and we’re excited to see their home continue to take shape and evolve through each step of the design process.
“I’ll give you the whole story if you share those with me.” I glanced at the white box with orange fish dancing across the outside. Crackers for information, the deal of the day. With a smile I handed the box over to Pete, one of our design group architects and the design leader on our current Canandaigua Lake general contracting project.“So Megan,” Pete began in his usual serious-but-joking-and-easygoing manner, “You want to know about the Canandaigua Family Retreat? Well, Dan & Laurie have been looking for the right site for about three years now. They gave us a call and asked if we’d come check out the spot they’d found. They felt really good about it, but wanted our take, which I thought was pretty cool. I like being involved from the beginning, especially because I had a good idea of what they wanted their project encompass.”
“Had their three year search reached an end?” I asked as the crackers disappeared with unnatural speed.
“It had,” he confirmed. “We knew our design plans would be influenced by stringent site constraints associated with being near the water (height restrictions, erosion/sediment concerns, set-backs, etc) and the nature of the narrow, deeply sloping land. But it was perfect for Dan & Laurie’s home.”
I attended the raising (more on this in another post) and I agree with Pete; it is a great spot. It is nestled into the hillside and it maintains privacy even though it is on the lake. The land slopes away allowing views of the water through pockets of mature trees. I couldn’t help thinking it was as if the land had secret views of the lake, but hey, I’m a romantic at heart.
The steep site offers elevated views of Canandaigua Lake.
“Why Canandiagua Lake? Why timber framing?”
Pete grabbed another handful of crackers before answering, “Laurie grew up visiting a family lake home – who doesn’t love those? Canandiagua is a good ‘meeting’ spot for Dan, Laurie, their kids, parents, and extended family. A central location everyone likes.
A few years back they checked out a lake home that happened to be a timber frame we’d built in the 2000’s. They loved it and were inspired to build their own on Canandaigua.”
Extensive excavation and landscaping work was the first step in preparing Dan and Laurie’s site for their new home.
Pete grinned quickly before responding. “The short answer is the steep site,” he paused, flashing a grin again, “but you want to know more than that, right?” Another handful of crackers later he continued, “We wanted to create a nice way to get from the detached garage to the house, from guest parking to the house, from the house down to the water. Reducing the necessity of long, continuous stairs, descent and assent around the site was key. Extensive excavation and landscaping work was the first step in the solution. Ted Collins Landscaping has been a huge help there.”
The home is set into the land, a part of the hillside. ICFs were used for the foundation and here are filled with concrete.
“I wanted to set the house into the site rather than rest it on top of the site. This minimizes some of the challenges of living on a hill and keeps the overall height within restrictions. Setting deeper into the land also helps the structure become more a part of the land, living with the land. Another benefit to sitting the house into the site was easier connections to the garage and parking. Plus, it brings everything closer to the lake.”
A pause for more crackers. At this point I was thinking about taking them away before the entire box was demolished and I was left with nothing for future interviewees. “There were a bunch of existing retainer walls,” he continued, “that were in disrepair. The plan we have replaces those with feature boulder walls against grading. They’re functionally stable, organic, and way prettier. There will be more natural paths of stepping stones, each with intentional pauses to break up the steps between structures.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant by ‘pauses’. “Like stair landings?”
“Yep. And some larger flats that will work as gathering areas along the way down to the lake.”
“Neat.” I smiled as ingratiatingly as possible. I had to move him out of my office before my crackers were entirely gone. “I’m going to ask you about this home several more times, but give me summary of the project and we’ll call it a wrap.”
“This is a retreat home for Dan & Laurie and their family. It will be the central hub for all major gatherings and vacations. It is a single story with spaces throughout capturing views of the lake. We crafted a Douglas fir frame with a custom finish and inside it will have an in-law suite and a master suite on the main level. The walk-out lower will have a bunk room, guess suite, and rec room. Landscaping will include native plants and pleasant paths.”
“Great!” I reached slowly for the box of crackers, pulling them from his grasp. “Thanks Pete.”
Looking somewhat forlorn, he replied, “Sure thing, Megan.”
I’ll share pictures and details of the raising in a later blog. Below is a picture of current progress. Roofing and enclosure are nearly complete. Our construction team has been thankful for a fairly easy winter (so far!) in the Northeast.