CALIFORNIANS Lloyd Komesar and Maureen Carn spent years scouring Vermont for a spot to establish a second home. “We found some interesting places, but none of them really spoke to us,” says Komesar. Then one autumn day, driving in the west-central part of the state, they were struck by the way the colors of the Green Mountains were reflected in Lake Dunmore. “It was so visually overpowering, it was as if you could reach out and touch the mountains,” Komesar says. “We knew right away this was our place.”
Hundreds of camps line the shore of 1,000-acre Lake Dunmore, most of them modest structures constructed in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. In 2009, the couple purchased a small one on the lake, in Leicester. Tucked into a hillside, it was tired and un-winterized. “The foundation was in terrible shape, so salvaging the existing structure really wasn’t possible,” says architect Elizabeth Herrmann, hired by Komesar and Carn to design a new camp.
Since the steep, narrow lot didn’t comply with current zoning regulations, there were challenges before construction could begin. “Some of the footings for the decks were actually in the lake,” says Herrmann. The zoning board required that the new home be built within the footprint of the former structure and asked Herrmann to do all she could to minimize its impact on the lake. To this end, she devised a pair of dramatic cantilevered decks that jut toward the water. The design allows the decks to come close to the water’s edge without disturbing the shoreline, a solution that “the state’s water quality division embraced,” says Herrmann.
Sticking to a small footprint suited the couple just fine. Empty nesters with two grown daughters, they didn’t want a big house. They did, however, want it to comfortably accommodate guests. At 1,580 square feet, the home has three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the second level; the main floor encompasses an open area devoted to the living, kitchen, and dining areas, as well as a half bathroom and storage space.
Herrmann designed the house to feel expansive. “There isn’t any wood trim on the walls, windows, or doors, so the eye doesn’t stop, which allows spaces to flow together uninterrupted,” she says. All of the walls in the home are the same off-white hue, so the wall planes lead fluidly from one room to another. Cathedral ceilings in the bedrooms upstairs create an airy feel, and doorless closets fitted with attractive shelves eliminate the need for dressers.
It was important to Komesar and Carn, who live in Pasadena in the cooler months, that the new home incorporate West Coast design elements. “We wanted light to permeate through, clean lines, and an open sensibility,” says Komesar. The home’s palette centers on subtle tones. “The colors reflect a basic serenity; it’s a very cerebral place.”
Stair treads and second-story floors are of maple, as are the kitchen cabinets, which have simple stainless-steel hardware. The kitchen’s River Gold honed granite counters echo the hues of the surrounding woods. “The idea was to have floors and cabinetry be quiet, serving as an elegant backdrop,” Komesar explains. “It’s better in a small house like this to have surfaces be subtle and allow accessories to make statements.”
While the old camp with its knotty-pine walls and small windows seemed dark, the new home is bathed in light. Strategically placed windows offer sweeping views of the lovely setting. Transom windows above bedroom and bathroom doors let in more light and enhance air flow through the house.
Capped with a galvanized metal roof, the home’s lightly stained Port Orford cedar siding has an appealing honey glow — and resists bugs and rot. Pennsylvania bluestone steps lead from the parking level to the entry and down to the lake, and terraces along the exterior make it possible to hang out on the hillside.
“Even though it’s a very steep site, we wanted as much outdoor living space as possible,” says Herrmann. The old house was all about getting to the lake, she says. Now it’s about enjoying the house as well as the setting.
Jaci Conry is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.