scorecardresearch Skip to main content
Your Home | Summer Living

After renting a designer’s Vermont vacation home, they decided to buy their own

Of course, they asked Kristen L’Esperance if she’d take on the design of their home on the shores of Lake Champlain.

The owners recently screened in the covered porch at the back of the home.Colin Miller

As enthusiastic travelers, Michele and Ed Chiappini never considered tying themselves to a second home — until they spent two sublime weeks renting designer Kristen L’Esperance’s modern home on the shores of Lake Champlain in Charlotte, Vermont. “I don’t relax easily, but the entire stay felt utterly peaceful,” Michele says.

While there, the Reading couple noticed a “for sale” sign on a derelict home two doors down; musing about creating their own getaway commenced. “It was fantasy at first, but the more we talked, the more we considered it,” Ed Chiappini says. “We wouldn’t have done it unless Kristen agreed to design the new house.”


L’Esperance, a fifth-generation Vermonter and the principal of Cultivation Design Studio, knew it was a gamble working for future neighbors; she also understood how deeply connected the couple felt to her home and the remote, picturesque point. “When they asked if I could design a new home with a similar sensibility within the footprint, I emphatically said yes!” she says. “Because they had spent time in my home they trusted my vision for theirs.”

The result is a modern 1,500-square-foot home with a jaunty shed roof over a rectangular plan oriented south toward Lake Champlain. The roof slopes down from east to west, allowing for two stories on the east side of the house. Here, the primary bedroom, den, and lounge make up the top floor, with the entry, kitchen, and recently screened covered porch below.

On the west side of the building, the ceilings — made of clear pine shiplap planks that continue down the walls — soar over the guest bedroom with a sleeping loft, in addition to the living room and dining area. “They liked the mix of materials in my home and requested a wood wall in theirs, too,” L’Esperance says. “Those are the home’s only insulated planes, so the wood really highlights the performative aspects of the architecture.”


A floating stair bisects the open plan, which has a polished concrete floor (another request inspired by the designer’s home) that stretches out to the screened porch on the lake. “It’s easy to care for and emphasizes the porch as an extension of the living space,” L’Esperance says. The stair’s central location, and doors from the kitchen and dining area to the screened porch — wide open all summer — allow for smooth circulation around the first floor.

As for the design of the stair, L’Esperance tried something new: A wall that creates usable space underneath. “We talked about leaving it open [on both sides], but walking under the stairs could easily result in a head-smashing situation,” the designer points out. The wall facing the kitchen accommodates a 350-pound refurbished butcher block rescued over 75 years ago from Michele’s great-grandfather’s butcher shop in Lynn. Facing the living room, there’s a chair that is a cozy solo spot and rounds out the seating area.

Come afternoon, the dining table claims the best corner. Although the Chiappinis initially planned to skip a dining table altogether, opting to eat at the kitchen island or outdoors, L’Esperance persuaded them otherwise. “The island gets great light in the morning, but at dinnertime, the southwest corner is the place to be,” she says. “With the cross breeze, glow-y western light, and views out three sides, I thought, Let’s force gathering there.”


The upstairs lounge is another special spot to spend time in, both for early risers — one of the couple’s three grown children might sleep on an air mattress up there when there’s a full house — and stargazers. “There’s a telescope set up there,” L’Esperance says. As for the primary bedroom, L’Esperance pushed it to the north at the end of the mezzanine, just past the den. “We prioritized water views for daytime living spaces, but the bedroom looks at a field and gets beautiful evening light.”

Having taken every bit of L’Esperance’s advice, the Chiappinis couldn’t be happier. “It’s small, but it never feels crowded,” Ed Chiappini says. “She didn’t just create our dream home, she exceeded all expectations.”


Design: Cultivation Design Studio,

Contractor: Shirlock Homes, 802-310-3435

Kitchen design: Kitchen World Inc.,


The slim profile of the Blu Dot dining table and backless benches keep the sightline to the lake clear.Colin Miller
The upstairs lounge overlooks a small marina on the bay.Colin Miller
The painting at the bottom of the staircase is by local artist Sage Tucker-Ketcham.Colin Miller
The home doesn’t have an HVAC system but there’s a gas stove for chilly shoulder seasons.Colin Miller
Pine shiplap lends a rustic feel to the guest bedroom.Colin Miller
The front entry boasts a pastoral view to the north.Colin Miller

Marni Elyse Katz is a contributing editor to the Globe Magazine. Follow her on Instagram @StyleCarrot. Send comments to