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A Maine lake house gives three generations both togetherness and privacy

This family’s four-season home, close to grandparents, is inspired by turn-of-the-century waterfront camps.

White cedar shingles cover the upper portion of the home’s exterior, and red cedar boards run horizontally around the first floor. Low walls built from stones gathered on the site surround the bluestone patio at the back of the house.Jeff Roberts Imaging

On the site of a former girls’ summer camp on the shores of Pleasant Lake, this property in Otisfield, Maine, represented an opportunity and a challenge. In designing a new house for a young Boston family, on land that abuts the husband’s parents’ property, it was important not to disrupt the older generation’s experience. “The homes needed to relate to each other while maintaining their own identity and affording each family their respective privacy,” says Rob Whitten, founding principal of Whitten Architects, who tackled the job.

The husband spent childhood summers with his parents nearby, and the wife grew up in Maine. Both are nostalgic about life on the lake, relishing its simplicity and the opportunity for immersion in the outdoors. The directive was clear. “They wanted a four-season home inspired by turn-of-the-century waterfront camps,” Whitten says. “The first thing they did was show us old photos of this one.”


From the road, a line of 70-year-old white pine trees leads to the two homes, which sit parallel to a shared 406-foot stretch of waterfront. Like the parents’ house, which was built by another firm more than 15 years ago, the new home has a façade of cedar shingles and wood boards with green trim, but overall it’s more modest and simpler in style. A stand of birches separates the houses, and their closest points — three-sided screened porches — provide an additional buffer from the interior living spaces. The setup is seamless but separate.

Just enough trees to accommodate the new construction were cleared from the heavily wooded site on the shores of Pleasant Lake. The garage is to the left.Jeff Roberts Imaging

The residents of the new home enjoy ample opportunities to interact with nature, indoors and out, regardless of the season. The lake is visible from the entry, which opens into the main living space. Straight through, at the back of the house, sliding doors lead to a covered porch that opens to a stone patio with a fire pit. From there, a 100-foot dirt path leads to the lake.


“We created a theatrical experience,” says Drew Bortles, a project designer at the firm. The concept is meant to encourage pauses to take it all in, he explains: “I’m on a beautiful terrace, I’m in the woods on a pine-needle-covered path, I’m jumping into the water.”

Taking cues from original camp cottages as well as the parents’ house, Whitten used horizontal nickel-gap white pine boards with a natural matte finish for the walls and ceilings in the main living space. Exposed Douglas fir beams are oiled to bring out their red tone, and white oak floorboards are knotty with character. Energy-efficient features include radiant heated floors, high-performance windows, and spray foam insulation. “The elements that make it a modern camp are invisible but very much present,” Whitten says.

The hand-split granite ledge encircling the chimney supplements the seating on the screened porch. Black lantern-style pendant lights add to the cabin feel.Jeff Roberts Imaging

The couple hired interior designer Krista Stokes to create a relaxed, lived-in look using unpretentious furnishings and subtle color. A rug with a worn Moroccan print grounds the seating area in front of the traditional fireplace, made from fieldstones and hand-split granite slabs mined from the site. A roomy sofa with a distressed slipcover is good for snuggling, while the built-in window seat is a favorite place to read or watch a rainstorm.

Millwork painted in soothing, weathered green defines the kitchen, setting off the natural wood island with a solid white oak plank top. In the adjacent dining area, furniture-like cabinetry wraps a corner, and Shaker-style chairs stained lichen green surround a farmhouse table made from salvaged pine. The hand-forged iron chandelier echoes the hardware throughout the house. “We skewed toward dark finishes in iron, antiqued bronze, or black,” says Stokes. “We weren’t purists about it.”


Nickel-gap pine boards run up the stairs, creating a feature wall against budget-friendly sheetrock. Painted boards, a thriftier version of the elements used on the ground level, add interest and texture in the second-story rooms and remain in keeping with the old-fashioned Maine camp vibe. “The couple wanted the house to feel like it had always been there,” Stokes says. “Nothing is trying to steal the show.”

Designer Krista Stokes chose Farrow & Ball Green Smoke paint for the kitchen cabinetry. “It was only after the clients approved it that we realized that it’s similar to the color of the husband’s parents’ kitchen next door,” she says.Jeff Roberts Imaging


Architect: Whitten Architects, whittenarchitects.com

Interior Design: Krista Stokes, kristastokes.com

Contractor: R.P. Morrison Builders, rpmorrisonbuilders.com

Landscape Design: Emma Kelly Landscape, emmakellylandscape.com


In the dining area, the handcrafted chairs are from Rhode Island workshop O&G Studio, the table from Restoration Hardware, and the chandelier from Ballard Designs.Jeff Roberts Imaging
In the living room, the built-in window seat is a serene space separate from the main seating area. Farrow & Ball Black Blue paint lends a furniture-like feel, and an articulated sconce makes it a perfect reading nook.Jeff Roberts Imaging

Marni Elyse Katz is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.