Home & Garden

Long-Term Lakeside Living

Long-Term Lakeside Living

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Focal point. To capture an uninterrupted lake view, the deck steps down 4 ft. from the main level. The deck’s pipe handrail is the only exposed wood on the house; all other materials were chosen for their minimal maintenance requirements. Deep overhangs protect the interiors from excessive heat gain but let in low winter sunlight; they also keep bulk water away from the exteriors while allowing for passive-solar heating.

John O’Connor and his partner, Rick Hayward, have spent years boating on Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada. When it came time to build what will be their retirement home, they chose a slice of land on the banks of Georgian Bay. Riddled with massive boulders—pieces of what Ontario Parks calls “the folded roots of ancient mountains”—the site’s preparation was intensive. Sloped topography and an electrical utility right-of-way further complicated the building plans.

The conditions resulted in the house’s long, thin form, which O’Connor, an architect, designed to take full advantage of both the lake view and the surrounding forest. The 22-ft. span, in combination with large-format lift-and-slide windows, also supports natural ventilation. O’Connor’s overall intention was to keep the structure simple and the maintenance requirements to a minimum. He integrated custom detailing to give the home a refined character, and a nautical theme runs throughout.

Lakeside View of House

Making the grade

Once the necessary trees were cleared, the site was graded to allow for gradual transitions from front to back and reduce the need for stairs—an age-in-place strategy. Incorporating a septic system so close to the water required ingenuity. O’Connor decided to elevate the grade around the septic tank using backfill from the excavation. This resulted in a berm that helped establish the desired grade change from the deck down to the waterfront. It also protects the open storage area/workshop beneath the deck from inclement weather. To blend the septic zone more thoroughly into the landscape, they seeded the area with wildflowers and maneuvered boulders into place for seating. At the front of the house, they built up the grade to create a generous level area.

A year-round outdoor room

After two decades spent designing houses for clients, O’Connor was excited to explore the limits of what could be done in the name of outdoor living. His vision took the shape of an open-air room that serves a number of functions, and is arguably the home’s most enjoyable feature. The porcelain-tiled space joins the lakeside deck and forest-side garden, while separating the guest room from the main living area and master suite. In winter it houses stacked firewood and is used as a mudroom (the dogs love it). The original design called for summer screens, but the consistent lake breeze keeps the room insect-free, so they were forfeited. “This would be a hard sell with most clients,” O’Connor admits. “They’d want it glassed in and wouldn’t have the patience for all of [what] went into constructing it.”

A showcase for craftsmanship.
A showcase for craftsmanship. A Renaissance Rumford 1500 fireplace with zero clearance provides an efficient wood-burning system that can heat the main floor. The kitchen features a custom-fabricated stainless-steel island frame fitted with a Ceasarstone top and Ikea cabinets with a glossy, reflective finish. The cabinet color was chosen to match the color of the lake in winter.

As boating enthusiasts accustomed to being outdoors in all kinds of weather, the couple is especially fond of dining in this space during thunderstorms. The prefabricated volcanic-rock fireplace was built on concrete block and raised off the floor and has a cantilevered concrete hearth. The chimney is an insulated stainless-steel assembly; on the exterior, shelving displays the homeowners’ rock collection. This detail is a nod to regional chimneys built using on-site stone. O’Connor describes them as “Cocoa Puff chimneys,” noting they are not right for a modern house. But because he appreciates the local geology—which includes shale, sandstone, and limestone and is known for its many color variations—he was keen to incorporate it.

Long-Term Lakeside Living Front Cover of ArticleFrom Fine Homebuilding #300

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Published at Fri, 04 Jun 2021 20:55:45 +0000