House on the Lake
House on the Lake
Brian Vanden Brink
House on the Lake is a unique home for a unique site and client. The site is at the end of a cul de sac and is flat in front and slopes steeply down to a lake in back. The design is whimsical and eclectic, combining influences from classic New England lake-front bungalows and gambrel-roofed Shingle Style houses. The clear, clean, “kettle-hole” lake is in a district of several lakes. It is removed from the ocean context more typically associated with the Cape, but is still a uniquely Cape setting. The property closes off the view from down the street. The front façade is monumental enough to play the public role implied by this, yet domestic enough to be cheerful and welcoming. The steep slope up from the lake is reflected in the house, which appears to crown the hill with a form that continues the shape of the hill itself.
The house is full of features that make it special. The exaggerated chimney, over-sized windows and shutters, and large weather vane on the exterior; and the flat cut-out representations of the house’s form that appear in the mantel and column capitols on the interior, give the house a playful, whimsical feeling. The soaring angles, geometric form, and large over-hangs of the roof highlight both its sculptural and sheltering qualities. The exaggerated elements and compact form emphatically state “lake house.” They create a scenario where the house is both an actual lake house and a representation of a lake house—a double meaning that makes the house more complex and interesting than it otherwise might be. The design feels familiar, yet you’ve never quite seen it anywhere before. Like the best vernacular architecture, it is both timeless and of its own time—at once of the past, present and future.
The weather vane is based on the coat of arms from the Great Seal of the United States which was invented in 1782 as a symmetrical standing eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and arrows in another. The eagle’s head turns toward the olive branch symbolizing a preference for peace but a readiness for war. The coat of arms, used in many ways throughout the government including on the cover of passports, was requested by the owner as a weather vane for their house. As a more dynamic and casual image that might be better for a private home, we suggested transforming it into an eagle in flight that still carried the olive branch and arrows. We based the flat representation on an actual photograph of a bald eagle about to land. We made the eagle’s head turn toward the arrows, however, because of some hawkish tendencies we noticed in the owner’s comments.
The house is occupied by a multi-generational family and includes a first floor master suite, two guest suites, a nursery, and a walk-out lower level. Main living spaces are open to one another to facilitate socializing, but also defined as separate by soffits, ceiling shapes and columns so their scale remains comfortable. A screened in porch, integrated into the plan as a principal living space, overlooks the lake. Lake views are framed by large picture windows with gently curving muntins. A one car garage is within the form, but faces the side so it is minimally visible from the street.