The most extraordinary of lake homes don’t just sit within water’s view. They communicate with it. It’s a quiet dialogue between indoors and out, a magical yin-yang in which the home is seamlessly integrated into its environment as though it was always meant to be exactly in that spot.
“I’m a believer in designing buildings to fit lightly on their site by melding the homes into natural landscapes”, says William H. Soupcoff, principal of TMS Architects in Portsmouth, NH. Among the firm’s multi-million dollar residential projects are numerous homes nestled into the Granite State’s landscape on Lake Winnipesaukee and Lake Wentworth.
If lake homes are anything, they are sensory: they are about the smells, the sounds, the movement of light, even the way the air circulates and envelops its inhabitants. And, above all, they are about the views.
Big Bear Lake is a community tucked into the peaks of the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. Here, the play of light is a mesmerizing force that distinguishes and dominates the luxury home landscape. “We have over 300 days of sunshine a year,” says Linda Ford of Premier Properties Sotheby’s International Realty. “Big windows capture the fabulous lighting.”
Enjoyment and Value
Big Bear lakefront homes range from $1 million to $5 million with prices remaining steady. “When it comes to lakeside properties, the values have held because they were really good to begin with. At the high end, they were never super inflated,” Ford says. What’s more, people are recognizing the “enjoyment value” of the lakeside lifestyle. “Homeowners are seeing these kinds of resort properties as something tangible, something that doesn’t disappear overnight, and an investment that brings them peace of mind.”
Lake homes, whether accessible or remote, tend to attract those with active lifestyles. Whitefish, MT, just 60 miles shy of the Canadian border, may look remote on a map, but it is an activities-rich destination with easy access to the slopes and golf courses. Many of the most distinguished lake residences have a timeworn patina. Timbers reclaimed from old Montana mines and dismantled wooden bridges give new homes built-in history.
Whitefish’s most recent real estate boom was fueled by second- and third-home buyers from as far away as New York, Florida and California, according to Pat Donovan with Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty. Private jet owners continue to take advantage of Glacier Park International Airport, just 10 miles away.
“Lakefront properties are the most desirable in this part of northwest Montana,” Donovan says. “There is a tremendous premium on lake property, at least double or triple other premium properties, and that ratio has held steady even in a changing market.”
Lakeside homes vary from region to region, whether by style, construction or usage. In Canada, architect Peggy Hlobil-Emmenegger of UCARCHITECT in Toronto, Ontario, says that because of the cold climate, lakefront homes are highly insulated. “We introduce sustainable features into all of our lakeside homes. This, in turn, helps to keep maintenance costs down.” Radiant floor heating, louvers to control solar gain and expansive glass windows that minimize the need for artificial light are some of the elements routinely incorporated into the firm’s building plans.
Hlobil-Emmenegger, who originally hails from the Czech Republic, says the lakeside lifestyle for second-home owners takes on a different meaning in Europe. Milder winters and compact geography means short and frequent escapes. In Canada, where urban dwellers have been cooped up all winter and lake regions can be multi-hour or even multi-day drives away, cities empty out for extended periods of time in summer as Canadians dig into their “country cottage” lifestyle.
In New England, Soupcoff of TMS Architects says most of the firm’s lakefront homes are built on wooded sites with a lot of topographical variation, often with natural outcroppings of stone. “We try to take advantage of whatever unique natural characteristics the site has and blend them into the design of the home.”
Four years ago, TMS designed a home on Lake Wentworth in Wolfeboro, NH for Paul and Sheila Galvani, less than a two-hour drive from their primary home in Winchester, MA. The five-bedroom, 5,400 square-foot clapboard residence was built with visiting children and grandchildren in mind. “Our interest was in having family and friends visit as much as possible, because it’s such a joy for us to have them on this beautiful lake,” Sheila says. The house replaced a smaller one the Galvanis owned on the same lake for more than 20 years.
The home seemingly recedes into its wooded setting and is designed with projecting bays, wings and banks of large windows to take advantage of two dramatic views, one of a protected marsh and the other across the lake to the Ossipee Mountain range. For the Galvanis, it perfectly captures the lakeside lifestyle ideal. “It’s a wonderful feeling to come back to this beautiful lakeside home,” she says. “It’s always peaceful and serene. It’s hard not to enjoy every minute of being here.”
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from Sotheby's International Realty