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Project DetailS
Freedom, New Hampshire

Loon Lake Retreat

Loon Lake RetreatLoon Lake Retreat

Our clients have generations of family history in this small town in New Hampshire situated between the Lakes Region and the White Mountains. They imagined a home that expressed deep and enduring ties to this place, while reflecting a breadth of ideas learned abroad, such as the concept of Wabi-sabi, the traditional Japanese aesthetic that centers on the acceptance of the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete in nature.

Our site-specific design began with surveying and collecting quantitative and qualitative data from the site. The property is a peaceful lakefront plot featuring tall pines and hemlocks. An initial challenge in gathering understanding and inspiration was the existing dilapidated cabin that occupied the site. The sprawling structure, with its decaying texture and detail, presented a psychological challenge to imagining a fresh natural site and potential architectural intervention. We built a physical scale site model with layers of cork to help visualize the site’s potential. We determined that the new house footprint, being smaller, would sit inside the existing cabin footprint to maximize views down the lake and receive winter sunlight while minimizing site impact. A screened porch, situated on piers, could be nestled in the woods with minimal impact to the earth and surrounding trees. The porch appears like a lantern in the woods from the house and offers another point of view to the site.

While the floor plan is modest in interior size, the T‑shape plan implies two courtyards — extending the domestic zone of the home into the landscape. Granite boulders, emerging between hardscape, express the splice of the architectural intervention with nature. The entry courtyard is to the north and the south courtyard gestures toward the fire pit and lake. The living space, housed in the vertical leg of the T, opens with glass sliding doors and a corner window to the lake. Windows high along the north wall of the living space offer light and ventilation and provide privacy. The horizontal leg of the T contains the bedrooms and bathrooms. The master bedroom opens to a private patio with an outdoor shower facing the lake.

The house is clad, like a cut log, with bark and sapwood. The “bark” is Western red cedar stained black giving it a Shou Sugi Ban appearance, inspired by the ancient Japanese technique that preserves wood by charring it with fire. The “sapwood” siding undercover, along the entrance axis, is Douglas fir with a natural oil finish.

The interior wood cabinetry finishes mirror the dark and light treatment of the exterior cladding. The interior floor is polished concrete and the walls are unpainted veneer plaster, a nod to New Hampshire’s tradition of veneer plaster that is still used today. By leaving the plaster unpainted, the hand-troweled texture is revealed. The plaster treatment continues at the corner fireplace.

The curated selection of furniture is limited to what is essential. The concept of “beauty in imperfection” can be seen throughout the spaces such as the 60s vintage Ligne Roset Cinna with visible wear or the entry bench constructed from a solid block of Maine ash with splits and checks. The fabric selection is soft, natural linens with pops of rust and deep forest green to welcome the outside landscape in.

Our clients challenged us to think deeply about how a home can be an expression of a particular place and unique people. As a team of collaborators, we welcomed the challenge and were enriched by designing with Wabi-sabi in mind, in the hopes that the house — like us — will age gracefully, developing a patina and gaining wisdom as it does.

In 2021, this project won both an AIA New Hampshire Honor Award for Excellence in Architecture as well as an AIA Maine Honor Award for Excellence in Architecture. In addition, it received a for Small Home Design Award from New Hampshire Home magazine in 2020.

Project Completion Date: 2020


Trent Bell Photography


-Builder: K.P. Hood Construction
-Interior Designer: Heidi Lachapelle Interiors
-Landscape Architect: Soren Deniord Design Studio
-Engineering: Albert Putnam Associates

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