A few years ago, the couple hired Caleb Johnson Studio to rebuild the deteriorated cabin and guest cabin to accommodate the growing family. “We wanted someone in Maine who understood lake houses,” says Ann Welsh.
The most important factor was that the camp retain its spirit, inside and out. “The whole effort revolved around nostalgia,” says architect David Morris, who led the project. Although replacing the buildings made economic sense, Morris understood that preserving a sense of personal history was crucial. “They didn’t want to change their way of life too much,” Morris says. “It was about family, not luxury.”
For example, when it came time to discuss kitchen appliances, the couple balked at the idea of installing a dishwasher and a washer and dryer, arguing that these modern conveniences were not part of the life of the lake. In the end, they gave their children the choice to include one or the other; they chose a dishwasher. Neither building is heated or air conditioned.
Collectively, the camp measures 2,700 square feet and can accommodate 22 people. A main chalet and a guest chalet replaced the old cabins, which were painted orange. “My mum wanted the cabins to look like the brightly colored summer houses in Scandinavia called ‘hyttes’ because her father was Norwegian and her mother was Danish,” says Carden Welsh.
While the orange shingle garage remains, the new buildings’ clapboard siding is tinted brown. That said, Morris incorporated orange accents to honor the heritage. Exterior window and door frames are painted orange, as are the porch posts. Birthdays of family members are engraved into the messages in Morse code. “It’s an unobtrusive way of putting names on buildings, and relates to the crafted quality of the architecture,” says Morris.
Inside, Morris left the building structures exposed to provide a rugged character. Initially, the team assumed this would make the build process easier. Not quite: “It took careful coordination to keep the threads from looking like spaghetti,” he says. Pine floorboards have a similar tone to hemlock posts and beams, while pine shiplap on the walls and ceilings are whitewashed to keep the interior light and bright while allowing knots and grain of bleeding.
A stone fireplace anchors the main chalet’s open floor plan. “They spent a lot of time around the fireplace in the old camp and didn’t want to waste that,” Morris says. The building is not large, so the fireplace is uncluttered but offers just the effect the family was looking for. The mantle is a leftover hemlock beam.
For the adjacent kitchen, the Welsh followed Morris’ suggestion of green cabinetry. “There are two predominant colors on the site: the green needles on the pines and the rusty orange needles that have fallen to the ground”, explains the architect. He also introduced the color, Benjamin Moore Steamed Spinach, to the first-floor bathroom, as well as the kitchen’s leather-finished granite countertops.
As for the dorms, the master bedroom and a bunk room are on the first floor, while three lake-facing bedrooms (and another bathroom) are upstairs. In all rooms, towels and bathing suits are hung on hooks between tenons and clothes are stored in drawers under the beds. Morris took the same approach in the guest house, which has another bathroom, another bunk room, a bedroom, and a sleeping porch. The sleeping porch and the loft in the living space are favorite spots.
The couple are grateful that there is room for everyone and that their Maine family traditions continue. “I remember when I was little, hearing adults having a really good time playing cards when I fell asleep at night,” says Carden Welsh. “The grandchildren ask us to leave the doors open so they can hear us, 60 years later.”
Architect: Caleb Johnson Studio, calebjohnsonstudio.com
Service provider: Woodhull of Maine, www.woodhullofmaine.com
Structural engineer: Structural Integrity, structuralinteg.com
Marni Elyse Katz is a regular contributor to Globe Magazine. Send your comments to [email protected]