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Award-Winning Beach Cottage Remodel

Reclaimed materials, optimized layout & storage, and beautiful design make for a mini retreat that's all about maximum fun on the water
By Fran Sigurdsson
Published: May 1, 2012
small cottage renovation
OUTDOOR LIVING – Setbacks from the high-water mark whittled the screened porch’s width from a proposed 11 feet to 5 feet. The Webers replaced the roof and added a walkway leading to the beach.
Photo by Great Island Photography
Is it a cabin or a cabana? No matter – Gerry and Sheri Weber call their mini retreat perfect. “We love it,” says Sheri of this 440-square-foot getaway on Pleasant Lake, N.H.

Actually, the couple owns another much loved (and bigger) retreat on a mill pond just a quarter mile away. A short commute from their north Boston residence, the Webers vacation there year-round, as they have for the past 20 years.

A quest for dock space, though, led these Midwest natives to “The Point,” a lakeside enclave of vintage rental cabins. When the property came on the market in 2010, the couple purchased a part of it.

With 800 feet of waterfront, there’s plenty of room for the family’s Sea Ray boat and sundry water toys. Their 1.6-acre lot also came with two century-old cabins.

Since town regulations allow only one per lot now, the Webers decided to remodel the cabin on the beach. Dismantling the other on the point opened the view of the lake.

Another bonus: the salvaged components could be used in the remodel, greatly reducing the amount of new material needed for the project and debris destined for the landfill.
small cottage renovation
DEEP BREATH – During renovation, existing living room windows became a set of glass doors that offer an expansive, sigh-inducing view of a gorgeous Pleasant Lake beyond.
Photo by Great Island Photography
Opening up & preserving heritage
The beach cabin was in good shape for its age, but dark and rough inside. The goal was to maximize space, natural light and lake vistas. “We had very specific things we wanted to do,” says Sheri, a former property manager whose experience with architects, landscapers, and tradesmen came in handy during the project. “That’s the fun of having a cabin – you fix it up and make it your own.”

She found inspiration in books and magazines – Cabin Life included – on cabin design and lakefront living. The Webers brought the stack to architect Jeremy Bonin, AIA, of New London, N.H., who distilled common themes from pages of images. On the wish list: a cathedral ceiling, French doors, lots of glass, and a screened back porch facing the lake.

Lots of open storage was another must. Builder Jay Tucker of Old Hampshire Designs in New London was called in to do the revamping. Old Hampshire sanded floors, opened the ceiling, and created built-in nooks and cubbies. “It’s still all exposed wood inside, like a beach house,” says Tucker. “We upgraded it, painted it, made it a pretty little living space.”

“We tried to use as much of the original materials as possible,” notes Bonin. “We turned casement windows on their sides, reframed and regrouped others.” Bonin also guided the couple through a maze of required permits, as the cabin is just 50 feet from the water.
small cottage renovation
LIVING SPACE – A 1970s-era Vermont Castings woodstove heats the three-season cabin. The 15-foot-high cathedral ceiling was left natural; walls were painted an off-white shade.
Photo by Great Island Photography
Overflow vacationing
Between them, the Webers have five daughters (the youngest is 13) and two grandchildren. With a growing family, plus relatives and friends, accommodating overflow from the mill pond was a priority. A sleeping loft tucked underexposed rafters sleeps two adults. A large sectional couch plus inflatable mattresses on the porch can sleep four to six more. “The kids put up tents on the beach,” laughs Sheri.

Fun on the water

Converting the lower level from garage to boathouse provides storage for the family’s kayaks and Gerry’s wood classics – a 1950 Penn Yan rowboat and a 1971 Merrimack canoe. “Whenever I’m up there for three days, I throw the Chris-Craft in,” says Gerry, describing his latest find – a 1959 ski boat, restored mahogany gleaming like new.

As you may have guessed, water activities – swimming, kayaking, tubing, water-skiing – are favorite pastimes for this outdoorsy clan. So are fishing and fly-fishing. One of three good-size lakes in the Sunapee region, 6½-mile-round Pleasant Lake has held the record for brook trout, smallmouth bass, and landlocked salmon. Then there’s what Sheri dubs the “chardonnay cruise” – a couple of laps around the lake – one of New Hampshire’s top 10 cleanest – at sunset. “It’s been a great place,” she says contentedly. Point well taken, we’d say.

Design resources

In 2011, the New Hampshire Chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarded Jeremy Bonin the prestigious Merit and People’s Choice awards for “The Point” project. Jurors’ comments: “Understated, simple, cost-effective renovation. Excellent use of limited space. Restrained and authentic in use of materials and details. In some ways, this is the most appealing project … maybe it speaks to the desire for simplicity in all of us.”
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The Original Cabin
Before the remodel, the little lakeside cottage looked very ordinary. But architect Jeremy Bonin, AIA, of New London, N.H., gave it a new lease on life with a cathedral ceiling, French doors, lots of glass, and a screened back porch facing the lake.
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