Explore a Lakefront Home that Proves Rustic can be Chic

October 22, 2021

A vintage waterfront lodge becomes a sophisticated year-round residence that pays homage to its rustic origins.

Text by Paula M. Bodah    Photography by John Gruen    Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent

Long before they bought the stone-and-clapboard house tucked into the craggy hillside of a Litchfield County lake, the couple knew that if they ever needed help with interior design, they would turn to Joanna Seitz. The two had often stopped by J. Seitz & Co.’s New Preston shop and admired the designer’s style and sensibility. “She sources her items from ethical producers, she supports craftsmanship, and she has fantastic taste in curating a combination of elements that balance the warmth of home with refinement and beauty,” the homeowner says.

Since its construction, the rustic lodge, designed in 1934 by Danbury architect Robert Charles Kilborn, had been lived in by just two families. It no doubt still held echoes of happy summer vacations and weekend getaways when its current owners bought it in 2018. They envisioned making their own happy memories, but first, a bit of renovation was in order. They wanted a place suitable for year-round living, and that meant expanding bedrooms, updating and enlarging baths, and creating a spacious new kitchen and dining area. “The art would be in maintaining the home’s natural beauty and history,” the homeowner explains. “It was very important to us to have our renovation reflect and keep intact that sense of
New England lake house lodge.”

Essex-based architect Jennifer Tate teamed up with New Milford carpenter Carl Wise on a renovation so seamless no one would suspect a hammer or saw had ever been wielded. New random-width vertical paneling, milled by nearby New England Joinery Works, blends with the existing wood on the walls. In the bedrooms, where exposed ceiling rafters lend an airy feel, new panels are an exact match for the old. “We had the original house plans to use as a starting point,” Tate explains, “so we were able to work with what was there and retain the original character.”

Seitz and the owners agreed an earthy palette was key to maintaining authenticity, but they wanted to avoid cliché. “The mission was to keep it simple and sophisticated but not trite in terms of the cabin look,” Seitz says.

Against a backdrop of grays and browns, Seitz set comfortable, low-key furniture and accessories. In the log-walled living room, a massive fieldstone fireplace holds court over twin 100-inch-long sofas and a pair of deep, comfy swivel chairs, all from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Overhead hang modern pendants of black metal from Global Views, pieces chosen by the husband, who selected all the home’s light fixtures. Seitz gives him high praise for his choices. “You expect an antler chandelier, right?” she says. “Instead, everything is very contemporary and unexpected.”

The dining room and sunroom take a midcentury modern turn with low-profile pieces, like the simple dining table and the sunroom’s sleek daybeds, to keep the focus on the lovely views.

The couple knew they were onto something good from their first visit to J. Seitz. “We’re a great trio,” the homeowner says. “I found the property and oversaw the construction, my husband chose the colors and lighting that would make the home glow, and Joanna took our vision and put all the pieces in place to make it our home.”

Project Team
Architecture: Jennifer Tate, Tate + Burns Architects
Interior design: Joanna Seitz, J. Seitz & Co.
Builder: Carl Wise, Wise Carpentry