A Bold Connecticut Lake House

A weekend getaway for an active family has all the bells and whistles.
Daniel Frisch Architecture

Photography by James Schriebl

“This is a house that was built to be used,” says architect Daniel Frisch of Daniel Frisch Architecture, “not to impress.” The house, formerly the Birches Inn, sits on Lake Waramaug in the northwest corner of Connecticut. Frisch’s clients, a family with two teenage boys, wanted a weekend house where they could host friends and family, and a place their boys would want to bring friends. Yes, it has—in addition to the pool and lake—a squash court and a golf simulator inside, but it also has a subtlety and an intimacy. “There is never a moment when this house feels disarm- ing or intimidating,” says Frisch. “It’s a laid back and comfortable place.” 

Frisch came on board to finish the boat house, which had a midcentury approach that he and his team used as a prototype for the home. “We found a certain magic in the way the boat house was approached and ended up taking the main house down to the studs—save for one fireplace. The siting of the house is a big part of its success—it’s meant to be quiet and unassuming.” Frisch brought on his in-house designer Zoe Settle to help the client with the interior. “The client has a real passion for design—she could have done this herself,” says Settle. “But she realized I could help ease her load and really bring her vision to life.” 

Daniel Frisch Architecture

Photography by James Schriebl

“Zoe’s work style is collaborative,” notes the client, “and that was critical.” The vibe of the house is decidedly midcentury, without going overly modern. “My previous houses were more neutral, and I’ve always wanted to explore a different style.” A textile with a blue and orange color combination was the original inspiration that she and Settle expanded on. Oh, and there was one absolute no-no: “She did not want anything with white or black in it,” says Settle. 

The size of the house presented its own challenges for Settle. A catwalk on the second floor opens up to the living spaces below. Upstairs, the master and two guest rooms have lake views in the front portion of the house, while one other bedroom is overlooking the pool. The back of the house has two bunk rooms. The catwalk winds around the living spaces, including the entrance where a custom-colored Kyle Bunting rug in blues, oranges, grays and greens pops against the walnut paneling. 

Daniel Frisch Architecture

Photography by James Schriebl

The kitchen’s double height also presented a challenge to Settle: “How do you go about lighting when it needs to function but also make sense with what’s going on from above?” Pendants from Lapere with custom colored merino-wool fabric sleeves play off the entrance’s artwork and speak to colors that carry through the house. Cabinets by Deane, Inc. are navy blue lacquer, and the bar cabinets fronts are antique mirror glass with walnut interiors peeking through. “It’s a riff of a traditional lake house” says Settle. “This is obviously not a traditional house, but it’s warm and inviting with a grounding palette.” 

A library adjacent to the family room faces a double-sided fireplace. “He [the client] primarily works from home and didn’t want to be tucked away in a bedroom,” says Settle. “It was empowering to give the office prime seating in the middle of the house. It gives utility to what can be an unused living room.” 

In the pool lounge—double height like the kitchen—Settle designed a custom sectional that could seat the entire family and then some. The room is meant to be as comfortable watching television as slinging cocktails. Opposite the TV wall is a bar with faux snakeskin cabinet doors and a blue-and-green glass mosaic on the wall behind. “It’s exactly what the homeowner wanted—a room you will never get bored of, and there’s always something else to look at,” says Settle. “We put in a lot of effort to curate the glass and ceramic objects on the tile wall. It’s those small details that give a project so much meaning.” 

“I love how we live here, and that we have space to spread out and host family and friends, but at the same time we have wonderful living spaces that bring us together,” says the client. Adds Frisch, “We talk a lot about houses as souls and that soul comes from the owner. This house has a happy soul.”  

Ct Lake House Pool

Photography by James Schriebl

The print version of this article appeared with the headline: State of Play.