A new building site always has a ‘best place’ – the small place to which we’re drawn, where we feel content, where we find the best view, the best access to the sun. If you brought a lunch, you would eat it here, looking out to the view. When we have finished a home we have multiplied these places, now there is a best place in the summer when there is cool breeze from the north, a best place in the fall when the weakened sun shines in the morning, a best place in winter to have a drink and watch the sometimes brief flash of light at the end of the day. The moments of sensual experience these places provide are the soul of the home – they are emotional connections back to the land, the season, and the people who share our lives.
In Lake House 2 one of my favorite experiences is looking out from behind the kitchen island. The kitchen is always the heart of the home, and here it is the axis about which all the living areas revolve. To the right, looking through the tracery of steel beams and columns, sits the living and dining area, surrounded by windows. From the dining area the view is extended outside to a small courtyard that provides a shady place to sit in summer and just beyond, trees screen the lake’s edge. Across the waters of the lake, the city stands – surrounded by low green hills with a backdrop of white mountains.
Shifting your gaze to the left, follow the blue line of the lake as it leads back from the city to the living areas of the home and is briefly interrupted by the stone fireplace that stands as a monument to the mason’s craft – a bluestone laid up so fine it looks to my eye like corduroy. Still following the lake to the left you are led outside to the terrace. On the terrace there is a fire ring surrounded by chairs, a dining table, and covered barbeque counter that in fine weather is busy with friends and family. Four large trees are placed around the terrace, shading it in summer, their trunks recalling the steel frame of the home. The trees also frame the view to the lake, and beyond the green shoreline. In the evening the eye is drawn out further as the distant lights of jets rise up from the airport.
I like to see the strong horizontal lines of the home follow the line of the lake. The repetition of steel beams, pattern of wood on the ceiling, horizontal lay of the stone, and long linear planting beds of the terrace all resonate with the horizon of blue water. I find this view so satisfying because you can see the home transform itself as it moves along the shoreline from a home held in the surrounding landscape, to a landscape held within the arms of the home.
There is a huge sense of accomplishment at the completion of a home but I also feel a sense of loss. A home, this child of our imagination that we have worked on for 3 to 4 years, is given up to the owners and we rarely see it again. I am filled with a great curiosity to see it in all its moods throughout the seasons. I can imagine it in winter, again from my favorite place in the kitchen, watching the snow gently fill the bare, cold table and chairs on the terrace and beyond the steel gray of the lake. While to my right, the glow of a warming fire is reflected in the faces of friends on the couch. Beyond, a table is set, lit by candles. A home is made for these moments of deep pleasure, connecting you to your small place on the earth and to the larger space of your affections.
Every home is the creation of a new life, a new way of seeing and engaging the world. This is one instance of how a home comes to life – gradually unfolding a rich field of experience that we come to know through the passing of seasons and rituals of family.