One couple builds an Adirondacks lakeside retreat log home with plenty of space for their family to expand.
All Phyllis and Steve Domnitz needed was a week’s vacation at Schroon Lake in New York’s Adirondack Mountains to realize that this was where they wanted to build their vacation home. Their children concurred that they would prefer the four-seasons atmosphere, where they could enjoy snow activities in winter, water recreation in summer and hiking year-round.
The Domnitzes were able to locate a 3/4-acre lot for sale on the lake. It was already cleared and ready for building because the previous home had burnt down.
“In our search for lakefront property, we often encountered very rocky beaches or very steep inclines from the lots to the water,” Phyllis says. “This acreage featured a gradual slope to the water, a sandy beach almost 30 feet long and 100 feet wide, with a sandy bottom extending well into the water. This is ideal for small children, as you don’t have to worry about them falling and hurting themselves on the rocks.”
Agreeing that a log home suited the land, Phyllis and Steve attended a log-home show to learn their options. There they met Doreen Chassie, co-owner of Country Log Homes, and were impressed with the rustic look of the company’s hand-peeled logs, which they felt would give their home more character.
The company supplemented the logs with framed construction and log siding for the great room prow to allow additional windows for a better view of Schroon Lake. Wanting to create a place where they, their extended family and friends could gather, the couple began their design with one of Country Log Homes’ standard floor plans.
They made several alterations, starting with making the second bedroom on the main level handicapped accessible to accommodate one family member who uses a wheelchair. The full bath is accessible to both this junior suite and the main living areas. Mindful that their teenage children would soon be leaving home for college and careers, the couple wanted their vacation to be able to accommodate them and spouses and children.
“The existing floor plan for the 1,350-square-foot main level floor plan specified two additional bedrooms and two full baths on the second level,” Steve recalls. “We opted to split the larger rooms into two smaller ones, giving us a total of six bedrooms and four baths on two levels.”
Their wish list also included having four of the six bedrooms facing the lake. As a result, two of the four on the upper level have a private balcony where guests can gaze at the moon and stars shining down on the lake. Each main-level bedroom sports a screened-in porch.
“The porch outside the master bedroom is one of my favorite places to relax with a cup of coffee and watch the wildlife around the lake,” Phyllis says.
The couple decided to make their wood-burning fireplace two-sided so they can enjoy it in both the living room and the dining area.
“The masonry heater design of the fireplace results in the stones actually being heated and emitting radiant heat into the rooms,” Steve explains. “The heat produced from the fireplace is augmented by a forced-air furnace powered by a geothermal system with a central air component for the warmer summer months.”
To avoid the expense of building a garage onto a vacation home, the Domnitzes opted for a two-car portico covering the main entrance. It also extends over the mudroom door and shelters them when they return from a day of skiing. To build the home, the couple engaged Guy Williams of C. Raymond Davis & Sons.
Steve and Phyllis made routine trips to the site to assess the progress and to make decisions about the interior design. Doreen Chassie also visited several times to offer technical advice and suggestions. Phyllis and Steve purchased all new furnishings for their Adirondacks lakeside retreat log home to fit a rustic theme. They wanted the home to be as simple as possible and a contrast to the more formal style of their primary residence in New Jersey.
They hired local craftsmen to build furniture to fit specific spaces and to provide the finishing touches to the home.
“The wood is so beautiful in this home, we want it to be the focal point,” Phyllis says. “We selected natural wood pieces and bright colors to augment the gorgeous hues in the logs.”
An interesting design element recurs in each of the home’s four full bathrooms.
“I wanted bathrooms big enough to be functional but small enough so as not to take away square footage from other rooms,” Phyllis explains. “To prevent these bathrooms from having a ho-hum appearance and to have them be as significant as the other rooms in our home, we asked Tim Hitt to use complicated patterns and different sizes of tile to make each one unique. The result is a great example of how you can be very creative even with small spaces.”
To keep the landscaping simple with minimal upkeep, the Domnitzes enlisted Mike Gillis of Top Flight Landscaping. Grassy areas in both the front and back yards complement the stone patio leading from the walkout lower level to the fire pit, where the family and guests gather on chilly evenings.
They added planting beds on both sides of the rock wall for herbs and colorful annuals. The remaining landscape consists of local perennials, bulbs, lilac and butterfly bushes, and evergreen trees. Steve credits all of the dedicated craftsmen who applied their talents for making the dream of having a gathering place a reality. He and Phyllis are able to leave the stress of their very hectic lives in New Jersey behind them as they head for their vacation haven.
“The closer we get to Schroon Lake, the more relaxed we become,” Phyllis says. “Here we can be as active as we want or just do nothing at all. It is perfect.”