14-foot-wide archway
Photo: Jim Franco
A graceful, 14-foot-wide archway ties the family room and kitchen together, creating a sense of intimacy in what might otherwise feel like an enormous open space. The upper cabinets, made of rock maple, are 16 inches deep, rather than the standard 12, to more easily accommodate large plates and platters.

A nice piece of land never loses its appeal, but sometimes the house that's sitting on it falls into dated obsolescence. That's precisely what architect Jay Haverson found when he checked out a just-on-the-market lakeside property in his hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut. By far the best thing about it was the site, 11?3 sunny acres beside little Frye Lake, a rarity just 10 minutes from town. The worst thing was the house, a deteriorating 1960s builder's Colonial with zero architectural merit. "It was truly ugly," says Haverson. "But it had one redeeming feature: the foundation."

What made the house's humble underpinnings beautiful to the architect was the way they hugged the shoreline. The original structure was configured in a Y shape, with three wings that came as close as 15 feet to the water. The foundation had weathered well, and the local wetlands conservation agency would allow for a new home to rise over the old footprint. "I look at lots of properties," says Haverson. "But I fell in love with this one right away."

Of course, whenever a house is demolished, it's always reassuring if its replacement is architecturally sophisticated enough to be worth the sacrifice. Knowing that his new house had to be deserving of such a special site, Haverson, an architect for more than 25 years, knew in his gut that a lakeside interpretation of Shingle style would fit the place perfectly. "It's a casual, open style of architecture, very picturesque and full of character with elements like steep gables, flared walls, towers, porches, and decks," he says. "A Shingle style could flow with the site and really be married to it."

To get from love to marriage, Haverson also had to think about how to fit such a house to the way people live today. "This is not a center-hall Colonial with a formal room to the left and a formal room to the right," he says of the new four-bedroom home, which has a great-room kitchen and plenty of casual seating areas inside and out from which to enjoy the view. "I envisioned a place that felt like a weekend house all week long."

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