Photography by Don Cochran
When Larry Brown was growing up, he spent summers bunking at a tiny cabin on the banks of Lake George in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. The area is known as the “birthplace of the American vacation” — and for good reason. Larry recalls weeks of pure magic, an endless blur of boating, swimming and fishing. “We would move up there on Memorial Day and not come home until Labor Day,” he says. In the hopes of reliving those blissed-out days, now with his wife, Kristen, and two daughters in tow, he kept a watch on local properties going up for sale.
Finally, the perfect piece of real estate hit the market. “It was actually the house next door to us growing up,” he shares. But while the location was ideal, the current 700-square-foot cottage left much to be desired. The couple wanted a place where the whole family could stretch out. They also wanted a structure that blended naturally into its environment and stayed true to its regional roots.
From the get-go, the couple locked onto the idea of a timber frame. “They wanted their home to reflect the flavor of the Adirondacks,” shares Ty Allen, the design- build manager on the project for New Energy Works Timberframers. “Our goal was to marry the vernacular of the Adirondacks with traditional timber framing.” With this in mind, the home is designed with diamond-shaped windows, lots of stone and dark wood tones, plus plenty of outdoor living space in the form of porches, decks and patios. “We wanted it to have the timeless look of an Adirondack-style lake house,” affirms Larry.
In yet another full-circle moment, Larry enlisted a buddy from his high school days to assist him with the build. Matt Cifone, who had spent time with him on his family’s neighboring property as a youth, was now in the business of building lakeside retreats as the owner of Cifone Construction. Thankfully, Matt’s local knowledge of the terrain helped the design and building team successfully navigate the tricky site elements, which included a compact building perimeter, blasting through layers of rock, traversing private dirt roads with limited access for equipment and steering clear of the septic system’s proximity to the site. Additionally, the crew was working against time, as they had to put a pause on construction during the summer season. “People come from all over the country to enjoy their vacation homes and cabins, and the last thing I wanted to do was disrupt that,” says Larry.
That same elevated level of consideration Larry extended to the neighbors is also represented in the degree of detail found throughout the three-story home. “Larry is very meticulous, so we did a lot of samples of materials,” says Matt. For the home’s timber frame, which features king post trusses with bottom chord curves, he chose kiln-dried Douglas fir. The framework is showcased in every room in the home, including the open gathering areas, main floor primary suite and two upstairs guest bedrooms. Carried through the interiors, natural finishes like oak floors, alder cabinetry and locally sourced stone reinforce the home’s quintessential Adirondack style.
While the finishes impart cozy, organic vibes, the spectacular lakeside scenery speaks for itself. Shockingly, one of the home’s can’t-miss views — the great room, looking towards the fireplace and out floor-to-ceiling windows to the water — almost didn’t materialize.
“In the original layout, the fireplace was situated on the opposite side of the room, but because of the three-bay design, I knew I’d have a better view if we flipped that,” Larry explains. So in the middle of construction, the plans pivoted. “My middle name should have been ‘change order,’” he adds with a laugh.
The updates made along the way and Larry’s heightened attention to detail through the whole process required a revolving door of meetings, phone calls and onsite visits. “As painful as that was, in the grand scheme of things, it was worth every moment,” Larry shares. “Our thought process behind the whole thing was that it would be something to live on through the family for generations to come.”
Larry isn’t the only one to recognize that the Lake George escape truly is something special: “This project was a realization of a long-time dream for Larry,” says Ty, “and being able to go back to his roots brought depth to the project that resulted in something really meaningful and enduring.”
Square Footage: 2,500
Timber provider/designer: New Energy Works
Builder: Cifone Construction Co.