Summertime at the Lake

These 2 lakefront retreats bring casual luxury to the “summer camp” ideal
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Photos courtesy of Pearson Design Group

When it comes to waterfront property, the approach to architecture is remarkably different from the traditional mountain home. The most idyllic lake homes aren’t flashy showpieces of architecture, but rather understated retreats that connect the landscape to the water.

The challenge of lakefront architecture is to not let a bigger ideology or architectural statement take precedence over integration with the landscape. The focus is on the location and a subtle design that doesn’t overwhelm the natural surroundings—and architectural expression evolves out of that. Even a bold, creative project can still evoke a more casual, free-spirited vibe.

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A home on the water must have a vivid connection to the outdoors, including views of the lake and easy access to the shore. After all, lakefront architecture is really about the lifestyle. A lake cabin must function in a very practical way.

Lake country living means a balance of relaxation and recreation, peaceful solitude and large family gatherings. There’s something intuitive about a lake house as a seasonal getaway, and a lakeside setting often inspires the nostalgia of summer camp.

A traditional summer camp has separate structures situated around a central gathering place, and this concept can be integrated into the design of lake homes—whether in the layout of a singular structure or a compound that may include a main living space, sleeping cabins, and a boathouse along the shore.

With elements of casual luxury, these two lakefront retreats embody the “lake camp” ideal.

Northshore Cabin

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With a modern, transitional edge, this lake house isn’t just a cabin in the woods.

The hip Montana retreat features “indigenous modern” architecture—with a clear sense of place and regional sensibility, which comes through in the steel and natural wood materials. The exterior is simple and industrial, while the inside feels like an old fishing cottage.

The “camp” includes a 285-square-foot boathouse-style studio on the shoreline and a 1,400-square-foot main house, with a great room and a two-story bedroom wing.​

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Upstate Lake Camp

Featuring a more traditional style and craftsmanship, this lake camp in upstate New York was once a dairy farm. To capture the charm and nostalgia of its past, the architectural design focuses on historical materials, detailing and scale.


The main house is integrated into the hill, overlooking the shoreline—where a boathouse provides access to recreation and an extension of living space on the water.

From the outside, the architecturally traditional features – such as the reconditioned gas lamps – create the feeling that the structures might not even have electricity or running water. On the inside, casual elegance is illuminated through the soft, warm ambience of the details and furnishings.

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Justin Tollefson, AIA is a principal architect at Pearson Design Group, a Bozeman, Montana-based integrated architecture and interior design firm that offers a broad range of design aesthetics. View their profile or contact them at 406.587.1997.

Content for this article provided by Pearson Design Group.

Categories: Cabins, Native Content