A family enjoys every part of their home on Thompson lake.
By Laura Serino
Photographed by Brian Vanden Brink
Photographed by Brian Vanden Brink Sometimes it’s as much about the journey as it is about the destination. There are two ways to get to Thompson Lake, a quiet locale close to the busy lakes region. The faster way is Route 26, in the company of other travelers in a rush to dip their toes.
Then there’s the road less traveled. A windy drive through the back roads of Raymond into Poland. A landscape that changes from rolling and pastoral to thickly forested. A giant wooden sign for “Camp Fernwood” by the side of the road looks plucked right out of a kitschy eighties camp movie. For Michael and Kim Pelzar, a shaded, long driveway is the final leg before reaching their destination — the family’s lakefront retreat.
Michael bought his first lake cottage over fifteen years ago. It was more bachelor pad than family home, and when he and his wife Kim started growing their family, they soon needed more space. They weren’t just looking for a summer spot, but a home that they could use throughout the year for weekend visits. After two years and nearly thirty house tours later, a house came on the market that caught their eye. Situated on 8.5 acres with three hundred and fifty feet of waterfront, the house wasn’t the perfectly renovated home they were looking for, but they fell in love with it anyway.
“We didn’t want to miss out on our first summer on the lake, so we took that time to figure out what to do with the property,” says Michael.
That first summer allowed them to live in the space and take note of what wasn’t working. They enlisted the help of Fryeburg-based architect John Cole to help them decide what to do. “We talked about everything from tearing it down to just making cosmetic fixes,” says Cole. “As often happens in cases like this, people get to a point where they say, we’re only going to do this once, so let’s do it right.”
“John asked us what we wanted from the house and then told us he’d come back to us with some concepts,” says Michael. “He ended up coming back with just one because he felt it was such a natural fit for what we were looking for.” Adds Kim, “He had a vision far beyond anything we could have contemplated.”
Tackling a large renovation project remotely was a challenge for the couple. Based in the Boston area, the two were nervous about balancing busy jobs, two kids, and a major overhaul on their newly purchased home. And though the vision for the home was there, they still needed a builder they could trust.
John introduced them to Gregg Seymour of Seymour Construction, which is based in Western Maine and New Hampshire. Since the couple had already been narrowing down the bids, they were hesitant to add another player into the mix. In the end, though, they went with Seymour. “Gregg was phenomenal. We trusted him to make all the little decisions. He laid out an entire project plan, and he anticipated issues far ahead of us,” says Michael. “He was a great listener and he was flexible. He struck that perfect balance between taking control and listening to our needs.”
The first order of business was to remove the attached garage and build a large family room. “The garage was occupying the best location on the site, and we wanted to create a space that would take advantage of the sweeping lake views,” says Cole. The kitchen was given an overhaul to be more family friendly. It now flows openly to a larger dining area, which is furnished with a locally made barn-board table for family meals, all with a view of the fieldstone fireplace. They also wanted to expand the screened-in porch to accommodate a dining table and a built-in sectional sofa. “In the summertime, the porch becomes the living room,” says Michael.
The family of four wanted to be able to host visitors in their new home, so the basement was gutted and storage rooms were turned into guest bedrooms.
Inspired by a friend’s guest house on Martha’s Vineyard, the couple built another guest room, with a full bath and kitchenette, above their new detached garage.
To obliterate any remnants of the once suburban ranch home, Cole re-clad the exterior with red cedar siding. He gave it a contemporary twist by alternating bands of shingles and clapboards.
An oversized back lawn is the perfect place for afternoon wiffle ball games and big enough for many kids to play. “It’s rare to have an open yard leading down to the lake,” says Michael. A new dock was purchased from Great Northern Docks, which manufactures here in Maine. A platform at the end is the perfect spot to hop in and out of the family boat and watch a steady stream of kids plunge into the cool waters below. It’s not uncommon to catch a four-pound bass from the platform either.
It’s a serene place that’s almost eerily calm compared to the more bustling lakes in the area. “We can clear our minds when we’re here,” says Kim. Classic Adirondack chairs on the dock face southwest towards Shawnee Peak and Mayberry Hill. There’s also a view of two islands connected by a single-lane bridge, with only the occasional car shuffling by. It’s a reminder of the only journey everyone dreads — leaving.
Laura Serino is the web copywriter for L.L.Bean and the founder of the blog Fore Front Fashion.