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Summer Living

Up to 22 relatives stay at these Maine cabins, a treasured family heirloom

“This was about family, not luxury,” the architect says of the project. They wanted to stay true to camp life and eschewed adding AC or a washer and dryer.

In the main cottage (left), the first-floor primary bedroom, main living space, and the three second-floor bedrooms all have lake views, as do the sleeping porch and living area of the guest cottage (right). The owners’ grandchildren frolic among the trees.Trent Bell Photography

In 1959, Carden Welsh’s parents cashed in their life insurance policies to buy a getaway on Pequawket Lake in Limington, Maine. “They were careful to buy a place that faces west for afternoon sun in a spot where the lake has a sandy bottom with a gentle decline for swimming,” says Welsh, who was 6 years old at the time. “I’ve gone up there every summer, except one, since.”

His wife, Ann, spent summers at the lake with their kids, as did much of the extended family. Up to four generations gathered there. “We didn’t have enough bedrooms, so we pitched tents around the cabins,” Welsh says.

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A few years ago, the couple hired Caleb Johnson Studio to rebuild the deteriorating cabin and guest cabin to accommodate the growing family. “We wanted someone in Maine who understood lake houses,” Ann Welsh says.

The most important factor was that the camp retain its spirit, inside and out. “The whole effort revolved around nostalgia,” says architect David Morris, who led the project. While replacing the buildings made sense economically, Morris understood that preserving a sense of personal history was crucial. “They didn’t want to change the way they lived too much,” Morris says. “This was about family, not luxury.”

For instance, when it came time to discuss kitchen appliances, the couple balked at the thought of installing a dishwasher and a washer and dryer, maintaining that these modern conveniences were not part of lake life. In the end, they gave their children a choice of including one or the other; they chose a dishwasher. Neither building has heat or air conditioning.

Collectively, the camp is 2,700 square feet and sleeps 22. A main cottage and a guest cottage replaced the old cabins, which were painted orange. “My mother wanted the cabins to look like the brightly colored summer homes in Scandinavia called ‘hyttes’ because her father was Norwegian and her mother was Danish,” Carden Welsh says.

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While the orange-shingled garage remains, the new buildings’ clapboard siding is stained brown. That said, Morris incorporated orange accents to honor the legacy. The exterior window and door frames are painted orange, as are the porch posts. The birthdays of family members are carved into the posts in Morse code. “It’s a discreet way of putting names on buildings, and relates to the crafted quality of the architecture,” Morris says.

Inside, Morris left the buildings’ structures exposed to lend rugged character. Initially, the team assumed this would make the construction process easier. Not quite: “It required careful coordination to keep the wires from looking like spaghetti,” he says. Pine floorboards are similar in tone to the hemlock posts and beams, while the pine shiplap on the walls and ceilings are whitewashed to keep the interior light and bright while allowing the knots and graining to bleed through.

A stone fireplace anchors the main cottage’s open floor plan. “They spent a lot of time around the fireplace in the old camp and didn’t want to lose that,” Morris says. The building isn’t big, so the fireplace is streamlined but offers just the effect the family desired. The mantel is a leftover hemlock beam.

For the adjacent kitchen, the Welshes went with Morris’ suggestion of green cabinetry. “There are two predominant colors on the site: the green needles on the pine trees and the rusty orange needles that have dropped to the ground,” the architect says. He also pulled the color, Benjamin Moore Steamed Spinach, into the first-floor bath, along with the kitchen’s leathered granite countertops.

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As for the sleeping quarters, the primary bedroom and a bunk room are on the first floor, while three lake-facing bedrooms (and another bath) are upstairs. In all the bedrooms, towels and swimsuits hang on hooks between the studs and clothing gets tucked away in drawers under the beds. Morris took the same approach in the guest cottage, which has another bathroom, another bunk room, a bedroom, and a sleeping porch. The sleeping porch and the loft in the living space are favorite spots.

The couple is grateful that there is space for everyone and that their Maine family traditions live on. “I remember as a little kid, hearing the adults having a really good time playing cards when I went to sleep at night,” Carden Welsh says. “The grandchildren ask us to leave the doors open so they can hear us, 60 years later.”

RESOURCES

Architect: Caleb Johnson Studio, calebjohnsonstudio.com

Contractor: Woodhull of Maine, woodhullofmaine.com

Structural Engineer: Structural Integrity, structuralinteg.com

MORE PHOTOGRAPHS

While there is a kitchenette in the guest cottage, the family usually enjoys communal meals next door.Trent Bell Photography
The main cottage’s living space, which has views of and easy access to the lake, is hangout central.Trent Bell Photography
As in the bedrooms, the bed on the sleeping porch includes storage drawers.Trent Bell Photography
In the kitchen, pendants from Barn Light Electric Co. tie to the orange accents of the exterior. There's an island w/ three stools. And there are four matching pendant lights hanging in the space.Trent Bell Photography

Marni Elyse Katz is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.