How do you transform a summer camp, that stalwart of nostalgic warm weather activities, into a sturdy family home able to weather fierce New England winters, without taking away from its essential character?
That was the question put to design duo Vivian Lee and James Macgillivray, the cofounders of the architecture studio , when they took on the renovation of Camp Kent in Kent, Connecticut. The original coed summer camp was almost archetypal; indeed, the horror movie Friday the 13th Part 2, about the unfortunate fates of a group of camp counselors, . The camp closed shortly after the movie was released, in 1982, according to a , and several of the bunks and buildings were cobbled together into a summer house.
LAMAS’ clients, a young family, hoped to fully winterize the summer house. For LAMAS that meant taking what Lee called an “agglomerated little shack,” made up of three of the old cabins, the music room, the “Feeling Better” infirmary, and an old boat house, and turning it into a truly substantial family home that nonetheless reflects its heritage.
Photographer notes, of visiting the home, “It’s completely transporting. It feels like you’ve traveled a great deal of time and a great deal of distance.”
The key, of course, to preserving that sense of a place out of time, was to get the home into winter-ready shape, while protecting the nostalgic features. “[Its] quality as something temporal, or as something summer-camp-like mattered a lot,” notes Lee, “We basically had to get it up to code, while retaining that summer camp feel.”
In order to achieve that, they took their cues from the original architecture. “We drew a lot of inspiration from the original bunks,” explains Lee. The interior is almost entirely clad in pale, knotted pine shiplap of the kind familiar to anyone who has frequented rustic corners of New England. She says, “We used a kind of rough sawn board. That was important to work in early on, because that was very much characteristic of the [original].”
Inside, the pale wood contrasts sharply with an arboreal green trim around the windows. A number of these are original to the house. The clients had initially considered steel windows, but ultimately LAMAS settled on a novel solution: they had some of the windows, as well as the two doors, made by , in Nova Scotia. These thoroughly winterized pieces have a more industrial look, but still pair beautifully with the older windows already in the house.
The stone fireplace, with its rough-hewn wooden mantel, is also original to the space, as are the porcelain sinks in the kids’ bathroom upstairs. The kids’ area is situated in a brand-new dormer lofted above the original space. In the master bath, a dramatic shower features tiles by .
The kitchen was designed by LAMAS, with the assistance of dedicated local millworker Wayne Tobin, who drew and redrew his plans by hand to get all the details just-so. The appliances are from , , , and . The light fixtures are mostly from , with the exception of the ceiling fans.
Before getting started on the house, LAMAS dealt with the surrounding land. Camp Kent, lodged in a hilly part of the Connecticut countryside, needed to be regraded in order to put in a driveway that would be accessible when ice and snow made the terrain treacherous. They created a winding driveway in place of the steep trails one-time campers would have used, and moved a small outbuilding, a potting shed, to the edge of the driveway next to the house, where its weathered shingle harmonizes with the red-brown pine cladding on the exterior of the house, faithfully matched to the original by contractor John W. Dinneen & Son.
“It’s meant,” says Lee, “to look like nothing. Does that make sense? Like, effortlessly, it was there the whole time.”
See more images of the house below. Photography: , Interior Staging: Susie Catlin, Architecture: ; Furnishings: