Off shore

Lead­ing New Zealand artists in a 1970s Con­necti­cut lake house

HOME Magazine NZ - - Contents - Text Sam Eich­blatt Pho­tog­ra­phy Emily An­drews

Leafy, pas­toral and pop­u­lated with gra­cious Vic­to­rian-era build­ings, the small, quiet town of Sal­is­bury in north-west Con­necti­cut has his­toric cre­den­tials dat­ing back to the mid-1700s, and is known for be­ing the home of Amer­ica’s first public li­brary.

Life in its ad­ja­cent vil­lage of Lakeville is ori­ented around the 143-hectare Wonon­scopo­muc Lake: boat­ing and swim­ming at The Grove, the town’s pri­vate beach, in sum­mer; cross-country ski­ing and snow­shoe­ing in win­ter. In other words, it’s not the first place you’d ex­pect to be greeted at the front door by Michael Parekowhai’s burly se­cu­rity guard, ‘Kapa haka (Pakaka)’, who tow­ers over vis­i­tors to Cathy and Bob Shyer’s home. However, this lake­side hol­i­day house is hardly typ­i­cal of quaint Con­necti­cut ei­ther. Designed in 1970 by Amer­i­can ar­chi­tect Peter Bohlin for a mem­ber of his own fam­ily, it’s a piece of an un­likely ar­chi­tec­tural lin­eage that later devel­oped into his stu­dio’s award-win­ning de­signs for more than 30 Ap­ple flag­ship stores around the world, in­clud­ing the tech gi­ant’s now-iconic land­mark glass block on Fifth Av­enue, New York. From its street and side el­e­va­tions, the house has a low-slung, al­most mono­lithic pres­ence with few win­dows, shaped like a cou­ple of long, tim­ber-clad con­tain­ers stacked atop one an­other, and fit­ting closely into the de­cep­tively small, lightly wooded site it in­hab­its. To the rear, there’s a small, al­most-en­closed low-main­te­nance kitchen gar­den with pots of basil and a trel­lis of hon­ey­suckle that at­tracts hum­ming­birds; it gets so hot out here in sum­mer that the pre­vi­ous own­ers nick­named it ‘Florida’. However, once in­side, there’s no sug­ges­tion that the prop­erty’s bound­aries are any­thing but ex­pan­sive. Banks of win­dows run the full width of both up­per and lower floors along the lake-fac­ing side of the house, and the ar­chi­tec­ture – par­tic­u­larly the soar­ing, wood­lined shel­ter­ing struc­ture over the deck – chan­nels the view out over the wide and un­in­ter­rupted wa­ters of Lake Wonon­scopo­muc, which lies at the foot of the slop­ing lawn be­low. A rus­tic pri­vate jetty gives easy ac­cess to the water, with the beach and friends a short pad­dle­board or kayak away. For the Shy­ers, who first came to see the house 18 years ago when the in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tion con­sisted of an

in­con­gru­ous green shag-pile carpet and a pink-painted bed­room, the views were the ma­jor at­trac­tion. “What sold the house to me is the way it captured and framed the view. Ev­ery room faces the water, and we eat out on the deck from May to Septem­ber,” says Cathy, a New Zealand ex­pat who mar­ried Bob, a na­tive New Yorker, in 1993 after meet­ing on a business trip to Cal­i­for­nia. The cou­ple has an apart­ment in Man­hat­tan, but they spend much of the sum­mer at the lake house, which is home to an art collection from New Zealand, Asia and the Pa­cific. “Bob got very in­ter­ested in New Zealand, and espe­cially Māori art,” says Cathy, in­di­cat­ing the tuku­tuku panel, which was orig­i­nally a gift to the US am­bas­sador. Her favourite piece is the wall-sized Hotere in the bed­room: “A beau­ti­ful paint­ing to wake up to.” It took five vis­its to the house be­fore the cou­ple was sure they could, with some tweaks, make it work for a fam­ily (their daugh­ter, El­iz­a­beth, was two when they pur­chased the house). The first step was to re­model the break­fast room to be­come an­other bath­room and to give the kitchen an open floor plan. Mi­nor ad­just­ments in the garage al­lowed the sporty fam­ily some­where to leave their damp beach tow­els and ski gear. “I asked around a bit and then called a local ar­chi­tect, Sam Posey, who had a sen­si­tiv­ity to con­tem­po­rary houses,” says Cathy. “He apol­o­gised and said he was too busy with a new pro­ject – but he was as­tounded to find we had a Peter Bohlin house, be­cause it turned out he’d been an ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dent of Bohlin’s work. He told me he’d be over in 45 min­utes, with a book on Bohlin’s work.” To­day, the house works per­fectly as the low-main­te­nance prop­erty they first imag­ined. When it’s just the cou­ple and El­iz­a­beth, they can live com­pletely up­stairs, but there are an­other three bed­rooms and a bath­room down­stairs for guests, as well as a sep­a­rate liv­ing space that gives out to the lawn. After ren­o­vat­ing, they sim­ply painted the in­te­ri­ors white, in­stalled their art collection and moved in. Cathy now vol­un­teers and sits on many local boards, in­clud­ing the Lake As­so­ci­a­tion, and has been stag­gered by the com­mu­nity spirit and wealth of out­door ac­tiv­i­ties of­fered by the local area. “Ev­ery­one’s shoul­ders drop a cou­ple of inches when we ar­rive from NYC,” says Cathy. “Be­cause we live in the city, I missed the water and just wanted light, the views, the sun­sets. Be­ing able to get out on the water is ev­ery­thing.”

“What sold the house to me is the way it captured and framed the view. Ev­ery room faces the water...”

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