Design Diary: Sleek Cabin on Squam Lake by Tom Murdough

Last fall I wrote about a beautiful lake house in New Hampshire designed by Boston-based architect Tom Murdough for his extended family. The article, “Doing Wright,” appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of Boston Home Magazine. A blog post is long overdue; summer is the perfect time for it.

It’s a guest house just through the woods from his parent’s modernist home on Squam Lake, where Murdough and his three brothers spent their boyhood summers. The design is meant to immerse the family in the woods and help them engage with the surroundings. The transitions between indoors and out are seamless, with sliding doors opening to decks flush with the floors, expanses of glass,  and wood ceilings that run straight through on either side of the windows.

Murdough talks about various “stations” within the compound—the guest house and main house, each with multiple decks, a boat house, two docks on the lake , tennis court, and sport court—connected by paths. He says of the overall site plan, “Conceptually the idea is to encourage movement between the points.”

The house, as seen from the lake. The standing seam copper roof gleams in the sunlight.

People on decks from each house can see each other – or stand back for privacy. The kink creates a cozy area. Lounge chairs from Didriks.

Walls of glass put nature front and center, but do so quietly, because instead of clear cutting, most trees were left standing in order to offer a veiled, almost mysterious, view of the lake. The wood ceilings that run from the interior out to the exterior create a pavilion-like effect when the sliders are open.

Murdough designed the coffee table using a three planks of walnut cut from a single, larger piece, so the grains match up.  The  custom lounge is by Andy McSheffrey of Wood Design New Hampshire.

The floors and built-ins are American black walnut and the walls and ceiling are western red cedar.  George Nakashima chairs from Addo Novo.

A stainless steel backsplash and counter set off the walnut kitchen cabinets. The tabletop is Pietra Bedonia. The built-in bench that divides the living room and kitchen provides storage for rainy day games and extra seating.  Vibia ‘Duplo’ pendant from Chimera.

The family eats all its meals at the kitchen island. The stair support is constructed from is powder coated steel; the treads and handrail are walnut.

The narrow staircase with cable handrails is reminiscent of a ship’s gangway. Murdough says, “Descending, it’s a moment of quiet, before the openness of the main living space unfurls.”

One of two master suites.  Minka Aire ‘Flyte’ ceiling fan in brushed nickel with tiger maple blades.

The expanse of mirror extends the view.

The enclosed built-in desk nook is a tiny sanctuary. The offset window offers a framed view of a slice of the treetop canopy.

The house has lots of corner windows. Murdough says, “I like to break the corners of the building so you’re not looking through a conventional picture frame window.”

The kids’ bunk room. In addition to the bunk beds, there are three singles and a trundle.

Architectural details are minimized, mimicking boat construction, for a streamlined, tidy appearance.

You can see a camp influence here.

The ramp is the main entry. It provides a gentle transition from the wooded path from the main house, as well as the parking area, into the kitchen. You can’t actually drive a car up to the house; you’ve got to walk through the woods to get there.

A breezeway, that can closed off with barn doors, cuts though the house. A master suite is off one side, partitioned off from the rest of the house.

The boat house on the lake is also a play space for the kids on rainy days.

P H O T O S  BY  C H U CK  C H O I

Author: StyleCarrot

Marni Elyse Katz is a design writer and editor who lives in Boston and Cape Cod with her husband, two sons, and a cat. She blogs about design at

8 thoughts on “Design Diary: Sleek Cabin on Squam Lake by Tom Murdough”

  1. Since I was born…I spent my summers in NH…Squam Lake, Winnipesaukee, Merrimack River, ponds, my aunts pool in Salisbury, Weirs Beach, Pourtsmouth, Ogunquit Maine….the waters are endless. Now my daughter does the same thing each summer. I live in a mid century modern home built in Pennsylvania and always wondered WHY are there no modern homes in beautiful New Hampshire or Maine….or at least not that I knew of until now! Thank you, the home and the story is wonderful.

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