The vacation home has always had a special appeal. Whether it was wealthy industrialists of the 19th century, middle-class families in the North and Midwest, or the rich and famous, people have always embraced the idea of casting off the hustle and bustle of the big city for an idyllic location in the mountains or near a body of water.
A vacation home represents a reprieve from the fast-paced life and daily grind of deadlines, soccer games, and PTA meetings, but it also represents something else: a break from our primary residences. American consumers take their primary homes seriously—always have. With an eye on resale value, buyers rarely take chances on design, materials, and décor. Primary homes tend to have more formal floor plans, often with separate spaces for dining and living.
But the vacation home is just the opposite; it’s the place to take risks, a chance to experiment with architecture. Second-home layouts tend to be open, more relaxed and unfussy, and owners are typically more receptive to alternative material ideas. True, the average custom home client today is looking for open-plan living for their primary house, but the trend started with the vacation home.
This month, we look at three vacation homes that show the ways homeowners want to enjoy their downtime. Each project also presented different challenges that required bespoke solutions. In the Cascade Mountains, for example, Syndicate Smith had to navigate a sloping site, setbacks, and high-speed internet cables running above the site. Whitten Architects faced a remote location in Maine, inclement weather, and a site filled with ledge, while Jay Corder Architect had a challenge of a different sort: updating a home while honoring its original design by the late Texas regionalist icon, Frank Welch (see the digital issue for that project).
In the end, each architect succeeded in designing three relaxing homes that are tailored for their sites but also for how their owners live—and unwind.