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From Rustic Camp to Elegant Lake House

By Polly Saltonstall

Photos by Sarah Szwajkos

This screen porch is connected to the kitchen by wide folding doors. It also contains one of the homeowner’s wish-list items: a pizza oven.

Ron and Angela Valentine had owned a small rustic camp in Casco on Sebago Lake for about 15 years when they decided the time had come to improve the house to make it a year-round home with room for their four adult sons and lots of entertaining.

The couple, who spend their winters in Derry, New Hampshire, had a good idea of what they wanted: a walk-out basement, lots of windows to showcase their view of the lake, a pizza oven, and an equal number of bathrooms and bedrooms. They went on house tours and even drew up a plan for themselves.

But when it came time to actually get started, their contractor, Don Nichols of Don Nichols Building in Windham, urged them to hire an architect. He even gave them a name: Paul Attardo of Yarmouth-based Attardo Architecture and Design. The Valentines were first-time homebuilders and had never worked with an architect. In the end they were glad they went that route. “It was the best money I spent,” Ron Valentine said. “Paul was just so easy to work with. He had ideas. I had ideas. We’d go back and forth.”

As part of the design process, the architect made a 3D model of the proposed house, which the Valentines found very helpful.

Valentine was especially grateful for how Attardo helped navigate the state’s complex rules about building in a shoreland zone, which involved meetings with the local code enforcement officer, the water district, and the Department of Environmental Protection, among others.

Working on a project such as this in the shoreland zone is complicated, Attardo said. Zoning rules dictated that within 100 feet of the water a building’s footprint and interior volume could be expanded by no more than 30 percent. Adding to the complexity was that the house on the land side is quite close to a small road, creating additional setback issues.

“Each time we made a revision we had to rebalance square foot and volume calculations,” Attardo said. “It was interesting to balance the mathematics side with the aesthetic side of things. In the end we were within one cubic foot of the allowed expansion.”

For his part, Attardo said he enjoyed working with the Valentines, and appreciated their openness to new ideas.