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New Hampshire ski house ideal for guests

The house sleeps 11  —  and makes hosts and their friends feel at home.

By Sarah Pinneo
Globe Magazine Correspondent / December 3, 2011
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When Reynold Dodson and Allison Lund decided to build a home in the White Mountains, it wasn’t because they wanted to get away from everyone. On the contrary. “We wanted to go up to the mountains and bring everybody with us,” says Dodson, who has skied in New Hampshire with friends since college. By the time the couple bought the steep, wooded plot in Sugar Hill, “we’d rented up there for 20 years,” he says. “We knew what worked and what didn’t.”

When guests make their way through the trees and across the little footbridge that leads to the house, the free-flowing space of the main floor beckons. “The kitchen is wide open to the dining room and the living room,” says Dodson, “because there’s always someone cooking. This way, nobody is trapped alone, doing the dishes.” There aren’t any doors on the principal dish cabinets, allowing guests to find plates and cups without embarking on a treasure hunt.

No two dishes are the same color – and that scheme continues throughout the home, creating a bright, festive atmosphere. Walls are a mix of whimsical colors, and the kitchen backsplash is done in red glass tile. “It lights up at sunset,” Dodson says.

“Reynold and Allison really had a vision for how they wanted the house to work,” says architect Pi Smith of Smith & Vansant Architects in Norwich, Vermont. “The design was totally geared to making it easy and intuitive to entertain – for both hosts and guests. Beyond that, they were totally game to let us have fun with the architecture, and we did.” Smith’s biggest challenge was fitting all that fun into a remarkably small footprint. The house is stacked in three layers, totaling 2,700 square feet. The home’s height makes the most of wooded views across an adjacent pond, and the vertical arrangement is more efficient to heat than a sprawling structure.

Dramatic expanses of glass and double doors to the deck make the space feel bigger. So do other design elements. “The dining room, for example, is actually quite small,” says Smith. “But the curved ceiling, ample windows, and open floor plan make it feel roomy.”

The house sleeps 11. “The bedrooms can be pretty small, because you’re not going to spend much of your time in there,” Dodson says. All three of the guest bedrooms are located on the lowest level, allowing privacy for visitors and their hosts, whose bedroom is on the top floor. In one of the rooms, two deep window seats are twin beds in disguise. There’s even a bunk tucked under the stairs in the lower-level hallway. Set off by a red curtain, it has a reading light and a shelf for personal items. On the home’s original blueprints, it was christened “Bob’s bunk,” for the friend who now frequents it most often.

The guest bathroom is built for high traffic. Off the hallway is an open sink vestibule, with cubbies for guests’ toiletries and plenty of towel bars. The room for toilet and shower does have a door, so both areas can be used simultaneously without intrusions on privacy.

Anyone who entertains in ski country knows that having plenty of space for dripping boots is a necessity, not a luxury. To that end, a generous portion of the main level is devoted to a wide entryway, an adjacent mudroom with a durable stone floor, and a big walk-in storage room. On any given weekend, the gear closet might have to accommodate cross-country or downhill skis, crampons, a chain saw, snow tubes, backpacks, or bikes. “We needed a place for all that stuff to live and dry,” says Dodson.

“The entry was designed to handle frequent arrivals and departures,” explains Smith. Not only is there plenty of space to take off wet shoes, but the change from slate to bamboo flooring and a step up also help guests distinguish between the mudroom and the tidier zones of the house.

And once they’re inside, they won’t want to leave. That’s the only downside to creating a mountain paradise. Sarah Pinneo is the author of the comic novel Julia’s Child, due out in February. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

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