Well-Rooted Rehab in Sebago Lake

A lakeside camp in Sebago gets a splashy upcycle
Words By Heather Chapman
Photos By Peter Morneau

General Contractors:

Lake Dreams Renovations

Landscape:

Evergreen Tree & Landscaping

Styling:

LC Design Co

In the kitchen, granite counter tops from Stone Surface pair with Cabinetry Concepts cabinets. The home’s clean lines and calming palette direct the eye to the lake through oversized Pella windows.

A swanky midcentury modern abode peers over crystalline Sebago Lake. Tucked among the neighboring seasonal A-frames and heritage fishing cottages, the 4,900-square-foot dwelling appears plucked from beach-front Malibu and dropped into a similar—albeit hardier—waterfront scene. Although the glistening view, contemporary interior, and shaded double-decker balconies might fool you, this is not new construction. Rather, it is the outcome of nine grueling months’ work of Bill Kavanagh and Bob and Ross Holden: house-flipping trifecta—and part father-son duo—with an eye for design and an appetite for boots-on-the-ground construction rehabilitation.

“This work isn’t for the faint of heart,” Bill and Bob quip. “We’re on the lookout for the worst home in a given neighborhood with an eye towards reviving, rather than demolishing,” says Bill, emphasizing the team’s commitment to adaptive-reuse principles. “Rehab rather than demolition reduces the carbon footprint involved in construction,” Ross says. “The creation of each individual new material has a large environmental impact. Restoration and rehab work are crucial to building a greener world, and to saving little pieces of history and character along the way.”

Sebago Lake’s glittering horizon stretches out in oceanesque tranquillity. Ross, Bill, and Bob transformed the site’s existing and tired struc- ture into a dwelling fit for the setting.

Sebago Lake’s glittering horizon stretches out in oceanesque tranquillity. Ross, Bill, and Bob transformed the site’s existing and tired struc- ture into a dwelling fit for the setting.

In their three years in business, the trio (Bill and Bob operating as Lake Dreams Renovations and Ross as principal of Holden Architecture and Interiors) have sourced, transformed, and flipped eight tired lakefront shacks into sparkling luxury homes, complete with energy-efficient systems for healthy home function. “It takes a lot of planning and vision to execute these rehabilitation projects,” Bill says, emphasizing that the creaking floorboards, leaky ceilings, and lackluster interiors can be a serious deterrent for other interested buyers. Nevertheless, when the team happened upon the Sebago Lake house in the late summer of 2019—complete with plenty of structural and cosmetic challenges of its own—they were transfixed. “I think Bill was the most excited,” Bob remembers with a chuckle, adding, “He got the rest of us really eager to dive in.”

In the living room, the home’s original stone fireplace and dropped-level sofa—modernly reupholstered by Claude’s Upholstering—create a comfort- able space to talk and unwind.

In the living room, the home’s original stone fireplace and dropped-level sofa—modernly reupholstered by Claude’s Upholstering—create a comfort- able space to talk and unwind.

Ross concurs, noting the rarity of finding a midcentury modern structure in a state dotted with tired colonials and Victorians fit for the setting of a Stephen King novel. “It was in rough shape, but I knew—when considering the bones of the building and the lot it was situated upon—that it had dramatic potential.” However, seeing that potential through a floor plan riddled with choppy, haphazard additions, poor circulation, and a general lack of cohesiveness proved an up-front challenge.

The 1970s-era dwelling had most recently served as a rental property, with drab carpeting, dark wall paneling, and a massive stone fireplace smack in the center of it all that proved a tricky obstacle. Not to mention the basement, a dormant and windowless utility space, featuring a massive and unmovable boulder that proved aesthetically problematic. But for as much as the home desired, there were bits and pieces that, with a lot of elbow grease and an enthusiastic team of contractors, could be not only salvaged but shined.

“The dropped level in front of the original stone fireplace, the huge space for a daylight recreational room in the basement, and the bedroom suite—separated from everything else by an entire story—were all major bonus points for the home,” Bill says. The lot, too, was something to celebrate. Situated on a hill overlooking the lake, the location was free of the encroaching conifers and aged maples creeping close to the other lakeside camps. Instead, this lot was grassy, with abundant sunshine and just enough space for one crucial addition: a two-car garage. “The garage barelyfit onto the property, but it was a necessity. You can’t have a comfortable home in New England without a place to protect your car in the winter,” Bill says.

After conceptualizing a “flow through”—the maximization of lake vistas from all possible vantage points—on paper, the team got down to work. The front door, once “cave-like” in the center of the home, was moved to the right-hand corner to further enhance the lake views from the driveway. Dark wall panels were traded for fresh drywall painted in breezy neutral shades. The dingy carpet was torn up and replaced with glossy hardwood. A few walls were lost to enhance natural light, and space for a unifying staircase was run from the top story clear through to the basement, previously accessible only by a trapdoor. However, don’t let this seemingly finger-snap-and-done checklist hoodwink you. “There’s a reason not everyone does this,” Bob says, reflecting on the nearly yearlong project. The work, though shiny upon completion, is a messy rehab full of mishaps, potential failings, and long, long hours. “The people you choose to work with mean the world to the outcome of any given project,” Bill says. “When everyone can collectively see the same vision and work together graciously, it’s a lot like magic.”

Evergreen Tree & Landscaping in Harrison crafted this oasis-like scene. The exterior is clad in Hardie board.

Evergreen Tree & Landscaping in Harrison crafted this oasis-like scene. The exterior is clad in Hardie board.

And if the teamwork involved is magic, this Sebago Lake home is the elusive genie in a bottle. Standing in the center of the kitchen and living spaces, one can catch the afternoon sunshine glinting off the seemingly endless expanse of water through rows of well-appointed Pella windows, installed to maximize daylight for solar gain. A grand nautical staircase commands center stage—designed and executed by Ross—clad in naturally finished hardwood and sleek horizontal wire slats that call to mind an ocean liner. But perhaps what makes this home truly shine is the most salvaged element of all: the enormous boulder—once considered an eyesore—that now appears as if it were painstakingly preserved from an archaeological dig. Strikingly on display in the basement-turned-daylight-rec-room, the boulder is visible from the tippy-top of the staircase, grounding and unifying this restored and redefined lakeside habitation in the home’s humble roots.