Bound for Bemus Point

Discover the Westrick family’s captivating home away from home on New York's Chautauqua Lake.

Eddie and Bria Westrick’s journey to their vacation home was a long one. They spent more than a year searching for the perfect lakeside retreat, someplace within a two- to three-hour drive of their suburban Pittsburgh abode. In August 2017, a real estate agent drove the couple to Bemus Point, New York. The village on Chautauqua Lake, with its charming shops, restaurants and horse-drawn buggies, reminded them of Cape May, New Jersey, their three children’s favorite summer destination.

“We like to go out to dinner, we like some music, we like some fun,” Bria Westrick says. “Bemus Point’s little downtown area offered all of that.”

After the Westricks parted ways with the real estate agent, they returned to a property on Lakeside Drive where they’d spotted a handwritten for-sale-by-owner sign by the road. The .6-acre lot was so overgrown that it almost looked unbuildable. A short walk through the brush and pines revealed 200 feet of lakefront and a breathtaking 180-degree view of the water.

“We don’t agree on much,” Eddie Westrick says. “But, we both instantaneously agreed on this piece of land and the location.”

The couple engaged Robert Gaskill of Gaskill Architecture in Portersville, Pennsylvania, to design what Bria Westrick wanted — a departure from the family’s traditional primary residence. 

“We let him have a lot of free reign with his design,” she says. “But, I said to him, ‘I want to feel like when I’m going there, I’m going on vacation.’” 

Gaskill responded by designing a stunning 3,600-square-foot sanctuary clad in cedar siding, cultured stone, a patina metal wall panel and topped by a standing-seam metal roof. Banks of windows frame views of Chautauqua Lake from every angle. In fact, the lake greets the Westricks and their guests at the double front doors through a window on the opposite entry wall.

“One of the most important things about that design was establishing the visual and physical connection to the water,” Gaskill says. 

That extended to the houses across the street. The greatest challenge Gaskill faced was designing a place that would not obstruct their owners’ lake views. He met it by utilizing the lot’s slope, proposing a low-profile structure that put the garage, formal entry, three bedrooms and two full baths on street level and the open kitchen, dining area and great room, along with a mud room, laundry, full bath, powder room and master suite, on the level below. The result, which appears to be a single-story abode from the street, provides walk-out access to the lake. 

“[Eddie and Bria] were OK with putting their kitchen and main living space on the lower level because it wasn’t their primary residence,” he says. “The everyday need of bringing in items from your car, in the garage, to the kitchen wasn’t as much of a concern.”

The back of the house was tricked out with a stamped stained-concrete patio poured in a zigzag that created distinct areas for a pool and fire pit, as well as dining and lounging. The surrounding wall, faced in cultured stone and capped with limestone like the fire pit, is high enough outside to comply with local pool-fencing codes but low enough inside so it doesn’t impede lake views. 

The Westricks also left the decorating to Gaskill’s team. 

“The exterior design completely links into the interior design,” Gaskill says.  

To achieve that goal, Douglas-fir roof rafters were left exposed. Walls of the stairwell from the street-level entry to the lower level — a feature strikingly illuminated by rectangular metallic-glass pendants — were covered in the same cedar and tile selected for the exterior. Gaskill’s team achieved a measure of symmetry on the lower level by using that same tile to finish a great-room fireplace at one end and a hood shroud over a 48-inch Thermidor-brand range at the other. Contractors faced the large kitchen island and dining area wet bar in cultured stone — yet another exterior material that injected a major shot of texture. Durable polished stained-concrete floors blur the line between indoor and outdoor living spaces, particularly when the Westricks open two sets of folding doors.

“People get out of the pool and walk right in,” Eddie Westrick says. “We don’t have to worry about anything.” 

Gaskill’s team outfitted the kitchen and bar in medium-gray laminate cabinetry with an exposed grain. The pattern in the quartz countertops, particularly on an island punctuated by a sink, resembles the movement of water.

“The concept of the island as the center, the movement of the pattern of the countertop, and the water is really just to emphasize the connection to the lake,” he says.

The team furnished the home with selections from Restoration Hardware. Taupe-leather counter stools provide seating at the island and bar, white linen-look chairs at a wood-topped steel dining table, a wheat-colored sectional in the great room. Gaskill points out that the end tables are actually sections of an I-beam finished to match the exposed structural columns and beams. 

“The wood [pattern on the coffee table] is actually very close to the wood pattern in the cabinetry in the kitchen and the bar,” he adds. Pieces from a metal outdoor collection sporting charcoal cushions were arranged on the patio and pool deck.

“It feels so nice to go there,” Bria Westrick says of the result. “It really feels like things just flow so perfectly.”  

Bringing the Outdoors In
With a mixture of colors, textures and accents, many homeowners are trying to bring the outdoors inside. “You’re seeing more neutral colors,” says Julianne Lee of Catawba Interiors (catawbainteriors.com). “Softer ones, too, with more earth tones to them.”

Exposed wood in interior design remains popular. Shiplap also is used often for exterior or interior use, as an accent wall or taken all the way up to the ceiling. “Texture is important when you’re trying to bring the outside in,” she says.

Furniture, pillows and other accessories are also being textured now, says Clare Opfer, director of sales and marketing for S&H Blinds & Floors (shblindsfloors.com) in Sandusky. “The trends we are seeing in the industry are currently meeting form with function,” she says.

Opfer says a lot of kitchen tile — such as backsplashes — are now more textured, giving a more natural, rocky feel. She’s also noticing a lot of earth tones in carpeting — as well as patterns. “People think of carpet, and they want it to be brown or gray cut pile,” she says. “We are seeing that carpet manufacturers are making subtle patterns that bring in elements of the exterior, such as the shades of grass to lava eruptions, and the movement in patterns such as rippling water or urban garden prints.”

Wood accents are an added touch inside and outside. Lauren Glinn, sales manager for Wayne Homes (waynehomes.com) in Sandusky, notes that a lot of people are looking for wood porch posts or other accents on the exterior, and many kitchen cabinets are being installed with natural wood finish. Luxury vinyl flooring remains wildly popular — and can be made to simulate wood, thanks to high-definition printing. 

Solid and engineered wood flooring remains an option, Opfer says, and it has closed the gap in price. Supply chain issues have raised the price of luxury vinyl flooring, which is usually produced abroad and imported. Most natural wood flooring is made in North America and is not subject to the same tariffs (or potential shipping issues).