Designer Homes

Tour Thom Filicia’s Fun, Modern Take on a Classic Lake House

Tour Thom Filicia’s Fun, Modern Take on a Classic Lake House
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Open the front door at Thom Filicia’s weekend home and your eye goes straight through the house to the doors at the rear, which open directly out onto Skaneateles Lake. “The first thing I want people to notice and appreciate is the waterfront location,” the interior designer says, who replaced the windows at the back of the house with French doors. “The whole house is about being on the water.”

Located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, this 1917 house—once rather dilapidated, now fresh, airy, and modern—has a relaxed, open feel just right for a summer home, plus an extra level of sophistication not often encountered in a house centered around the summery pursuits of swimming, boating, and cocktail drinking.

Contemporary furniture and accessories (almost all of them from Thom’s own collection) make a refreshing contrast to rustic ceiling beams.

Contemporary furniture and accessories (almost all of them from Thom’s own collection) make a refreshing contrast to rustic ceiling beams.

Not Your Typical Log Cabin

Though bits of the house’s original fabrication are still on display—the log-veneered walls, the rough stone chimneys, the broad wood ceiling beams—they are paired with contemporary elements and nostalgic nods (mostly in the form of lighting and hardware) to create a space that offers the best of both worlds. “It doesn’t feel too sophisticated and modern, and it doesn’t feel too rustic and country,” says Thom. “Creating that balance is something that I feel is important wherever you are. If it goes into too much of one thing, it becomes kind of theme-y.” Instead, the house is filled with furniture and objects that are appropriate to the setting without falling into cliché.

Nautical hardware and rope make the dramatically oversize modern mirror above the fireplace feel natural in a lakeside home.

Nautical hardware and rope make the dramatically oversize modern mirror above the fireplace feel natural in a lakeside home.

Thom removed the banister to make the entryway feel more open. The rope hung in its place adds whimsy and rugged texture.

Thom removed the banister to make the entryway feel more open. The rope hung in its place adds whimsy and rugged texture.

Several pieces of art—including these two contrasting contemporary paintings—are hung at lower-than-traditional heights to suit their particular space. “It brings in a little bit more personality,” says Thom.

Several pieces of art—including these two contrasting contemporary paintings—are hung at lower-than-traditional heights to suit their particular space. “It brings in a little bit more personality,” says Thom.

Repeating circular shapes—including the bentwood console, the dining table, the chandelier, and the metal end table—add a sense of dynamism and connect the living and dining rooms.

Repeating circular shapes—including the bentwood console, the dining table, the chandelier, and the metal end table—add a sense of dynamism and connect the living and dining rooms.

The walls of the dining room and the dining chairs are upholstered in the same rich blue and finished with the same nail-head trim. The muffling qualities of the fabric keeps dinner parties from getting too loud.

The walls of the dining room and the dining chairs are upholstered in the same rich blue and finished with the same nail-head trim. The muffling qualities of the fabric keeps dinner parties from getting too loud.

Dinner for Eight—or 60

“We entertain a lot; it’s something we love to do,” says Thom, the we referring to his partner, Greg Calejo. This typically means between 12 and 30 people for dinner, but Thom also regularly opens the house up to 60 or more guests for charity events to benefit groups ranging from the local museum and land trust to various arts organizations. “Every once in a while in the winter we’ll do a dinner for eight people and we’ll sit at the dining table, but that’s very rare.”

This love of socializing explains the profusion of furniture in the living areas—even when the guest list is long, there’s plenty of seating for everyone, indoors and out. Guests gather on the deck, indoors by the fireplace or along the 10-foot sofa in the living room, or around the fire pit under the stars. “Greg’s a great cook, so it’s not hot dogs and hamburgers generally. It might be marinated flank steaks with some kind of amazing rice dish and great salads with beautiful tomatoes.”

A low-key palette and patterns in the same scale make a room filled with motifs and textures feel inviting rather than overwhelming.

A low-key palette and patterns in the same scale make a room filled with motifs and textures feel inviting rather than overwhelming.

Theatrical Touches

The house’s traditional-with-a-twist feel extends into the kitchen, which is outfitted with modern stainless appliances, white walls, and jet-black cabinets. “I didn’t want just a typical white kitchen. I wanted it to feel like it belongs in a lake house, but I wanted it also to be kind of clean and crisp—and not too literal.” So the cabinets are black, but they have a preppy side: they’re paneled and finished with nautical pulls. The dramatic use of black and white extends to the downstairs powder room, where a striking mirror hovers over an even more striking eagle holding up the sink. The eagle—originally part of a console in Thom’s collection—adds a little fun to what is typically a very utilitarian space. “It makes the powder room sort of a surprise.”

Chicken-wire cabinet fronts frame an unexpectedly elegant collection of gleaming serveware.

Chicken-wire cabinet fronts frame an unexpectedly elegant collection of gleaming serveware.

Rich fabrics—including sumptuous velvet, tufted leather, and plush sheepskin—feel even more luxurious against the backdrop of rough-hewn log walls.

Rich fabrics—including sumptuous velvet, tufted leather, and plush sheepskin—feel even more luxurious against the backdrop of rough-hewn log walls.

Even without the massive eagle holding up the sink, the paneled black powder room would be striking; with it, the room is unforgettable.

Even without the massive eagle holding up the sink, the paneled black powder room would be striking; with it, the room is unforgettable.

Throughout the house, graphic contemporary art is balanced by imagery from the natural world, including the dog and owl statuettes.

Throughout the house, graphic contemporary art is balanced by imagery from the natural world, including the dog and owl statuettes.

Stealth Color

Instead of using a lot of loud colors to energize a room, Thom uses a neutral base and then deploys color strategically—mostly in the form of artwork, window treatments, rugs, and textiles. The house is also enlivened with a wide array of texture and pattern: sisal carpeting, tufted upholstery, nail-head-trimmed walls and chairs in the dining room, natural wood finishes, traditional beadboard paneling.

An orange duvet adds an unexpected pop of color and a slightly exotic feel to the master bedroom.

An orange duvet adds an unexpected pop of color and a slightly exotic feel to the master bedroom.

My favorite thing about the house is that it feels very welcoming, and it feels very inviting. Things are cooking, and drinks are being made, and the music’s on.

— Thom Filicia
The master bath’s rope-framed mirrors, wood paneling, vintage-inspired hardware, and bare wood floors are a perfect match for the lake house’s old-fashioned, small-town setting.

The master bath’s rope-framed mirrors, wood paneling, vintage-inspired hardware, and bare wood floors are a perfect match for the lake house’s old-fashioned, small-town setting.

Fabric-covered walls, an upholstered headboard, and matching drapes make a sophisticated contrast to outdoorsy touches including a Pendleton blanket, a framed map, and dreamy seascapes.

Fabric-covered walls, an upholstered headboard, and matching drapes make a sophisticated contrast to outdoorsy touches including a Pendleton blanket, a framed map, and dreamy seascapes.

Open-Door Policy

Fabric covers many of the walls, and some of the furniture is traditional, but colorful art and accents—and the laid-back attitude of the hosts—give the house a casual, comfortable feel. Thom has three dogs, and overnight guests (up to four at a time) often bring their dogs as well. This means the house has a feel familiar to anyone who has spent time with a big family. People are in and out—off for a swim, out for a bike ride, or onto the boat for a visit to a nearby restaurant. “My favorite thing about the house is that it feels very welcoming, and it feels very inviting,” Thom says. “Things are cooking, and drinks are being made, and the music’s on. There is a sense of sophistication to it, but it also feels very down-to-earth, relaxed, and approachable.”

Thom installed diamond-shape windows in internal walls to maximize the house’s natural light.

Thom installed diamond-shape windows in internal walls to maximize the house’s natural light.

Gleaming towel racks and sconces add antique charm to the sunny guest bathroom.

Gleaming towel racks and sconces add antique charm to the sunny guest bathroom.

It doesn’t feel too sophisticated and modern, and it doesn’t feel too rustic and country. Creating that balance is something I feel is important wherever you are.

— Thom Filicia
A fire pit overlooks the lake and the dock leading to Thom’s beloved vintage-style Chris Craft motorboat, which he uses to visit friends around the lake.

A fire pit overlooks the lake and the dock leading to Thom’s beloved vintage-style Chris Craft motorboat, which he uses to visit friends around the lake.

A Gathering Place for Good Times

A sense of lightheartedness permeates the home. “I want people to feel comfortable, welcome, and relaxed when they’re in my house,” Thom says. “I want them to feel like this is a backdrop to have fun and to enjoy life and food and drink and the lake and friends and conversation and laughter.”

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Join the Discussion

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One Response to “Tour Thom Filicia’s Fun, Modern Take on a Classic Lake House”

  1. David Unruh says:

    Terrific photography!

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