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,” says the interior designer, 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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”