Robert Benson

It conjures all sorts of impressions.

Tolkeinesque tower. Fire lookout post. Asian temple. Woodland aerie. Even a 1,600 square foot three-story cottage addition, which it most definitely is.

Welcome to Adirondack Camp, a three-bedroom addition to a private residential cottage in rural Indian Lake, N.Y., a resort community about 250 miles north of New York City.

The design pays homage to Adirondack Camp, a design aesthetic that echoes the stately, rugged 19th century resort camps and family compounds that dotted the Adirondack Mountains. Today you see the rustic, natural style adapted throughout the country’s mountainous areas, from the Appalachians in North Carolina to the western Rocky Mountain states.

“The camps were characterized by having a number of related buildings, such as a building where the family slept, another where they ate, and so on,” according to Jacob Albert, AIA, co-designer of Adirondack Camp with colleague J.B. Clancy, AIA. Albert and Clancy are principals of Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects, Inc. of Boston, Mass., an award-winning architectural firm.

“This addition evokes those old camps by having separate but connected buildings,” Albert explains. The tower is clad in cedar shingles, with cut shingles adding an extra texture on the upper story. The interior is all wood, with spruce the dominant species. The balcony railings display a lattice-like pattern and the rafter tails celebrate backwoods artistry with zigzag patterning.”

The shallow-pitch metal roof helps the tower comply with the area’s height code. Casement windows dominate the upper-level master bedroom. “Our clients like the idea of being able to throw open the windows. That’s the beauty of casement windows. When they’re open, they’re completely open,” Albert says. Marvin Windows and Doors was specified throughout. “Marvin is our favorite kind of window when custom isn’t required. Their details are the nicest available. Also, their standard colors were perfectly in line with what our client wanted. And the price was right.”

Marvin standard framing was also able to accommodate vintage stain glass windows the owner had collected over the years. The small windows now artfully illuminate the staircase.

So why a tower?

Albert gives all credit to the owner, an architectural historian and preservationist. “We happily picked up on it,” Albert said. Stacking the bedrooms and connecting them by staircase makes the most of a limited building site and fondly recalls the area’s once-numerous fire lookout towers.

The addition has won numerous plaudits, including the 2015 Architects Challenge Best Remodel/Addition, a juried competition sponsored by Marvin. One jurist cheered “the confident whimsy” and added this is “’funky’ in the best sense of the word. The addition creates an interesting contrast to the small original cottage.”

The owner is absolutely delighted. “I’m very complimented by the fact they invite me to visit there,” Albert observes. “You feel like you’re in a treehouse. The view is lovely. You look out on a lake filtered by pine trees.

“It’s wonderful up there.”