Combs Point Residence

Finger Lakes, New York, United States

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“This is simply a most beautiful and poetic home...all pieces “lightly touch’ the earth. Consistent in detailing, a logical use of steel and the blurring of the interior boundaries make this an exquisite piece of architecture. Evocative, for sure...”
AIA Jury



This retreat is set in a diverse world of lake, deciduous and evergreen forest, valley and stream. Slipped into the site with a light touch, the residence and its outbuildings possess a transparency that reveals the richly varied qualities of this natural place. Designed for a family that treasures life on the water, it is both a center of activity and a quiet retreat.

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Photo credit: Nic Lehoux

The Nature of Place

A delicate necklace of buildings starts from the fanning delta at the lake’s edge, stretches through a forested glen and leads to the waterfall at its head. An elevated boardwalk echoes the twisting course of the stream as it connects the buildings and eventually dissolves into a path leading to the falls. Upstream, the guesthouse and office/gym inhabit the narrow valley meadow with its forested edges. Downstream, the main building’s large living space opens to a full view of the deep lake, broad sky and changing weather.

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Photo credit: Nic Lehoux

The Nature of People

The residence is a weekend and holiday retreat for a family of four. An escape from the modern world, it is a place for the family and their guests to spend time together and enjoy nature and activities on the lake, free from technological distractions. Since cooking is a big part of their life, the house is designed around the kitchen as the hearth; large decks facilitate cooking and entertaining outside.

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Photo credit: Nic Lehoux

The Nature of Materials

Generous glazing allows all of the spaces to feel connected to the natural world, near and far: the sky, the water, vegetation and light. Building orientation and placement were carefully studied to maintain privacy. Operable windows and large sliding doors provide natural ventilation as the building reaches up for the south sun. The house’s articulated structural frame and steel spine are highlighted by the warmth of Douglas fir beams and decking. The rugged central fireplace roots the structure to the gravel shore and is cast from board-formed concrete. Clear-finished Western red cedar clads the taut volumes of the structures.

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Photo credit: Nic Lehoux

Project Data

Finger Lakes, New York, United States
2005 – 2009
8,365 sf


Honor Award for Residential Landscape Design
Award of Excellence
Design Award, One and Two Family Custom Residences Category
Design Award
Special Award
Award of Excellence
Honor Award for Design