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The Trasattis – On Repeat

The Trasatti family grew up with Brooks Post & Beam. Literally.

Back in the early 1980s, one of Phil and Kathy’s friends had a Brooks home built in Temple, N.H., and the Trasattis loved it. In 1984, the couple decided to commission Phil Brooks to build their own home in Brookline, N.H.

“We wanted an old farmhouse-type home, but we couldn’t afford a real one,” says Kathy Trasatti.

A few years after building the Brookline place, Phil Brooks helped the Trasattis with an addition. There was a significant change in the quality of the work, according to Phil Trasatti, as Brooks had mastered tricks and learned from his experience what worked and what didn’t.

“He had evolved so much between 1984 and 1989.”

1998, after the births of their three children, the Trasattis bought a seasonal property on Crystal Lake in Enfield, N.H., about an hour and 40 minutes from Brookline. They loved the spot—the mile-long lake is a little mecca of summer recreation and a quiet, a peaceful hideaway in the middle of a snowy winter.

The house was a 1.5-story Cape with sheds, and the lot, filled with hemlocks, sloped down to the lake and a boathouse that had been there 100 years. (It’s still there today —a boathouse and deck coupled with a living space where the family spends a lot of their summer time. Writings on the walls left by fishermen of earlier eras are preserved as a reminder of the cottage’s past, while drinks are served out of a small kitchen area to visitors seated on a comfy couch.)

The house itself left something to be desired—at least for the Trasattis. It was a seasonal home with just two bedrooms and a pretty rough guesthouse with a garage. Entertaining was difficult.

Kathy and the kids, now in their teens, lived there in the summers, and Phil Trasatti traveled back and forth on weekends. But they wanted to be able to use their second home in the winter, and to have guests. Phil Trasatti did a lot of work on the house to make it more comfortable, but soon the couple started trying out designs for a new place.

They wanted every room except the bathrooms to have a view of the lake. They wanted a guest room on the main floor that would be accessible, should they retire there someday with special needs. And they had learned from their first Brooks home what they liked and didn’t like so much, and they aimed to improve on it.

About 100 houses (on paper) later, they brought the fruits of their labor, again, to Phil Brooks. It was 2002, and both Phil and Paul Freeman were there to help this time. Phil’s experience continued to be an asset.

“Phil said, ‘why do you want the kitchen over there, when you can’t see people arrive?’” Kathy said.

The family still treasures Phil Brooks’s idea for a ledge behind the kitchen counter: It allowed not only for knickknack display but, more importantly, for additional work space away from the overhead cupboards.

And Brooks also helped smooth out the differences in opinion between the Trasattis over what was “big enough.” Adding a little space on one end of the house allowed for a wide stairway and a closet—enough to satisfy Kathy, but also still fitting on the limiting half-acre lot.

Meanwhile, Phil Trasatti had wanted to hold on to some of the aspects of the old house—the sheds, the dormers—and the couple wanted to stay friends with their neighbors. “We didn’t want to look obnoxious from the lake,” Kathy said.

So, Phil lowered the roofline on the lake side, and Paul, working with the couple’s final design, devised an intricate frame structure that would allow for a divergent roofline. The result of the collaboration was three floors of living space that still managed to not dominate the steep slope off the lake.

“He got the dormers to work,” said Phil Trasatti. “I couldn’t figure it out.”

One of their sons, an electronics aficionado, took Paul’s plans and marked every place wire would need to be run for a complete computerized networking of the house’s lighting and sound system. (He could, in theory, dim the lights in the lake house living room or boathouse from a computer in his New York state dorm room. This was years before Nest and other Internet-based home systems became commonplace!)

And then it was time for construction. The work took nearly a year: The foundation contractor came six weeks late, and after the frame went up (usually the quickest part of the construction process)—the general contractor became ill. But his substitute turned out to be efficient and know all the local subcontractors, and while the family lived in the old guest house and a shed that summer of 2006—the home took shape.

Open, but somehow cozy at the same time, the house is a haven any time of year—and could easily serve a family as a year-round home. The lake outside the back door is a dead giveaway, though, that this is a play spot: a place where the girls sleep in a huge colorful room in the basement and wake up to the sound and sight of the water; a place where the family can serve a holiday meal for 12 (and all the mess from baking can stay hidden in a clever, well-equipped butler’s pantry tucked away behind the kitchen); a place where a quiet weekend can restore the soul.

Kathy got the scallop-edged beams she liked so much in another house Phil Brooks had shown her, and Phil Trasatti got the camp-style sloped ceilings he wanted in the upstairs bedrooms and bath. They managed to squeeze a linen closet in-between those sizeable upstairs rooms, and there’s a seating area that overlooks a Craftsman-style rail into the living room below.

“We went much further than we thought, above and beyond what we thought,” said Phil Trasatti. “We’re very happy with it.”

The kids, meanwhile, learned a whole lot. They helped by screwing in flooring on the deck and working on other odds and ends.

“They know what it takes to build a house,” Kathy said. “It was a good life lesson for them.”

Brookline and Enfield, N.H.
Built their first Brooks home in 1984, their second in 2006