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Mystic Lake House

Ruhl Walker Architects

Shared By



  • Matthew Cunningham
  • Structural Engineer: Roome and Guarracino
  • Civil Engineer: David E. Ross Associates
  • General Contractor: Berkshire Wilton Partners

Project Status


Year Completed



4,312 sq. feet





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Project Description

Our clients found the perfect location for their dream house on the shores of Mystic Lake, facing a heavily wooded park on the opposite shore and only a short drive from Cambridge and Boston. Alas, there was an existing house on the property, and the house was not actually for sale. However, the stars must have been aligned and their passion prevailed after it turned out that the current owner was actually contemplating a move to Washington, DC. With so few affordable undeveloped lots in suburban Boston, many of our clients are turning to “tear-down’s”, especially given that the more affordable houses are typically in such poor condition.

One benefit of a tear-down on a beautiful waterfront site is that permitting can be easier than with undeveloped land. In this case, zoning and conservation commission hurdles were relatively simple given that there was already a house on the site and we had no intention of building the new house any closer to the lake. In fact we were able to bring the house slightly closer to the street than before, with the added benefit that the lake side yard was even larger than before.

Because the house is built into a steeply sloping hill, the house is two relatively compact floors high on the street side and three full stories on the lake side, with an above-ground basement level. Since the house had neighbors close to both sides we designed a central courtyard / roof deck open to the lake and adjacent to all of the main living spaces, with the lower level playroom below. A two-story entry foyer and stair hall is centrally located and creates separate living and working zones on the main floor and separate parent and children bedroom zones above. The parents’ bedroom has its own roof deck overlooking the lake and courtyard below, and its shower has a large window facing the lake. A home office sits below the parents’ roof deck and doubles as a sewing room; as our clients or their children age, this room is designed to be able to easily change function, becoming a ground floor bedroom, or a media room.

The house is heated and cooled with a geothermal system that benefits from the adjacent lake. The flat roof was designed to accommodate a future solar photovoltaic array and solar hot water array, with available conduits linking directly through the house to the basement mechanical room.
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