The Lake Effect
A restored Waccabuc boathouse becomes a year round family home
Back in 2005, Terry and Barry Bocklet were nearing the homestretch of full-time parenting in Katonah when they started looking for a lakefront home in the area. With four active teens and young adults, they wanted their home to be a fun destination for the kids—even after they’d graduated and moved on. So, when Terry ran into Sam Dickens, a seventh-generation Lake Waccabuc resident who lived in his family’s converted boathouse, she casually noted that if he ever wanted to sell his house, she might be interested.
Sam soon called Terry to invite her to take a look at the place his great grandfather, also named Samuel Dickens, built on wood pilings 140 feet from the northeastern shore of the lake. In the 1920s, Lake Waccabuc was primarily a summer camp community, and the Dickens family did a brisk business in boat rentals and soda and snack sales. When the bulk of the local population shifted from vacationers to full-time residents, Samuel’s son Merwin closed the business and converted the structure to a residence. It was this 75-year-old, sagging structure that Terry fell for—hook, line, and sinker. “A lot of people thought I was crazy when I showed them the house,” recalls Terry, as she describes how the 30-foot wooden pilings were simply set in mud, requiring annual shimmying to re-level the floors.
With dreams of breezy afternoons on the porch and boating on the mile-long lake, Terry began her search for passionate team partners who could help her figure out how to restore her sinking Shangri-la. “It took about a year and a half to find specialists, get approvals and develop plans,” Terry continues, “because this was such a unique construction challenge—no one could simply tell me ‘yes, you can get this done.’” Terry quickly joined forces with Lance LaLone, a Katonah-based contractor who had renovated the Bocklets’ previous home. Together, they designed the house and pondered questions like “how will we get water to and from the house without it freezing in the winter?” Eventually, they brought in additional team members like engineer Eric Crowley and Michel Beaudoin of Techno Metal Post whose technical expertise was vital to this unusual project.
When it came to designing the house, Terry referred back to the simple lake houses she grew to love during her childhood in Upstate New York. “I wanted the house to evoke a feeling of stepping back in time,” she explains, as she points out the whitewashed wood ceilings, random-width tulip tree floorboards and stone fireplace. “And, I also wanted the design to be appropriate for the northern Westchester setting.”
Approximately 70 homes share Lake Waccabuc’s shoreline with Waccabuc Country Club and conservation land. Clusters of homes along windy roads make up communities dedicated to lakeside living. Along one of these roads is a small, board and batten cottage with an adjacent vegetable garden and a stone path that leads to a long, narrow dock—the only means to access the Bocklets’ home, unless you arrive by boat.
A set of double doors welcomes guests to a wide entry hall showcasing black and white photographs of the old boathouse. A powder room is to the right, and Terry’s art room is to the left. But, the promise of lake views draws most guests straight ahead to an open living space that encompasses the entire south side of the house.
The southwestern corner is anchored by a stone fireplace, which together with the antique wicker chairs and other special finds set the tone for an upscale yet casual lakeside décor. A cozy TV room is tucked into the northwestern corner and can be closed off with the help of a pair of French shutters that Terry found at Yellow Monkey Antiques in Cross River. An oversized island separates the kitchen from the dining area in the southeastern corner and is a favorite hangout space for the kids.
Upstairs, three bedrooms and two baths accommodate the family, but the best place to be is on the covered porch. On both rainy and hot, sunny days, it provides a protected space for reading, sleeping, playing board games, and eating al fresco.
The Bocklets have a collection of boats that accommodates the activities they all love. Motor boats are restricted to 25 horsepower on Lake Waccabuc, but that’s enough to pull the Bocklet kids and their friends and cousins on wakeboards. Terry prefers to gather her “Ladies of the Lake” girlfriends on the pontoon boat for a leisurely evening ride. And, where is Barry’s favorite place? His clubhouse—that adorable roadside cottage at the opposite end of the dock. Festooned with jerseys and memorabilia from his children’s impressive lacrosse careers, Barry runs his business and hobbies from terra firma.
Living on the lake is kind of like being at camp, albeit a really nice, new, custom camp—one with every amenity you can imagine. “The only reason to travel is to visit family. And, now our family wants to visit us,” Terry says with a smile. With all four of Barry’s siblings living on or near the lake, the house has happily become exactly what Terry had hoped for—a magnet for family fun.