The SpaceThe house has lots of room for a family and their friends - you can sleep 8 comfortably. The house is on four private acres, not visible from the road. It's also surrounded by 180 acres of private family land, fields and forest, so all kinds of interesting animals can be seen, from wild turkeys and a million kinds of birds (I once saw a Giant Snowy Owl in the driveway, looking at me as if I was intruding), to deer and fox. The biggest attraction is Lake Willoughby and the surrounding mountains. They call it the Lake Lucern of America because it was formed by a melting glacier, and it's lined on both sides by sheer rock cliffs. Robert Frost used to camp out on the field next door to the house and write in solitude; he was apparently a friend of my great grandmother, Nana Myers, who had a dairy farm here in the early part of the last century.
The house, designed by my dad, features tall windows across the whole front of the house. This not only makes most of the house feel sunny and bright, but also you get a wonderful view of nature. When you're in the living room, or one of the bedrooms upstairs, the views are beautiful - lush green in spring and summer, brilliant foliage in the fall, stark whites in the winter.
The house is full of books, particularly the master bedroom that doubles as a library and study. Guests have described staying here as peaceful and relaxing, but also an intellectual experience thanks to the wide range of books on every imaginable topic.
The combination of all the books, and being surrounded by nature, has a very relaxing effect. You find yourself napping a lot. Guests have also reported that they feel the love of our family all around them, reflected in the photos and portraits, the various knick-knacks from world travels, and the general vibe of the place.
This year the house has been updated with a new convection kitchen stove, new dryer, new living room furniture (I love the comfy leather recliner), and new wide screen HD TV with sound bar and wireless subwoofer. We cut the cord with the cable company and rely on streaming video with built-in Roku.
Not everything in the house is perfect – my wife and I bought the property from my parents in 2009 and we are still in the process of making it thoroughly fantastic. In the downstairs back bedroom, where there is a single bed, two of the windows do not open and need replacing (we hope to get this done before the winter of 2016/2017). The greenhouse in front of the house is not currently being used; our hope is to turn the greenhouse into a sun room with a hot tub in 2017.
This part of Vermont (the Northeast Kingdom) has many fields and farms, which is great but an unfortunate offshoot of all this nature is that in the late summer and fall months there can be house flies that cluster in some of the windows. I don't know why, but they tend to just buzz around at the base of some of the windows, versus flying around the room. This kind of fly is not unique to our house - it's common in ALL houses in Northern Vermont. We do everything we can do control them, including fly traps, which we change regularly. We have chosen not to use chemicals to control them, mostly because they don't work and also because we don't want to be around pesticides. The flies don't bother us, but those who are used to a pristine four star hotel experience might object to them.
Due to the size of the house, and the cost of upkeep and Vermont taxes, we prefer to rent to larger parties (typically 6 to 8) for weekly stays. Guest AccessThere is lots of space inside and outside for everyone to hang out. There is a patio with two charcoal grills for everyone's use, a deck in the front, and a fireplace on the lawn with wood available. Interaction with GuestsI'm usually not there but a local caretaker will show you around and make sure you are all set. However, I usually spend time with potential renters on the phone so I can learn about them and they can hear directly from me to answer questions, and I always provide my phone so I can be reached while they are at the house. But the local caretaker is usually the main point of contact once someone is in Westmore. The caretaker makes arrangements with guests so they know how to get into the house. The NeighborhoodThe house is in Westmore, which is a very small town without what you'd call a "center." There is a church and general store down the road. Our place is equidistant to Mount Burke and Jay Peak for skiing. About a 35 to 45 minute drive to both. It's also the same distance to the Kingdom Trails mountain biking area, which is fantastic. The biggest lure here is Lake Willoughby, which in 2015 was ranked by the Boston Globe as the best lake for kayaking in all of New England. There's also great swimming in the incredibly clear (and usually cool to downright freezing) water. For hikers, there are several great mountains right in town. Mt. Westmore (the biggest), Mount Pisgah, Mt. Hor, and Mt. Wheeler. Getting AroundDuring the winter months I suggest getting here in an all-wheel drive vehicle if it's been snowing or icy. We have our driveway plowed after each storm, but if it's been particularly icy then average front wheel drive cars can struggle or even not make it up the driveway. There is a reason why Subaru is the unofficial car of Vermont! Other Things to NoteRobert Frost, when he was a young and relatively undiscovered poet, asked my great grandmother, Nana, if he could camp out in her field on Willoughby Farm, which is the large meadow just north of our house. Frost references Lake Willoughby in several of his poems.
The house previously belonged to my parents. My dad was a WWII veteran who was dive bombed by Kamikazes at the battle of Okinawa; he devoted much of his life towards finding ways to bring about world peace. In his honor, we have a guest book that we call the "peace book" where our guests can share their thoughts about peace.
It's worth mentioning that while we have a TV room, the TV and DVD/video player could best be described as antiquated. We also chose to cut the cord with the cable company, who charged large monthly fees for crappy service. Usually when we are here we relax with a book, or play board games. We (and our guests) figure that TV can be watched anywhere, but this is a really special place for family and friends, so why not spend time with them. But we do have wifi, so when we feel like watching a show we curl up with an iPad and stream it.
The kitchen is pretty big and has lots of counter space for cooking. I did hear from a guest this past summer that our oven cooks unevenly (we hope to have a new stove installed before summer 2016).