Inside One Couple's Charming Lake Como Home
Ron and Ellen Sayers artfully arranged a lifetime's accumulation of heirlooms and keepsakes throughout a modern lakeside space.
Photography by Thom Thompson
The name Sayers is almost synonymous with Smyrna.
Sayers Jewelers & Gemologists has been a landmark on Main Street for the past 66 years. And for more than three decades, Ron, the gemologist, and Ellen, his wife, lived just a couple blocks away, in a historic brick home where they raised their three sons.
Respectful and responsible homeowners, they maintained and improved the 170-year-old home, preserving boxwood gardens, enjoying the pool and entertaining friends.
Over the years, the boys grew up, moved out, married and started their own families. Even so, Ron and Ellen hadn’t planned to move or downsize. But when a home on Lake Como came on the market about 12 years ago, the couple reexamined their situation, then made the move—somewhat reluctantly, Ellen says.
“I love that house, but Ron always said if we ever moved, it would be by the lake.”
They considered the maintenance their home required. They wondered if their age and mobility would become limiting factors. And Ellen had serious concerns about how their personal collections—family heirlooms and other sentimental pieces they acquired over the years—would fit into a house of contemporary design.
There was no need to worry—the blend of historic and contemporary now seems effortless.
The Sayerses take full advantage of their location
The “new” Sayers home is situated in a comfortable neighborhood on the north side of the lake. The dove-colored exterior, accented by compatible landscaping, welcomes family and friends.
Over time, the Sayerses tweaked the home to better meld with their expansive and hospitable lifestyle. They added a deck, for example. A few years later they decided it was difficult to keep clean, so they turned a portion into a spacious sun room with a broad expanse of lake-facing windows. It is Ellen’s favorite place in the house.
The Sayerses replaced a bay window in the first-floor master bedroom with sliding doors to an adjacent deck that accommodates a hot tub. To make the room more comfortable, they added a roof over part of the deck, allowing them to embrace the sunshine while shielding them from heat and strong rays during summer. In the winter, the room is still used frequently, thanks to a gas fireplace.
The space is large enough to house part of Ron’s late father’s collection of nautical memorabilia. An authentic ship’s wheel from an old steamer on the Connecticut River sits next to a binnacle from a World War II Liberty cargo ship, the case housing the ship’s compass and navigational instruments.
Ellen’s collection of houseplants, including an assortment of palms, thrives in the environment. She chose a shade of lime green for throw pillows and placemats to connect the lawn and the outdoors with the much-enjoyed living area.
The sun room looks out onto the lake
The sun room, she says, provides a comfortable space for reflection, so she finds time for a short break there while dinner simmers. The view of the lake often reveals a great blue heron or bald eagle.
When family and friends visit, they enter through the back door, off the driveway, then head for the kitchen.
The Sayerses’ mothers (now in their 90s), three sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren and one great-granddaughter, Emma June, are part of their daily lives.
The dining room
The spacious kitchen and adjacent informal living-dining area were designed for entertaining. Windows face the lake, of course, and the Sayerses found ways to maximize the space while maintaining warmth and comfort in the adjacent seating areas.
The kitchen was built for a crowd. It is anchored by five sinks and three ovens. Gleaming exotic wood cabinets and black countertops, accentuated by natural light, have an urban feel that is softened by the patina of heirlooms. The kitchen’s design, the Sayerses note, reflects the choice of the previous owner, but they found their family needed a larger center island and, eventually, new appliances.
The Sayerses’ collectibles, displayed at varying levels, are striking. Brightly colored antique glass witches’ balls dot the windows. Hunting trophies—a deer, moose and fox—look down into the comfortable sitting area. An antique slot machine, baskets and vintage culinary heirlooms add to the mix.
“Not everybody has a moose in the kitchen,” says Ron.
The house has some other unusual features. The focal point of a powder room, for example, is a teak sink. “Powder room,” however, becomes a misnomer when the couple reveals what they call “the secret shower.” The shower is concealed by what appears to be a mirror-panel wall that bends—with just the right touch—into folding doors, opening into a shower.
The formal dining room is topped by a hardwood ceiling, though the owners are unsure of the type or source of the wood, which is highlighted by a distinctive grain.
The dining room opens into a formal living room dominated by a baby grand piano. Each furnishing has a story, each linked to their ancestors. Visiting the Sayerses is a bit like a trip to the “Antiques Roadshow,” minus the questions. They have the history, provenance and the legends, and they are willing to share their memories.
“There’s a lot of history in this place,” Ellen says.
The dining room table and the living room couch were gifts from parents early in their marriage. An alabaster statue was a 60th birthday gift to Ron from his parents.
“The second floor is a museum,” says Ellen, somewhat cautiously.
Almost every piece of furniture, each framed photo or document in the bedrooms has its own link to the family tree, and many pieces have well-preserved documentations. In one bedroom, for example, the bed is topped with a pieced and embroidered red-and-white quilt created by Ron’s grandmother in 1923.
A clock was a wedding gift to Emma Stutzman, his great-great grandmother, purchased as her wedding gift for $3.95 in 1896. And nearby is his mother’s wicker baby carriage. She is 92 now.
A treasure trove of handmade furniture, a treadle sewing machine, Ellen’s collections of antique dolls and a loveseat connected to the courting of now deceased family members complement two other bedrooms.
Ellen admits that it took a couple of years to adapt and adjust to their home, but she feels the process is complete.
“I’m happy here now,” she says. “This home is us.” And with a smile, Ron agrees.