Fitzhugh Karol, a New Hampshire native, recounts the first time he met his future in-laws. He and his now wife, Lyndsay Caleo Karol, who had both just graduated from Rhode Island School of Design, traveled to upstate New York to stay at her family’s Finger Lakes retreat, near her childhood home in Rochester. Fitzhugh ended up bonding with Lyndsay’s dad, a wood enthusiast. “When he heard that I’d just started playing with wood, using it to detail these clay sculptures I was working on, he was like, ‘We’ve got to go into my workshop and mess around!’ And before I know it, we’re out in the forest cutting down trees and filling up a rental truck,” he explains. Talk about son-in-law material. “Fitzhugh was so in,” Lyndsay says with a laugh.
This anecdote reveals much about the pair, now parents of two: their mutual reverence for natural materials; their immersive, hands-on approach to craft; and their fondness for family collaboration. The story also foreshadows the couple’s most recent project: a 5,400-square-foot residence, dubbed “the lodge,” that they designed and built on the family property, a verdant site that cozies up to Canandaigua Lake. Lyndsay’s parents, Richard and Jennifer Sands, commissioned the house to accommodate their multigenerational brood, which includes eight grandchildren under 11. “Eventually, whenever we’d all visit, there were too many kids per bedroom,” Lyndsay says. “My parents wanted a bit more space.”
So a new guest house up the hill from the main residence made perfect sense, as did the choice of Fitzhugh and Lyndsay to oversee the design. The couple is the creative force behind the Brooklyn Home Company, a boutique real estate developer Lyndsay co-founded 12 years ago with her brother Bill, who spearheads operations; Fitzhugh serves as artist in residence. Specializing in townhouses and small condo properties, the company has a holistic approach; whereas many developers deliver a bare-bones interior for the buyer to fit out, TBHCo. masterminds and handcrafts everything, from doors to mirror frames, all conceived as custom art pieces integral to the architecture.
Although the board-and-batten-clad structure of the lodge is newly built, the frame was assembled from timber beams and columns re-purposed from two historic barns. Most of the flooring and some of the bespoke furnishings were fabricated from century-old bog oak dredged from the Erie Canal. The rough-hewn finishes, some bearing original ax marks, give the rooms an air of old-world coziness. “Our aesthetic is very simple—white and wood—with tonal variations derived from changes in texture, form, and light,” Lyndsay says. “That ethos came from having grown up experiencing my dad’s passion for wood. To come full circle, back to where it all began, on my family’s property, has been really meaningful.” (The firm is also building its first hospitality development nearby: the 125-room Lake House on Canandaigua, designed in collaboration with Studio Tack, a destination that will feature a spa and be accessible by seaplane.)
Lyndsay also credits her upbringing with sparking TBHCo.’s extreme DIY approach. Although Fitzhugh does some prototypes in Brooklyn, most of the larger works are made upstate with the help of a network of makers in nearby Naples, New York. In the lodge’s living area, for instance, the oak, walnut, and brass dining table, large charred-cedar sculpture, hand-carved credenza, brass fire screen, and assorted side tables were all designed by Fitzhugh and reflect the shapely, primal geometrics he favors in his fine art. “Sculptural ideas make their way into my furniture practice,” says Fitzhugh.
With up to 19 family members converging at once, function helped dictate aesthetics. “A priority was having a dining table that can fit everybody, as well as a kitchen that can handle multiple cooks,” says Lyndsay. Likewise practical, if whimsical, is the camp-like bunk room with six beds and a pull-down movie screen. The living room TV can recede into the floor.
For decoration, they decided to display artifacts amassed by Lyndsay’s globetrotting parents. “My dad worked hard his whole life”—he’s the executive vice chairman of Constellation Brands, whose portfolio includes Corona and Robert Mondavi Winery—“and now is his time to see the world,” Lyndsay says. Papua New Guinea was a recent destination. She and her husband accompanied her parents on the trip, which inspired some design elements. The entryway credenza, for example, has a zigzagging motif that riffs on the region’s volcanic terrain. Another influence is closer to home: the indigenous peoples of the Finger Lakes. “The land feels untouched since their time,” says Lyndsay, who based the bedroom wing’s inlaid-wood doors on a Native American textile.
The Sandses were so enamored with their new guesthouse that, just before the project was slated to wrap, they decided to move in themselves and use their main house as the primary sleeping quarters for visitors. “We were a few weeks away from having our second baby when my parents told us this, and I had a little freak-out,” Lyndsay says. Luckily, the only major change was to convert two of the bedrooms into a larger master suite, achieved by removing one wall. And if the clan grows any bigger, overflow can spill to the Lake House on Canandaigua, which opens this summer.