A sloping flagstone path replaced an awkward-looking wooden staircase leading from the driveway to the front door. And now there’s a second way inside: Corridors (visible in the right-hand third of the photo) link the main living quarters to an elevator that connects to the garage.

Image: Jon Jensen

WHEN A FOR-SALE SIGN went up just down the street from Bob and Stevie Burke, the retired Lake Oswego couple knew they had finally found their dream home.

Well, sort of.

What attracted their attention wasn’t so much the house, a circa-1979 trilevel that was starting to show its age, as where it sat—on a lot that hugged the sloping south bank of the cozy suburb’s namesake. Not only did the home overlook the 405-acre lake’s glistening waters, but it also possessed an unobscured, east-facing view of the white-capped peak of Mount Hood. “The view was drop-dead gorgeous,” Stevie says.

lake escape hall
Image: Jon Jensen

Heavy posts and beams are about all that’s left of the ’70s trilevel that architect Dennis Batke redesigned for the Burkes.

The Burkes had been offhandedly looking for a lakeside residence since 1997, a decade after they had settled into a contemporary four-bedroom home a few blocks inland from the shore. Bob, a fit 63-year-old who radiates a gracious calm, cofounded and led a successful investment firm in California before leaving the company 14 years ago to embark on a second career as a fourth-grade teacher. After a six-year stint with the Lake Oswego school district, he joined Stevie, also 63, a former interior designer with a bright smile and similarly easy manner, in full-time retirement.

As a result, the couple, who celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary in September, spend a considerable amount of time at home—that is, when they’re not traveling in Asia (they’ve visited Bhutan, Tibet, Mongolia and China together, and Bob recently returned from a stay at a Buddhist monastery in Kathmandu) or spending their winters in Palm Desert. The lot seemed to offer a perfect summertime retreat, providing not only a grand vista, but also privacy: Tall fir trees and a curve in the lake shore shielded the abode from the gaze of passing boaters, while a long driveway kept it completely hidden from the street.

When the Burkes took ownership of their dream property, however, they knew they’d have to radically transform the house. The woodsy ’70s style needed updating, and at 3,300 square feet, it was too small to accommodate the couple’s frequent houseguests and provide privacy for the hosts. The east perimeter wall needed more glass to really take advantage of the natural surrounds. Plus, there was the dreaded “grocery bag” problem. To get from the end of the driveway to the front door, one had to trundle down a plummeting flight of exterior stairs, a laborious journey for anyone, much less a couple in their 60s, to undertake while clutching jugs of milk.

The lot offers a perfect summer retreat: a grand vista, but also privacy.

lake escape door
Image: Jon Jensen

An antique panel from India finds new life, having been incorporated into the Burke’s front door.

The Burkes hired Dennis Batke, a local architect with experience designing luxury homes and commercial spaces (including the iconic corrugated-metal-clad headquarters he remodeled for Tin House magazine on NW Thurman St at 26th) to completely rethink the house. It was an apt choice. His radical proposal called for expanding the floor plates on all four sides, building an elevator shaft between the driveway and the main level to dispense with the stair problem, and connecting the elevator to the main structure with interior corridors. Besides adding nearly 4,000 feet of living space, Batke incorporated an east-facing glass wall supported by a steel frame, which opened the home to the lake’s dramatic expanse. He even reduced the steep pitch of the roof to allow the glass wall to grow taller, so that the home’s mezzanine level could enjoy a wide-open shot of Mount Hood’s profile.

As a result of Batke’s redesign and the expert work of contractor Paul Steiner of Otis Construction, which specializes in high-end residential remodels, the Burkes occupy what’s essentially a brand-new house: Other than some massive wood post-and-beam supports, all that remains of the original structure are two interior walls.