Skip to main content

Waterfront homes: ‘Wilderness’ views of the Connecticut River

The perfect house for passionate boaters is what Alan and Joyce Ortner sought in 2002 when they designed and built a three-story contemporary home on the Connecticut River.

Image placeholder title

“[From here] we were able to be on the water with our kids every weekend,” says Ortner, 61, a retired draftsman who formerly owned a tool and gauge manufacturing company.

Now their children are grown. The Haddam, Connecticut, couple want to downsize and build a smaller house nearby. Their 2.74-acre property, which has a four-bedroom, 4-1/2-bath house, a three-car attached garage, a 104-foot steel bulkheaded waterfront and two boat lifts, is on the market for $1.6 million.

“We wanted a very open plan with a ‘wilderness’ river view from every room,” Ortner says.

Land across the river is protected open space. The Ortners achieved their design goal with two wings angled off a central core of common rooms. From the foyer, views extend through the great room’s two glass walls to the river.

Fourteen feet above the hardwood floor, a loft encircles the rear of the great room; on the river side the walls soar to a cathedral ceiling. Across the hall, folding glass doors can close off the street-side media room without obstructing its water view.

The dining room, where cherry built-ins flank the window, is only steps from the great room, kitchen and a walk-in pantry. An angled breakfast island divides the kitchen workspace, which is lined with stainless steel appliances and maple cabinetry, granite counters and backsplashes.

Morning light floods the adjoining solarium, a favorite place for casual meals. A glass door accesses the riverfront upper deck.

The waterfront screened porch has a cedar ceiling and is accessed from the “service wing” (laundry, half-bath, mudroom and garage).

Just outside is an Ipe (a Brazilian hardwood) deck — enclosed by a wrought-iron fence — that connects to the upper deck, ground-level covered patio, lawn and waterfront.

The bamboo-floored master suite, which has a gas-log fireplace, occupies the opposite wing. Its sitting room/office, which opens to the upper deck, is across the hall from a spacious walk-in closet. 

Upstairs, a loft sitting area overlooks the great room. One bedroom (above the master closet) features an en-suite bath. The two bedrooms in the other wing share a full bath. All have skylights and river views.

The ground-level downstairs has a family room, a wet bar, a walk-in wine cellar for 400 bottles, a full bath and a bonus room. A sliding door opens to the covered patio. For entertaining nearer the river, the Ortners built a 20-by-33-foot flagstone patio with a handmade 12-foot plank bar.

“It’s our summer hangout,” says Joyce, a retired nurse and boutique owner. “We like to sit there and watch the boats.”

Her husband, a lifelong boater, doesn’t just watch. “We always had a ski boat, jet skis and a big boat for Joyce and I to get away in,” he says.

Along the wooden dock are davits and 20,000- and 8,500-pound lifts. The house has radiant heat in the ground-level floor and a high-efficiency, propane-fired four-zone hydro-air (combination water and air heating/cooling) system elsewhere. Utilities include a private well and a septic system. Taxes are about $23,200.

Jeanne Bailey, (860) 665-1094, of Jeanne Bailey Associates, Wethersfield, Connecticut, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New England Properties ( lists the property.

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue.