A creative soul finds restoration on the lake
Photos by Cheryl Koralik
As a young boy, Tim Lovett raked leaves into layouts of houses. He critiqued the homes his parents bought. He took long car rides with his mother and they explored every dirt road, taking note of each house tucked away. The southern Berkshires was his backyard, and his neighbors and friends around Otis Reservoir were as diverse as the homes that dot this natural landscape—from farmers’ kids to the offspring of New Yorkers’ Tanglewood-elite.
“We couldn’t have had more fun. It was impossible,” says Lovett, at 57 still as captivated by the Berkshires. His gentle demeanor, his faint drawl, his optimistic approach toward life’s adventures are infectious. It is within this landscape, in one of these homes off the beaten path, where Lovett retreated in his 40s to give him focus and a healing environment after he was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. And it is here, now, standing in the driveway with his eager-to-play-fetch dog, Frosty, where Lovett has a sense of calm, despite the frenetic state of every realtor in the Berkshires just before Labor Day, as clients squeeze in last-minute viewings before transitioning into fall mode.
He turns to walk into his 1926 home, only one of two standing where once was a shingle-style development. The house was built as a summer cottage, its base a French farmhouse with a big-hip roof. He continues through the house to the enclosed summer porch, his favorite place to be in the warmer months and where New York City guests love to sleep. There’s a bed, a sitting area, a dining table. Looking out to the trees, there is a dramatic staircase descent carved into a steep hill (Lovett’s home is at 1,500 feet elevation, one of the highest residential areas in the Berkshires), leading to what was a big selling point for him when he first walked the property—waterfront on Lake Garfield.
Water has always been an important element for Lovett. He grew up in West Springfield, and his family had a vacation house at Otis Reservoir. His dad was an avid boater. Lovett fell in love with his little world of East Otis, a happening place in the Berkshires back then with a myriad of eateries and a huge marina. By age 13, the family permanently moved there, and he entered ninth grade at Lee High School. He went to college at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, majoring in business and fine arts, then moved to New York City to work as an art buyer and then print producer for advertising firms such as DDB Needham and Kirshenbaum & Bond, among others. He worked with supermodels and top photographers on fashion, auto, and liquor campaigns.
When the 1980s market crashed, Lovett switched gears and became the creative director and a principal for a friend’s startup software company in Tokyo. He opened an office in New York City, the company sold, and Lovett rented a home with friends in the Hamptons for the summer. He was drawn back to advertising as a freelancer in New York City and then worked full-time again for Merkley Newman Harty.
Meanwhile, he searched for a weekend home in Shelter Island, North Fork, the Catskills, and the Hamptons while asking a realtor to keep an eye out for something in the Berkshires. In 1994, he found a fixer-upper cabin named Overbrook by a waterfall in Monterey. Then his life shifted completely. Diagnosed with a rare bone-marrow disease, aplastic anemia, this man who never had more than a cold went into survival mode. Given six months to live, he turned to his brother, a immunobiochemist, for guidance.
Lovett began experimental trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, retreating to the Berkshires where a sparsely populated area was better for his fragile immune system. He needed a project to keep busy and a creative outlet during this challenging time. So he began looking at the Home Buyers Guide and found this home on Eaton Road. “It was part of my cure—the rocks, the trees, the water, everything,” he says.
But the rundown, semi-winterized house needed work. “It was a wreck,” Lovett says. Still, he saw beyond the shag carpet and dated wallpaper, falling in love with the cabin’s shape, the setting on the lake, the four bedrooms, high ceilings, and massive stone fireplace.
So, this former ad director/producer orchestrated an overhaul. The day after the closing in the fall of 1998, nine pickup trucks converged in the driveway, and a streamlined production began that included digging a new septic system, lifting the home, pulling out the hunter-green carpeting, removing the wallpaper, painting, renovating the bathroom and kitchen, putting in new heating, plumbing, electric, windows, and roof. He moved in Christmas Eve.
As his health slowly turned and improved—he is now fully recovered—Lovett got his real-estate license on the side. He built up his strength by gradually taking on the 106 steps that descend from his backyard to the lake. “This was part of my healing, going up the steps,” he says as he made a descent once again with Frosty. They stop at the end of the dock and Lovett tosses a tennis ball, the dog soaring into the lake. Smiling, Lovett walks to the boathouse just yards away. The small structure was renovated to look like the house, replicated flawlessly by Roman Montano under a design by Ritch Holben—right down to the exposed rafters, the reveal, the beaded roof, the rafter tails. It is a place to store boating equipment and as a small, comfortable living space for guests.
In 2007, Lovett joined with Jen Harvey to create Berkshire Property Agents. “It’s because of friends wanting houses that I started selling houses. I returned to work full-time but in real estate,” he says, then turns to his cell phone that keeps pinging with texts. He has a house on Martha’s Vineyard when he needs a break, renovating that while looking at another place in Palm Springs, California. Still, he never stays away from the Berkshires for very long.