2,800 square feet (interior)
3,520 square feet (perceived)
Brian Vanden Brink
As retirement time approached, our client’s memories of magical times spent in their Cape Cod vacation home kept coming up. For years their house on an inland site on Morris Island, the Cape’s most Southeastern point, worked beautifully for family vacations. For the slower more contemplative years of retirement, however, the views over Chatham harbor, Chatham village, and the open ocean afforded by another Morris Island site, right around the corner from theirs, proved irresistible. In 2004 they bought the neighboring property and hired Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders to design and build their new "magic place." Their needs were fairly simple: a relatively compact home that was gentle, pretty, and full of warm wood. At the same time they asked for a home that was distinctive and unique to them and the site.
The house sits on a hillside flanking one side of the entrance to the Morris Island peninsula. The house across the street has a large octagonal dormer that inflects toward and marks this entrance. We placed an octagonal tower at the corner of the new house, closest to the entry point to the neighborhood, to mark the opposite side of the entry. Together these elements create a gateway. The tower is a gesture scaled both to the neighborhood as a whole and to the house as on object.
This house is actually smaller than it appears. Its design makes a big impact in this neighborhood of mostly much larger houses. The L-shaped plan’s long leg defines the front façade, while the short leg faces the view. It is not immediately apparent from the public sides of the house that the length of the view facade is not the depth of the entire form. The two-car garage is integrated into the mass of the house and its doors are hidden from the front. The northeast façade descends with a gently curving roof that echoes the slope of the land. This connects the house to its natural context in a modest yet direct way. The shingled exterior in soft gray, with white trim and dark blue accents is a nod to the traditional Cape Cod color palette.
The most dramatic space in the house is the living room, which is a single tall volume under the curved roof. Although it is not large in plan, it captures a sense of a storybook interior. A simple rectangular grid of wood battens makes the ceiling special and dynamic, and ties in with the wood built-ins and trim. A balcony sitting area up under the gable connects first and second floor living functions and provides a secluded nook for enjoying the view.
Our clients were so happy with the appearance of their new house that they commissioned a rendering of its exterior to be painted on tiles installed above the living room fireplace.