Brian Vanden Brink
Riptide is one of Chatham’s most recognizable houses. It sits proudly between Shore Road, Chatham’s grand harbor-front boulevard, and Chatham Harbor. It is directly across from Hydrangea Walk, another Chatham icon that we recently renovated. It is very prominent from the water, as it is a tall colonial revival house sitting high above the harbor. It is the third historic Chatham house we have renovated for the same client, and it is probably the last since it is now truly their dream home.
Our changes to the exterior were minimal, yet they went a long way toward fixing problems inherent in the original. We positioned a new arbor so it led to the side facing main entry rather than to the street facing secondary entry, as had the existing arbor. Our design uses an abstracted fan light pattern from the historic main door but with a robust scale that has impact even when seen from the street; several hundred feet away. At the door itself, we created an exact replica of the historic fan light as the original was rotting out.
We replaced a rickety widow’s walk balustrade made from 2x4’s with a new one that has whimsical, abstracted classical urn shaped banisters appropriate to the scale and elegance of the home. The “urns” also appear in the base of the arbor and as a stanchion in the new mailbox stand. Mailboxes are prominent on the east side of Shore Road, where most of the houses, like Riptide, are down long driveways. Here we created a little piece of playful architecture announcing the house at an appropriate scale for the street (as does the new “Riptide” quarter-board sign made by the Chatham Sign Shop). The mailbox is designed to be temporarily removed in the winter, when snow plows notoriously hit mailboxes in this location. A sturdy stone pillar with a street number engraved into it remains when the box and its wooden base are removed.
Along with landscape architect Clara Batchelor, we added a low stone wall and gate along Shore Road. We eliminated the portion of driveway that connected to a shared neighbor’s driveway. We removed overgrown bushes that hid much of the house from the road and replaced them with new bushes and a picket fence. The grand old house is now more visible from Shore Road and has its own historic but unique presence that is in scale with the grand boulevard.
The existing interior was dark and functioned poorly. Renovations and additions over the years had placed the spaces for contemporary daily living at the street side. They had no visual connection to the spectacular harbor and ocean views, and little functional connection, as they were accessible only through a butler’s pantry or a hidden door in the paneling. The south facing front door was solid and closed off in a rarely used vestibule. No light ever came through, nor did visitors, because they could barely find it on the over-grown side of the house. Everyone entered through the mud room. There is now a clear and inviting sequence that includes the arbor, beckoning from the new opening to the street, and ends with newly opened and sun-lit circulation space in the house.
We did not expand the foot print, and the only expansion to the mass of the building was to extend a first floor bay window up to the second floor to provide more space and view at the northeast corner, where the view of the harbor is dynamic and beautiful. We reorganized this side of the second floor to be a master suite with sleeping, bath, dressing and study spaces. The former master bedroom at the southwest corner became a grand guest suite. All the rooms facing the harbor got new windows that stretch across the facade to expand the view yet remain stylistically in character with the original. Special molding details from the original were re-created around the new windows. At the street side of the house, a suite of bed, bath and laundry rooms became the grandchildren’s quarters. Here we re-organized the plan to eliminate the need to walk through one bedroom to access the others.
On the first floor, we removed the butler’s pantry and created a connected breakfast/kitchen/family room that is open enough to provide for casual meal-time socializing and that lets the light and view from both the northeast and northwest corners of the house penetrate the space. We created a large opening to connect the kitchen and family spaces to the new dining room. This had been a central study that included the main stair. We re-configured the stair so it is open to both the entry hall and the new dining space. Whimsical “Greek” columns now create an aedicule around the stair, separating it spatially but not closing it off. The walls that had enclosed the entry hall and vestibule were opened up to let natural light into the core of the house and to let the circulation flow with ease.