Harbor View is at the end of a winding picturesque lane on the east side of a peninsula. The house site is a bluff between a low-lying yard and a harbor-front coastal bank. When the clients bought the property, a poor quality Cape sat on the bluff and took little advantage of the spectacular site. The existing house established a footprint that could only be minimally expanded because of the wetlands in front and the harbor beyond. The existing footprint was a rectangle and the regulatory limits allowed an addition to the front at one end only. The result is a compact L-shaped footprint. While this restriction had to be the starting point for the design, it was not, in the end, a limit on the expressive or functional success of the house.
The L-shaped plan is common in Greek Revival houses of the region where the roof eave of the long leg (“bar”) and the gable end of the short leg (“gable”) face the front. Historically, this bar and gable type was often embellished as time went on and stylistic inclinations changed. A tower at the intersection of the bar and gable, a porch or multiple porches, and detailed trim could be added to give an up-to-date Italianate feeling to the more stark Greek originals. At Harbor View, the basic type was transformed by site restrictions, programmatic requirements, and an attitude of playfulness critical to a family seeking an informal home that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The underlying presence of the bar and gable, however, provides the basis for a design that feels comfortable in the historic context but also fresh and of our time—a suitable synthesis for the retreat of a dynamic family and their friends. The site constraints made devising a clear entry sequence a challenge. The lower level is half buried in the bluff creating a basement where walk-out potential is to the front of the house rather than the more typical rear.