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A Summer Place
When it was time to look for a vacation house on the Cape, this homeowner knew exactly what her family needed and what she wanted. Nancy McLaughlin, an interior designer based in Medfield, Massachusetts, remembers when she first got to know her client’s style. “We met when she came to look at a spec house my husband had built and I decorated.” Her husband, Neil McLaughlin, heads up McLaughlin DeBenedictis LLC, a Westwood-based build-develop firm.
“She said to my husband, ‘I’m not going to buy the house, but I’d like the name of the interior designer.’ Her directness was so refreshing! She’s a business owner and young mother; she knows the value of time. I decorated the family’s year-round house; this is the second project we’ve worked on together.”
The Cape getaway the homeowners had in mind needed plenty of space for dinner parties and room for family to come visit. They wanted effortless flow from inside to outside. And they wanted it to look chic. The house they found, a nondescript box, didn’t have any of those quali- ties. But it had a spectacular location overlooking a beach, with views of boats and sea and shore. Seduced by the site, the owners added a new requirement to their list: the house had to be attractive from the street.
The homeowner turned to another professional she’d worked with in the past, architect John MacDonald of Lexington’s Morehouse MacDonald and Associates. “The house they bought was not that old, but it had no special features,” MacDonald says.Turning the ugly duckling into the swan we see today entailed building a guesthouse, adding a conservatory as well as a large front porch to the existing house, and building a terrace that pulls it all together. The new porch wraps around the 3,200-square-foot original house, and, says MacDonald, “It makes the house less boxy and creates access to the back.”
The driveway now approaches two similar structures that look as though they were built at the same time and are now gently aging in the summer sun. Placing the new 1,044-square-foot guesthouse next to the original structure created a courtyard on the ocean-facing side. Paved with bluestone, the courtyard terrace is home to the outdoor kitchen and dining room. Furnished with comfortable outdoor furniture, it also acts as an outdoor living room and stands in as the pool’s deck. “The guesthouse opens onto the terrace, which is the center of outdoor family life,” says MacDonald. “This way, guests are close, but not too close.”
At the pool’s shallow end the terrace leads into the new family room/conservatory, a dramatic, 600-square-foot space that effectively blurs the line between the out-of-doors and the interior. The pavilion-like room’s pool-facing side is entirely open. Mahogany accordion doors pull shut when needed, and there’s a motorized screen to keep bugs out.
A broad eyebrow—an echo of the smaller one over the front entrance of the guesthouse—extends from above the conservatory’s entrance. “It creates a transition and sheds water,” says MacDonald.
Corey MacPherson, Morehouse MacDonald’s project manager, says, “The underside of the eyebrow is a barrel vault that speaks about Cape Cod architecture. Also, it draws you outside.”
The conservatory ceiling is designed to look like an upside-down boat, adding to the room’s carefree, summery feel. “The large panes of glass help define the corners but leave a void for the view,” says MacDonald. “Together, the guesthouse and the conservatory embrace the summer living room area. The whole is summery, Cape-y, but a little more sophisticated.”
That is also an apt description of the decor. “The house came with a lot of black and brown furniture,” Nancy McLaughlin says. “We had to do something to make it happier. The homeowner likes an interior that’s not too casual, but relaxing, and a little bit dressier than you’d normally see on the Cape. She loves California: that’s the source of the indoor-outdoor emphasis.”
McLaughlin created a serene interior around a palette of light blues, aqua, cream and earth tones mixed with crisp white. She added bookcases and ceiling moldings to the living room and gave the dining room an infusion of Cape Cod charm with a painted floor.
The furniture, a mixture of the homeowner’s own collection and the dark pieces that came with the house, was slipcovered, painted and augmented by new pieces. The hardwood floor was darkened so that the now-pale furnishings appear to float. Window treatments are minimal, kept to simple Roman shades or ethereal, sheer panels. “The interior now relates to the scenery,” McLaughlin says. “In this house, it doesn’t make sense to try to compete with the view.”
MacDonald reconfigured the master bed and bathroom suite for better ergonomics and to bring in the view. McLaughlin especially loves the mother-of-pearl tiles applied to the wall behind the contemporary egg-shaped bathtub. “The homeowner wanted some ‘wow!’ and this is it—dramatic and beautiful.”
The house was completed in time for the family to move in last July. “They love it,” John MacDonald says. “It’s the ideal place for this young family.”
MacPherson recalls the pleasure of working with an informed, decisive homeowner. “She understands the process and can envision things in three dimensions. It makes thing go faster and ever so much more smoothly,” he says.
“It came out exactly the way the client wanted,” MacPherson adds. “For us, it was a really fun project.”
Architecture: John MacDonald, Morehouse MacDonald and associates
Interior design: Nancy Mclaughlin
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