Dressed for Success

Text by Megan FulweilerPhotography by Brian Vanden Brink

Oh, the misery of showing up in formal attire to find the rest of the party is casual—or vice versa. The wrong type of house being built on a pretty street, though, seems far more painful. You can lose the tie or grab a pair of fancy heels, but what’s to be done about an awkward building?

Fortunately, no such faux pas occurred here. When age, wear and practicality dictated that the existing house be razed, the Shingle-style dwelling that rose up to take its place in this historic Cape Cod neighborhood looked like it was born to the role. “That was really our biggest challenge,” remembers architect Mark Hutker, principal of Hutker Architects in Falmouth, Massachusetts. “We had to convince the surrounding homeowners that the house we would build would look as authentic as its neighbors. We needed them to see we were friends of the community.”

Everybody is leery of change, of course. But as the months went by and the charming house began to take shape, the fears of the neighbors melted as quickly as last winter’s snow. It was obvious that this newcomer in their midst would—in accordance with the owners’ wishes—respect its time-honored locale.

To make the story even sweeter, when it was all done the players found they missed each other’s company. “We had so many laughs along the way,” the wife says. “Everyone brought something to the table, everybody listened to each other and people got excited about other people’s ideas. That’s a triumph in itself.”

Having worked on previous homes with interior designer Jeanne Racioppi of Williams & Spade Interior Design in Wayland, Massachusetts, the owners reached out to her again. Racioppi came on board at the beginning of the project, along with the team from Hutker Architects: principals Hutker and Charles Orr, as well as Kevin Dauphinais. With second-generation Cape Cod builder David Newton of C.H. Newton Builders—also of Falmouth—included in the group, there was no doubt this would be a spirited and skillful collaboration from day one.

The owners envisioned a year-round nest that, although primarily used in summer now, might someday serve as a retirement home. With two teenage children, the couple foresaw comfortable, livable rooms that would lend themselves to frequent gatherings of family and friends. And that’s just what their expert helpers strove to deliver, but always with the neighborhood in mind. “The home’s scale, proportion and materials had to be part of the surrounding culture,” explains Hutker.

Taking advantage of the sloping site and remarkable views, the savvy architects designed a handsome gambrel-roofed house that reads like a two-story home from the street. Two additional walk-out levels are revealed only gradually, as you transition to the water-facing side. So cleverly does the plan expand to take in the vistas, its glorious 9,636 square feet of living space remains a secret to passersby. Even with a generous carriage house—positioned at a right angle so as not to visually increase the home’s size—the final composition is a natural fit for the site and the area’s turn-of-the-century architecture.

Not surprisingly, given the care that went into the project, the interiors merge seamlessly with the home’s design. Racioppi saw to it that the decor complements her clients’ lifestyle in a user-friendly, “this is our vacation house” manner. “Their other home is a bit more traditional,” she says. “The owners didn’t want a total departure, but they wanted a clean palette and a fresh setting.”

A dexterous mix of old and custom pieces cultivates what Racioppi describes as an enduring casual elegance. The living room is grand with a locally harvested stone fireplace and reclaimed antique chestnut floor, but totally welcoming, too. French doors, with transoms above to welcome light, lead to the screened porch, one of the owners’ favorite destinations. Amenable to a range of activities, from reading to games, the porch lets the family linger outdoors—no matter the weather—far into the night.

Meals are always leisurely. The wife, an avid cook, makes good use of the spacious creamy-yellow kitchen with its granite-topped counters. Triangular stools embellished with brass nailhead trim, which Racioppi designed, serve as roosts for onlookers. Al fresco dining is often the theme, but when indoor meals are called for, a pass-through to the adjoining dining area allows the chef to join the conversation while keeping an eye on her domain. The dining area sports a Holly Hunt chandelier, and custom chairs surrounding the table offer an inducement to postprandial lingering.

Where privacy was required, the owners requested shutters. Otherwise, light-diffusing sheers—“reminiscent of furled sails,” says the wife—grace the windows, supplying just the right amount of nighttime coziness. Such subtle nautical touches, including the porthole windows in the ground-level bunk room, nod to the location but don’t overwhelm. There’s no mistaking the maritime tenor of the husband’s office on the topmost level, however. Striking mahogany paneling and a teak-and-holly floor create a yacht-like berth that invites paperwork or rainy-day napping.

The master suite claims one end of the second floor. Here again, Racioppi and her clients opted for colors that echo the outdoors. “The light seems to change the gorgeous tones—blues, greens, white sand—according to the time of day,” the thoughtful designer explains. Luscious pale-green walls in the adjoining bath team with old-school-style double sinks in green-and-white marble. The marble floor is dotted with decorative glass inserts.

Overflow guests gravitate to the carriage house, which offers not just sleeping quarters but a spacious sitting room as well. Down below sits the garage and, beneath that, the sumptuous home theater with its built-in bar and plush seats.

Whether they’re looking out over the harbor traffic or nestled in watching a movie, contentment reigns for the owners. Their handpicked crew has achieved exactly what they hoped for: a perfect balance of classic New England looks with twenty-first-century comfort.

Architecture: Hutker Architects
Interior design: Jeanne Racioppi, Williams & Spade Interior Design
Landscape architect: Kris Horiuchi, Horiuchi Solien
Builder: David Newton, C.H. Newton Builders
Custom millwork: South Shore Millwork

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