A Cape Cod Home That Balances Traditional and Transitional Design

April 22, 2021

Elegant, stylish, and without a trace of pretense, this Chatham getaway flows seamlessly from indoors to out.

Text by Paula M. Bodah     Photography by Jim Westphalen    Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent

This Cape Cod home holds a warm place in the hearts of the professionals who brought it into being. Maybe it’s because the clients, who were immersed in the project from the start, were delightful to work with. “They’re like family to us,” says Brian Vona of KVC Builders, the firm that assembled the design team.

It could also well be that the design team looks at the results and recognizes something truly special. “It’s really a sweet house,” says architect Doreve Nicholaeff. The Chatham property, overlooking a pond that links to Pleasant Bay, had an existing house and garage that the clients initially thought they could remodel. As Nicholaeff began sketching ideas, however, it quicky became clear that the bones of the house didn’t offer quite what the couple envisioned. Working within the existing footprint, Nicholaeff designed a house that nods to traditional Cape Cod style but with a clean, transitional feel.

Landscape architect Michael Coutu reimagined the yard and gardens to complement the architecture and highlight the property’s many assets. Coutu set native and ornamental plants—flowering shrubs, flowing grasses, fragrant roses, and colorful hydrangeas—along the curving fieldstone walls and cobblestone paths that flow like a gentle stream around the property. “There’s lots of texture and year-round color,” he says. “There is always something happening.”

All those curves in the landscape echo the rounded forms that repeat in the architecture. The double-height foyer, for example, is all curves and swoops, from the off-center spiraling staircase to the hallway that bends gently to let the living area, with its lovely water views, reveal itself slowly. Nicholaeff steered the foyer away from melodrama with clean, modern materials, like the anigre wood that forms the slender banister and trims the hallway’s panels. Interior designer Leslie Fine installed a John Pomp chandelier of handblown glass spheres that seem to cascade from the high ceiling. “It can be appreciated from both the first and second floors,” she says, “and it seems to follow you up and down the stairs.”

Fine complemented Nicholaeff’s architecture with clean-lined, transitional furniture against a palette of soft neutrals with splashes of color that speak to the waterside location. In the open-plan living area, Nicholaeff used varied ceiling heights, including a recessed oval coffer above the dining table, to define the spaces. Fine gave the recess a venetian-plaster treatment in a pretty sea-blue hue, then surrounded the Keith Fritz dining table with Dakota Jackson chairs outfitted in bright aqua fabric.

Twin L-shaped sofas give the long sitting area a cozy feel. “You can sit ten people there for conversation, or just have two people and still have it feel intimate,” Fine says. As chic and sophisticated as every element is, the overall vibe is gracious and unpretentious. Which, Vona will tell you, is an apt description of the homeowners.

Architecture: Doreve Nicholaeff,  Nicholaeff Architecture + Design
Interior design: Leslie Fine, Leslie Fine Interiors
Builder: KVC Builders
Landscape design: Michael Coutu, Sudbury Design Group