This Cape Cod Compound is Ready to Host a Crowd

May 20, 2021

At this Osterville home, when it’s summertime, the living truly is easy.

Text by Paula M. Bodah    Photography by Trent Bell & Joseph Keller     Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent

When the design professionals who worked on this Osterville home talk about it, the word easy comes up a lot. Not that the project was simple. Architect Thomas Catalano, interior designer Manuel de Santaren, landscape architect David Hawk, and builder Kenneth Vona (who brought the whole team together) had to resolve plenty of complex issues on their way to achieving the stylish result.

But they all agree that their clients, a California couple with New England roots, wanted a home where they and their two teenage daughters could spend carefree summers.

When the couple bought the property, a not-quite-two-acre stretch on a peninsula with water on three sides, it held a Spanish colonial revival that everyone agreed should be replaced. But before Catalano could think about design, he had to make sure a new house would be around for the generations to follow. “The site was prone to flooding,” he says. “Our client was very clear that we needed to come up with a sustainable design that would work now, and that, when he wanted to give his house to his daughters in twenty or thirty years, wouldn’t be underwater.”

Once the property’s grade had been raised enough to account for higher sea levels and fortified on three sides with a low retaining wall, Catalano designed the structures—main house, guesthouse, pool cabana, and a building with an entertaining space on the first floor and an office above—with longevity in mind. Lower-level utility spaces are built to tolerate flooding. “Water can flow in and out without causing damage,”
the architect says. He chose western red cedar for shingles and roofing for its ability to stand up to salty air and high winds with little maintenance.

Layered over all that practicality is the visible part of Catalano’s magic, a playful take on the classic Cape Cod style rife with charming details inside and out. To take advantage of the peninsula’s 200-degree water views, the main house curves gently, ushering in natural light from dawn to dusk. “The house follows the sun,” Catalano says.

Landscape architect Hawk’s plan was all about connecting spaces. “Tom artfully created a wonderful vocabulary of architecture,” he says. “It’s almost a little village that wraps around the pool.” Hawk introduced patios, decks, terraces, meandering walkways, swaths of lawn, and borders and beds of native plants and Cape Cod classics like hydrangeas and roses, unifying the property from the gracious front entry to the dock at the foot of the sloping backyard.

Inside, de Santaren’s design continues the easy, flowing ambience. “I didn’t want any competition between the inside and the outdoor landscape and seascape,” he says. Every light-filled room is outfitted with furnishings chosen as much for comfort and effortless maintenance as for good looks. The handsome chairs surrounding the dining table (which extends to seat up to twenty-two for dinner) are, says Catalano, “probably the most comfortable dining chairs I’ve ever sat in my life.”

In the same good-looking-yet-practical vein, the kitchen’s twin islands sport leathered-quartzite tops that de Santaren calls “practically indestructible,” and the living room floor wears fade- and stain-resistant indoor/outdoor carpeting. “There are no fragile materials in the house,” says de Santaren.

Even the main bedroom suite fuses form and function. Built-in nightstands and dressers make the bedroom as efficient as a ship’s stateroom, while the bath is an all-white spa-like oasis.

When the family opens the doors at the start of the warm season, it’s easy to imagine their fondest wish is that summer will never end.

Project Team
Architecture: Thomas P. Catalano, Catalano Architects
Interior design: Manuel de Santaren
Builder: Kenneth Vona, KVC Builders
Landscape design: David Hawk, Hawk Design