Generation Next on Cape Cod

Text by Elizabeth F. McNamara Photography by John Gould Bessler Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent

These days, the average homeowner stays just over thirteen years in one place before moving on. The owners of this Orleans, Massachusetts, summer home plan to defy that statistic. They built their Shingle-style beauty with their children, their future grandchildren, and even their great grandchildren in mind.

The need for their own place wasn’t immediately obvious. They and their three children had spent summers with the wife’s parents in a spacious dwelling that happily accommodated. But when a property just three doors down and looking out over Pleasant Bay came up for sale, Mom and Dad decided it was time for their own Cape Cod forever house.

Their plan involved razing the lot’s existing house and guest house and building two new structures, a task they turned to the Cape Cod firm Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders to fulfill. Given the environmental delicacy of coastal construction, the homeowners were happy to do their part to protect the site. They opted to situate the new guest house a bit farther back from the water, and they made clear their intention to keep the large English oak trees that dot the property.

When it came to the type of house to build, that was easy. They always wanted a classic Shingle-style home, although, the wife says, “not something cookie cutter.”

The twin-gambrel house has a porte cochère at one end that connects the main house and garage. With its doors on the back side, the garage looks more like a guest house. Indeed, one day the second floor will probably fill that role, “for the kids to migrate to when they have their own families,” says the homeowner. For now, it’s a playroom, or “party barn,” as it’s become known.

At the other end of the house, a grand chimney with playful geometric forms and curving surfaces harkens to an earlier era. “This client specifically requested a detailed brick chimney, which is very fitting with the Shingle-style character of this house,” says lead architect John DaSilva. “We proposed a relatively rustic brick that appears classic, but not formal.”

At about 5,000 square feet, the four-bedroom main house is big enough for the family of five without being cavernous. “We went for a nice, comfortable footprint,” the wife says. “Too much room can be a bad thing. We wanted as much physical closeness as possible.”

Accordingly, first-floor rooms flow one to the other, with a focus on togetherness and the kitchen in the middle. As the client says, “It doesn’t matter how big your house is, everybody gathers in the kitchen.”

To one side of the kitchen is the family room, with a sizeable brick fireplace and a heavy stone mantel that came from a local quarry. This is a room where people can stretch out and relax, something that happens daily with teenagers in the house, says the homeowner.

The view out to Pleasant Bay, the largest saltwater estuary on Cape Cod, is a constant. “The house is arranged so there’s a view from virtually everywhere. Even the mudroom, which is at the inland side of the house, has a view through the screened-in porch,” says DaSilva.

The most formal part of the house is the entry hall, where paintings by various Cape Cod artists march along a wall that rises above a grand, curving staircase, one of the client’s specific requests. “I wanted a wedding staircase. I want pictures of the bride coming down,” she says, again planning for the future.

The entry hall leads to a dining room that gets plenty of use. With family and friends coming and going, dinner is usually a large group activity. “It’s never dinner for the five of us. It’s always more like dinner for fourteen,” says the homeowner. Of course, the ample porch and the patio dining area also get their fair share of use, especially on beautiful summer nights where the fun often begins and ends around the fire pit.

Coffered and tray-style ceilings extend throughout the house, adding subtle visual interest. “It makes such a difference,” says the client of the architectural team’s attention to detail. “That’s what they’re good at, adding these little things you’d never think to request.”

Interior designer Lisa Hilderbrand, who has an art history background, brought her signature classical yet decidedly unstuffy sensibility to the project.

“We didn’t want it to feel too formal, but we also didn’t want it to feel like the beach house where cast-offs are relegated,” she says. Some items—a pair of rich leather French art deco club chairs in the study, a daybed in the kitchen lounge area—are the clients’ long-cherished items. Hilderbrand found other items in favorite haunts from the Cape to South Carolina to Texas to New York, as well as online, to add to the mix.

Grasscloth makes an appearance on walls throughout the home. “That gives the house a shore vibe, and it helps to warm up rooms so much more than painted sheetrock,” the designer says.

“We didn’t want busy patterns, and we liked the warm, neutral colors. It keeps things a little cozier, more inviting, and it adds another layer of detail.”

The house has no primary palette. That was intentional, says Hilderbrand. “We wanted it to be a little bit different, room to room.” The wife’s favorite color is orange, she notes, a hue that pops up in shell and coral shades among the neutrals and blues that predominate.

Among the many varieties of blue, from the cerulean of a summer sky to the gray-blue of the sea on a cloudy day, is the glossy azure of the walls and cabinetry of a pantry that doubles as a bar during the family’s frequent parties. Tucked away in the study is another bar—this one a tiny space fondly called “the pearl” for its opalescent mother-of-pearl wallcovering.

That a spot in the house is named for a gem only seems appropriate, given how precious the waterside retreat has become to the family.

“We love the house,” says the homeowner. “It will be a long-term love affair.”

Project Team
Architecture and construction: Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders
Interior design: Lisa Hilderbrand, Hilderbrand Interiors
Landscape design: Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders

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