Light and Bright in Harwich Port
It’s all about feeling bathed by the sun at this Harwich Port home designed for maximum family fun.
The homeowners visited close friends in Harwich Port over many summers, so they got to know the neighborhood well. As boaters, the couple and their (now college-age) daughter appreciated having several marinas nearby; they enjoyed the town, the beaches—and the sense of community.
The village of Harwich Port is in an enviable lower Cape location, more or less halfway between the Cape Cod Canal and Provincetown. So, when a property with a promising lot but a not-so-great house came on the market, the couple jumped at the opportunity to build a summer home of their own. And while they had no concrete design plan, the wife knew what she wanted. “I have always liked houses that integrate the indoors with the outdoors, houses with a lot of light, which is very important to us,” she says. “I like the idea of a courtyard and, architecturally, having several interconnected buildings with discrete, but open, living spaces.”
They’d never built from scratch, so they called interior designer Jennifer Palumbo, with whom they’d collaborated three times before. (They’re now in the middle of a fifth project, a winter home in Stowe, Vermont.) In turn, Palumbo recommended Jim Cappuccino and Erin Levin of Hutker Architects, and landscape architect Kris Horiuchi of Horiuchi Solien, both based in Falmouth. With builders Kendall and Welch Construction in Barnstable, and with guidance from the wife, who was deeply engaged in the process, they developed a plan for a fresh, sun-kissed new summer home.
“The words that kept coming back to us as we imagined the house were natural, organic, and light,” says Palumbo.
While she was collecting ideas for the interiors, the architects started out, as they always do, with the site. “It had to be south facing to maximize solar exposure, and we knew we had to make the most of the half-acre, heavily wooded lot,” says Cappuccino. “We decided to build out to the edges of the property to create sheltered outdoor living and entertaining spaces.”
Landscape architect Horiuchi was in. “As a summer home, a typical day for the clients includes time at the beach and relaxing with friends and family back at the house,” she says. “They wanted a pool, a fenced area for their golden retriever, and a simple landscape that didn’t require extensive maintenance.”
The lot was a relatively flat rectangle. They razed the existing house and cleared the trees to start with a blank slate. The Hutker team proposed a clean-lined, sensible, 3,200-square-foot home in the shape of a T, everything the client wanted in a neat and unfussy envelope.
“By building up to the setback limits,” says Cappuccino, “we were able to create a kind of addition in back.” That established the desired courtyard effect. The property is defined by a clipped privet along the street and an evergreen arborvitae hedge around the three remaining sides for year-round privacy. Horiuchi planted beds of ornamental grasses to soften the base of the arborvitae hedges.
“We’re part of a neighborhood,” says the wife, “so we wanted our home to strike a balance between being unique and still feeling like a Cape Cod house.” The front elevation is charming, complete with a traditional farmer’s porch framed by blue hydrangeas. In back, Horiuchi sketched out a minimal, contemporary landscape. “Instead of one large central terrace,” she explains, “there are a series of smaller outdoor living spaces: a dining terrace with an outdoor grill, a covered terrace at the pool cabana with a fireplace, and a smaller area for chaises by the pool.”
The artfully designed pool area has two small garden beds for summer color, the palette kept to a quiet blend of blues and lavenders. A grove of honey locust trees provides shade.
Inside, the home boasts an open plan, where light flows easily. The entryway, for example, is bathed in natural light courtesy of a wall of French doors that offers a view out to the backyard. To maximize efficiency while minimizing the footprint, the team took the time to create functional spaces throughout. There are four bedrooms, three full baths, and a half-bath. “Many of the bedroom spaces required built-in furniture to add storage and make better use of floor space, while maintaining a sense of calm,” says Palumbo. “Seamless built-ins quieted down the experience in these spaces.”
“The homeowners wanted a soothing retreat, which drove the color palette,” the designer says. “They were intent on white being the overarching color, for its brightness and freshness. A single wall color was used throughout to purposefully maintain the calm and quiet aesthetic, but we added soft color to the base here and there.”
Palumbo and her clients opted for a few unexpected materials, including stone and tile floors instead of classic hardwood. “The clients are European so it was a familiar concept for them, but far less conventional in New England,” Palumbo says.
Shiplap-style paneling creates a clean, coastal feeling in many areas, although on the living room’s TV wall, a metallic end-grain wood paneling adds a bit of glamour. On the second floor, pre-finished wood flooring by DuChateau has a “natural and matte/fumed feeling,” Palumbo notes.
The home is filled with a carefully curated collection of art and custom furnishings—with relaxation playing an important role. “The clients had strong opinions about the comfort of their upholstery, specifically when it came to the sectional and dining chairs,” Palumbo explains. “That informed our choices.”
The homeowners give the house a gold star. “I don’t really have a favorite room, and I think that’s the genius of it,” says the wife. “Every space is appropriately sized, is pleasing on its own while being connected to the rest, and serves its purpose beautifully.”
They love that everything changes with the weather and the light—which doesn’t fade, even after sundown. Horiuchi calls the night landscape “magical.” And indeed, when light from the house wafts over the yard, a soft glow emanates from the pool, and dramatic uplighting illuminates the trees, the homeowners could hardly ask for more. Except, perhaps, a touch of extra radiance and warmth from the outdoor fireplace.
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