Tour an Outdoor Oasis on Cape Cod

June 1, 2021

This coastal retreat manages to feel refined and rugged all at once.

Text by Erika Ayn Finch    Photography by Dan Cutrona

A haven for family. That’s how the owners of a ten-acre private island on Cape Cod describe their sanctuary. Landscape architect Michael Coutu states it a bit more candidly: “I’ve been working on Cape Cod for forty years, and this is one of the nicest, most unique properties I’ve seen.”

Of course, it didn’t start out that way. When the Boston-based couple originally saw the land, from the water, in 2014, a thick forest of pine and oak trees along with a poorly sited home didn’t make the best first impression. “It was going to take a lot of vision and energy,” recalls the wife. They reached out to builder James Bowes, who had built the family’s previous vacation home. Bowes assembled a team of professionals that included Coutu,  principal at Sudbury Design Group. Coutu worked with the Barnstable Conservation Commission to ensure the protection of the surrounding waterways; a fifty-foot buffer of native trees and plants encircling the island does the job. The team retained as many trees as possible and planted additional ones to create what Coutu calls “view corridors” from the house and recreation spaces.

On approach, a gravel driveway first passes by a barn and tennis and basketball courts as it slowly climbs to
the main house. Along the way, lush expanses of lawn and groves of trees enticingly reveal glimpses of the water and, finally, the home itself, which includes a pool, spa, pool house, outdoor kitchen, two grilling areas, and two outdoor showers. A private beach and dock allow for boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, swimming, and sunbathing.

Coutu’s team added understory plantings with a focus on perennials, grasses, lowbush blueberries, hollies, hydrangeas, and roses. “It’s at once sophisticated and wild,” says Coutu. “Transitioning the home to the natural beauty of the island was key.”

So was capturing the homeowners’ casual style. “You approach the house from the side, and along the way, you’re more and more surprised by what you see,” says the husband. “It feels very natural.” His wife agrees. “It feels subtle, not grandiose, and that’s much more our style.”

Project Team
Landscape design: Michael Coutu, Sudbury Design Group
Builder: James Bowes, Bayside Building
Architecture: Timothy Luff, Archi-Tech Associates