The Gathering Place

It’s all about family at a Cape Cod house reimagined as an airy, sun-washed retreat with sleeping spaces aplenty.

Text by Julie Dugdale Photography by Keller + Keller Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent

When the couple pulled up to a rambling Cape-style home a few minutes from the beach and right on the bike path in Falmouth, Massachusetts, it was love at first sight. “It was incredibly charming,” the wife recalls, “with a very pretty exterior.” Enamored with some of the interior detailing and the home’s proximity to both ocean and town, the two bought the property the next morning.

But, as with all love affairs, things changed. Five years later, the house has nearly doubled in size, to 5,700 square feet, and now contains just a single original interior wall. The old layout didn’t quite meet the growing family’s needs. With children and grandchildren, it’s not uncommon for the house to welcome sixteen people on a summer weekend or holiday.

The homeowners had a vision for transforming the house, built in 1984, into a true family sanctuary with an open living area and plenty of sleeping space. First task: figuring out a way to expand the space. “It was a well-built home that had character, but not for today’s standard of living,” says architect Greg Siroonian, a principal at Rescom Architecture. “It had low ceilings and lots of small rooms connected by hallways—not the openness you see nowadays.”

To start with, he says, “we changed some roof pitches and dormers, creating a different configuration for rooflines, reinventing them to make the house a little more attractive from the outside.”

Inside, the wife wanted to transform the galley kitchen into an inviting culinary and socializing hub with natural light and lots of what Siroonian calls “head room.” Unfortunately, the existing second story made raising the kitchen ceiling difficult. In a clever work-around, Siroonian collaborated with Patricia Sciuto of Harbor Homes Custom Building to create an elevated design element in the second-floor hallway that acts as a step-up to the bedrooms and allows for extra inches in the kitchen beneath it.

The home’s main footprint stayed intact, but was bumped out on the back side to enlarge the kitchen and create an expanded living area. That meant Siroonian could increase the square footage of the original two bedrooms above the kitchen and add a third.

At his clients’ request he also added a new bunkroom at the end of the house opposite the master suite, complete with custom built-in trundle beds and lounge areas, that serves as sleeping quarters for grandkids and overflow guests.

For the look of her new spaces, the wife culled inspiration from hundreds of online photos, and she trusted Violandi & Warner Interiors—a new collaboration between interior designers Robin Violandi and Caroline Warner—to interpret and execute a vision that the two pros describe as traditional, but with an eclectic twist.

From the outset, the design duo attended every meeting with the project team to ensure cohesiveness of design features, decor ideas, and details like built-in shelves and cabinets.

Knowing her family retreat would serve as a getaway where sandy feet traipse in on lazy summer days, the homeowner didn’t want anything too formal or fussy in the main living area. “The furniture had to be comfortable; nothing could be for show,” she says. “I didn’t want to have to say, ‘Get your feet off the furniture.’ I didn’t want to feel like I was ­following people with a vacuum cleaner.”

The solution lay in a number of custom pieces from Robert Allen, along with a fair amount of Sunbrella fabrics for easy maintenance. Nothing is run-of-the-mill, from the custom-painted Urban Electric lantern light fixture hanging in the living room to the herringbone carpet with a textured navy leather band. “She wanted something special,” Warner says. “We always had to add that little extra.”

As for the color scheme and style, the homeowners are partial to an understated cross between nautical and Americana with a dash of beachy thrown in. “I’ve always been somewhat patriotic,” the wife says. “I’m a big American-history buff.” She found the perfect emblem of her patriotism at an antique flag dealer in Pennsylvania. The 140-year-old flag once flew on a Navy ship; now it serves as a grounding point to unify the neutral palette and primary-color pops in the airy living area. Plus, she says, the colors are gender-neutral and classic; perfect for a home with so many weekenders rotating through.

Violandi and Warner’s tasteful eye for balance and warmth, while staying within the color parameters, is evident in every room—the two based the entire color scheme on a Ralph Lauren lumbar pillow that shows off a rich burgundy red and plays off the flag.

Surprising accents add a playful quality: burlap-wrapped tables; just-elegant-enough chandeliers; two pineapple-print blue-and-white Kravet head chairs added to a wood-heavy dining set; a kitchen island boldly painted in Ralph Lauren’s Club Navy; an Old-Hollywood-esque vanity chair with small-scale animal print; and the redone V-groove ceilings, to name just a few. “We tried to warm up the Americana with texture, to modernize it with a little more color,” Warner says.

Meanwhile, a leisurely outdoor patio scape encourages summer barbecues. The homeowners gave Emir Smaykiewicz and his team at Greener Image Landscaping a wide swath of creative freedom to sculpt a landscape with vibrant color, as long as the patio and the driveway served the family’s outdoor needs in warm weather. “I traveled every square inch of that property,” Smaykiewicz says. “We gave them an outdoor living area they’ll use frequently.” A gas fire pit adds ambience on summer nights and warmth as the weather cools.

Rather than a wood deck or asphalt driveway, Smaykiewicz chose more-natural-looking stone: ­Beacon Hill flagstone for the patio and walkway, Unilock pavers in the driveway, and bluestone to soften the fieldstone foundations. “There’s a lot of driveway space, because when they do have people there, there are a lot of cars,” he notes. But, he adds, the terraced yard structure deliberately lessens the prominence of the driveway. Across the property, peonies, boxwoods, and hydrangeas bloom in lush color that plays off the blues and reds inside.

As visitors move toward the house via a walkway flanked with a colorful array of shrubs and perennials, they might notice a small sign that welcomes them to the front porch. It says, simply, “Days Like This.” In this dreamy getaway, it’s easy to imagine that every day approaches perfection. •
Architecture: Greg Siroonian, Rescom Architectural
Interior design: Robin Violandi and Caroline Warner, Violandi & Warner Interiors
Builder: Patricia Sciuto, Harbor Homes Custom Building
Landscape design: Emir Smaykiewicz, Greener Image Landscaping

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