Seashore House

Cape Cod National Seashore
New Construction, 2021
Architecture and Decoration
General Contractor: Cape Associates
Landscape Design: Birdhaven
Photographer: David Mitchell

After a long search, our clients found an ideal property: a run-down house on a remote three-and-a-half acre site on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We had worked with them 12 years earlier on the renovation of a beautiful Victorian house in the Boston area, so we had a sense of their design sensibility. They showed us a picture of what they were hoping to build. The exterior would have a traditional New England look with white cedar shingles and pitched roofs. The interior would accommodate casual family life, barefoot in the warm Cape Cod summers and a place to hunker down by the fire during long cold winter weekends.

The existing house was demolished, but the 24' X 36" foundation was in excellent shape so it was reused for the main living space, and two more buildings were added to create a small compound—a house for their two grown children, and a carriage house with a guest suite.

After developing the programmatic requirements we discussed how to best react to the view. The house is set back 100' from the edge of the dune. The town has strict height requirements, and while the low scrub vegetation affords great views in all directions, the best views of the water would be from the second floor. And while the view was important, it was also important to maintain a seamless indoor/outdoor flow from the kitchen to the screened porches and stone patios.

The owners presented an idea that solved the view dilemma. The house for the children could be "upside down" with their bedrooms on the ground floor and the family room on the second floor, with a connection to the main house via a glass bridge. That allowed one of the living spaces to occupy the first floor with access to the site and another to have access to the view of the ocean.

A lot of our work is in the city, so it's not that often that we get to work on all aspects of the site, the architecture, and the decoration. Even gut renovations of townhouses have many constraints due to existing conditions. And while there were lots of regulations that needed to be addressed for the planning board, the building department, and the National Seashore, this project was an incredible opportunity to construct a totally new living environment for the most kind and gracious couple that you'll ever meet.