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Cape Cod character from Home & Architectural Trends volume 2706
Cape Cod is renowned for its traditional American shingle houses, most of which were built at the beginning of the 20th century.
Not every house dates back that far, however. And looks can be deceiving – this vacation house fits right in with the neighboring properties, but was built 100 years later.
Architect Tom Catalano says the house was designed for an owner who then sold the property before it was occupied. The new owners subsequently made substantial changes, all designed to enhance the traditional character of the interior, while equipping it for modern living.
The American shingle style is evident at first glance. In keeping with the architectural vernacular, the house has steeply pitched roofs that sweep down low to bring a human scale to the exterior. Low veranda roofs, eyebrow windows and a band of millwork around the top of the first story reinforce the sense of intimacy.
A series of columns with Tuscan-style entablature run around the house, helping to form the expansive covered terraces and framing the front entry at the center.
"As with most shingle houses, the architecture is almost, but not quite symmetrical," says Catalano. "Visually, this is more interesting than a fully symmetrical facade, which would have been too static. We also added traditional elliptical windows for a balanced composition on the front facade."
Catalano says the house was designed to maximize a water view to the northeast at the rear, and the sunlight from the opposite direction.
"We have tried to ensure as many rooms as possible have windows on three sides. The house consequently has a modified butterfly plan, with two angled wings on the left. These wings flank a sheltered garden overlooking a pool. Another wing on the right accommodates the garage."
With its high ceilings and white-painted millwork, the interior typifies the American shingle house era, but with a modern twist. The room originally designated as the living room has become a family billiards room, with windows to the front, side and rear. This room leads to the two angled wings – one of which accommodates the library and one a screened porch.
The ceiling in the porch follows the gabled roof line, which incorporates high eyebrow windows that allow extra light to flood the interior.
Natural light is also in abundance in the spacious family room and kitchen. As with the porch, these rooms are decorated with summer blue accents that provide a visual link with the sea beyond.
In the kitchen, a painted beadboard ceiling and cabinets with beaded inset panel doors handpainted in a warm off-white shade evoke a strong sense of nostalgia. The effect is enhanced by antique-style French light pendants that have a nautical reference.
The kitchen also features a casual family dining area with a farmer's table and bench seats set within a large bay window. Dark-stained white oak floorboards, which can be seen throughout the living spaces, make a dramatic contrast to the white cabinets.
"The kitchen is the most frequently used room in the house; the place where everyone gathers," says Catalano. "It was designed so that more than one person could work at the same time."
To provide an easy flow, the kitchen is open to both the family room and formal dining room. The latter is painted in a dark chocolate brown, contrasted by off-white millwork, which gives the room an intimate feel.
Attic-style bedrooms are positioned on the second floor and are in keeping with the traditional character of the house. Each bedroom has a sitting area, enclosed within a window bay.
But it's not just the interior spaces that make the house an ideal retreat – Catalano says just as much attention was given to the outdoor living areas. In addition to the seating areas on the long terraces, there is a pool pavilion and a tennis court beyond the pool.
"There are plenty of places to enjoy the sun, or simply sit in the shade during the hot summer," the architect says.
This new American shingle vacation home typifies an architectural style common to the Cape Cod region. The steeply pitched roof line sweeps down low to make the large house seem less intimidating. The property has a pea stone forecourt, with garaging to the right of the house.
Thomas P Catalano AIA, Catalano Architects (Boston, MA)
Quarter-sawn white oak from Hoboken
Remains Lighting; Chameleon Lighting
Story by Colleen Hawkes
Photography by Eric Roth