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House on the Oyster River

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A combination of styles, this home next to a tidal river has uninterrupted views in every direction

The site for this house is close to central Chatham and on a tidal river that runs parallel to Nantucket Sound


Architect: Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders

From the architect: The site for this house is close to central Chatham and on a tidal river that runs parallel to Nantucket Sound. The river is separated from the Sound by a barrier beach that is undeveloped except for a decommissioned lighthouse. The back of the site is on a salt pond and associated wetlands. There are beautiful natural views in every direction. Only one other house, also fronting on the river, is visible from the major rooms or outdoor living areas despite the historic and fully developed aspects of the peninsular location.

Some of the best historical shingle-style houses appeared as if they were wrapped with a shingle membrane that was cut like wall paper to make openings. They also appeared light – like balloons about to float away but always tethered to the ground. These were images we pursued in the design of this house. We combined these classic shingle-style ideas with the Cape Cod vernacular – gray shingles and white columns and window sash. Our white, however, is a creamy version to soften the contrast and allow the grid of the windows to be strong but not overwhelming.

The port-cochere separates the main house from the garage and guest suite above. Under the porte-cochere is a side entrance that leads to the mudroom and a private guest suite entrance that leads to a small stair. Above the porte-cochere is an office and a balcony that connects the main house to the guest suite.

The footprint of the house could not, by regulatory mandate, exceed the combined square footage


of the footprints of an existing house, guest house and office. This constraint forced us to be judicious in allocating square footage and led to a compact plan. The porch is just deep enough to give the feeling of a traditional front porch. The porte-cochere is just big enough for a car to pass through. Despite the constraint, however, the feeling is still of a grand seaside country estate.

The typical front-to-back plan relationship (front facing street, back facing a private yard) would

not be effective on this site, where the best views are perpendicular to the street. Wetland set back requirements also limited the width of house that could run parallel with the waterfront. Our plan configuration resolves these issues and allows all major rooms to participate in the best, south facing views.

First published date: 20 April 2017