A Grand Synergy
A Pleasant Bay home combines the best of nature with Polhemus Savery DaSilva’s architectural innovation, creating a showcase for the homeowners’ art and furniture collections—and a cherished retreat for their family
There is nature’s art, and then there are human creations. Nature favors curves, variety, ever shifting views, light and shade. Enhancing and working with natural elements, humans imitate, configure, and arrange nature’s wonders to please and surprise the eye. With architecture, an ideal situation occurs when professionals work with nature to create a design that embraces the scene nature has set while realizing and celebrating the works of the human imagination.
This was just the case when architect John DaSilva and the design and construction team of Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders of Chatham collaborated with open-minded clients from New York to design and build a family-friendly home that sits comfortably on a wooded knoll while offering varied frames for views of a marsh, Pleasant Bay, and the ocean beyond. With grand human-nature synergy, the home also acts as a gallery for the couple’s art and art furniture collections.
Having already lived in a traditional expanded Cape-style home in Chatham, the couple was seeking something a little bit different this time, with inspiration coming from the American West and other areas of New England. “We had seen a lot of beautiful homes, particularly lake homes, while traveling in upstate New Hampshire and Vermont,” says the wife. This is not to suggest that their Cape home is out of synch with its local setting. Gothic Revival windows, broadly gabled shingle styling, and arts and crafts detailing all have precedents on the Cape and Islands. This melding and updating of traditional styles was, in fact, an aspect of the project that gave DaSilva great joy. “To have the opportunity to design a house that is clearly contemporary, but synthesizes eclectic influences from both the regional context and architectural history is very gratifying. I am quite proud of the results,” says the architect.
The home is barely visible from the water and is discovered as a series of surprises from the wooded side. Approached up a sweeping drive, the home’s front façade reveals nature’s influence. A steep sloping roof with a triptych of dormers rising from behind suggests a range of mountain peaks. The tracery in five Gothic arches and large overhangs recalls, as DaSilva says, “The sheltering canopy of the surrounding trees.” In the soaring chimney, a pebbledash glass panel, which is an update of a shingle-style detail, captures the ever-changing colors of the nearby marsh at sunset. “When the light hits it, it is like a living painting,” the homeowner says. Donna Mahan of Truro executed the panel, based on a design by DaSilva’s wife, architect Sharon DaSilva, using epoxy, pebbles, and glass chunks.
Reflecting the varied natural terrain around it, the home’s exterior presents many intriguing elements, including a porte-cochere leading under five Gothic arches to a motor court and three garages and Victorian-inspired swirled brackets holding up those arches. Between the screen wall created by the arches and a large round window is an opening to the sky. Beyond the port-cochere, the building extends out toward the trees and evokes, DaSilva suggests, the motion of a moving train. Secluded in this special space is the wife’s art studio, where, when time allows, she retreats to paint. Her husband often sits nearby tying flies, playing guitar, or listening to music.
Inside the home, art, architecture, and nature collaborate in every space. Outdoor architectural elements are echoed: plaster soffits and brackets form the boundary between the dining room and adjacent kitchen and family areas. Stair balusters and railings bring to mind the outside arches. Three sets of brackets, like those outside, delineate an upper gallery, which occupies the space gained above the porte-cochere.