New Seabury home designed by John Dvorsack exceeds family’s expectations
John Dvorsack designs a modest waterfront dwelling that is more than meets the eye
In Christopher Priest’s 1995 novel, The Prestige, which would later become a 2006 movie, the author explains that great magic tricks contain three parts. “The Pledge” introduces the audience to something that appears ordinary, but of course is not, then “The Turn” makes that item do something extraordinary. The last part is the payoff that elicits the standing ovation. Priest writes, “Every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call ‘The Prestige.’” Such is the case with the New Seabury summer home of Wellesley residents Heather and Rob Shanahan, where an apparently modest, traditional Cape is but an illusionary facade to an expansive, complex dwelling of contemporary West Coast beach flair.
The Greek thinker Anaxagoras, known for bringing philosophy to Athens circa 450 B.C., claimed that “Appearances are a glimpse of the unseen,” and the Shanahan house is proof. In Priest’s terms, its front face is “The Pledge,” an unassuming—though handsome—Cape house. Builder Scott Goldstein of S.G. Custom Homes in Mashpee states, “It’s very deceiving. From the road, you’d never know this is a four-story home.” The front features two main gables, one forming the roof over the garage, the other above the entryway. An eliptical window and an offset smaller gable draw the two peaks together and break the symmetry, the result of which seems to further reduce the scale of the house and understate its actual footprint. Located within New Seabury, a development that began back in the 1960s, if the home stands out with its street exterior, it does so in its classic shingled look. It looks like one of the more traditional homes in the neighborhood. “This was definitely the effect we were hoping for,” states owner Heather Shanahan.
The Shanahans’ house takes its “Turn” with its extraordinary interior. Passing through the door, one steps, almost as through a wardrobe, across the North American continent, all the way to California. Deborah Berger of Maven Interior Design in Wellesley implemented a “Santa Monica beach house” concept, created around the fusion of white and dramatic “color moments.” For example, the kitchen is all white, but the three hanging glass chimney lamps are aquamarine, and the mosaic of blue rectangular tiles above the sink and oven span a range of ocean hues. For the home’s most dazzling color bursts, Berger commissioned Black Crow Studios in Los Angeles to create two abstract watercolor murals on custom wallpaper. The first provides a key focal point with its swirling, ethereal blue in the home’s central dining room and entryway. The second greets visitors at the top of the stairs, where it wraps the surface of a rounded wall. The size of the pieces, and their contrast against the white surroundings, produces the sensation of inhabiting a wave’s barrel. Suspended above the stairwell, a large light fixture sculpted in the shape of a man-of-war jellyfish only enhances the trompe l’oeil effect of underwater depth. In the walkout basement, another bright mural covers an entire wall—a photograph of blue, green, orange, and manila colored ropes. Says Heather Shanahan, “These works are exceptionally cool. They’re such statement pieces.”