When Past Shapes Present
The dogwood tree—the site of an occasional family pig roast on summer days—was one untouchable sacred cow, recounts Mark Hutker, speaking of a home he and Gregory Ehrman, a senior associate at Hutker Architects, designed in the upscale Bourne community of Scraggy Neck. Another was the front garden, long tended by Roger’s mother, who had owned the property since the 1960s.
Also growing on the property were ferns cultivated by Roger’s great aunt, a world-renowned fern expert. On this land and in this new house, the past and present are kindred spirits.
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When Roger and Andrea Stokey decided to relocate to this family property from the Falmouth home where they raised their own three children, their intention had not been to tear down the original Cape that stood on this stunning site, with its views of Wing’s Neck, Buzzards Bay, and the Cape Cod Canal. It had been to renovate and add on to what was there in order to accommodate an ever-growing intergenerational family.
There were issues with the original home, though. The ceilings were too low, the insulation inadequate, and the windows needed replacing. The hope was that at least the foundation could be saved, but even that was a dream. “We went through a cathartic design process of trying to save what was here,” says Hutker. “We started down the renovation/addition path, but we ended up with a new home for all of the right reasons.”
While the need to start fresh made common sense, Roger, in particular, had to wrestle with his strong nostalgia for his childhood summer home. Finally resigned to the fact that saving his family’s old Cape was not an option, he says, “What I envisioned was taking the old house out and plopping down a new house, keeping everything the same. Halfway through construction, everything was leveled and destroyed. I thought, ‘Nothing will ever get back to the way it was.’” However, pleasant surprises awaited Roger and his family.
The new kitchen and upstairs bedrooms are essentially in the same spots as the old, but they are bigger and offer a greater degree of separation. Familiar armchairs now share living room space with a new sectional sofa. The couple’s old round dining table serves as a game table on a lower level, while their new dining table takes center stage on the first floor, expanding to seat up to 24 people.
Some of the changes were particularly welcome. Ehrman points out that Roger’s garage had the best view on Cape Cod, but was serving as a storage space for kayaks, boats, and other assorted objects he had collected. When he agreed to let it go, the family gained a luxury theater space. This cool retreat, with two tiers of leather stadium seats, makes sports and movie viewing light years better than that offered by the old basement TV room, which Roger says, “was dark, moldy, and nasty.” The kayaks and boats are now neatly stowed under a first floor bedroom suite.
Roger’s deep attachment to the past was one of the challenges for architects Hutker and Ehrman. Hutker says, “Roger grew up here. He loved and understood the history of this property. We had to respect his experience.” Another challenge for Hutker was preserving his friendship with the Stokeys, which he did not want to be compromised by the work relationship. The friendship had given Hutker an advantage, however. He had participated in some of those pig roasts, so he knew where the food was laid out, and he knew where the guests aligned their chairs to enjoy the view.