We have always lived in old houses. Our first house was built around 1920 in a Philadelphia suburb. It was a stucco Dutch Colonial, built with simple charm and sturdiness by Dutch and German craftsmen.
Our next house was the kind of place you buy in your early 30s, believing you are invincible. Located in Grafton, a Central Massachusetts hilltop town, the house had 14 rooms, none of which had been touched for decades. A handsome Greek Revival built for the town’s Unitarian minister in 1860, the house had an elegant curving center hall staircase, nine-foot tall ceilings, crown moldings, custom-designed built-in bookshelves, and even a solarium. But the wiring was ancient, there was no insulation, and we almost froze the first winter.
The house we live in now can truly be called an old house. Built in 1730 by a Centerville sea captain, it is a classic Cape, built to endure the ebb and flow of life on a narrow, sea-battered peninsula. The main part of the house features five rooms clustered around a huge central chimney. On cold winter nights, we warm ourselves by the original fireplace, which still has hooks for cooking. The stairs to the second floor bedrooms tucked under the eaves are narrow and steep. The house faces south, towards the Atlantic Ocean, and in the backyard there are two ancient apple trees gnarled by the elements and time. For almost 100 years, my husband’s family has called this place home.
Although I love this oldest of our houses, I am starting to dream about making it a little more comfortable, now that we know we are definitely not invincible. In our kitchen, located in a 1912 addition, I imagine bringing in a contractor and an interior designer to help me create a space full of comfort and convenience. Stories such as that of Edie DeHaen (page 50), who took an unremarkable Chatham Cape and transformed it into a charming cottage, inspire me. I look at the photos photographer Dan Cutrona shot of a masterful Hammer Architects redesign of an 1800s Provincetown home (page 42) and think to myself, “We could do that at our house!” As the editor of this publication, an inspirational panorama of Cape Cod Home ideas, visions, and concepts passes through my hands every week.
With the help of this magazine—and all the talented architects, interior designers, and artisans we meet in every issue—I can see how we can add a little lustre, comfort, and ease to our life in this very old house. I hope that Cape Cod Home does the same for you.
Susan Dewey, Associate Publisher & Editor