Architect Doreve Nicholaeff and Delphi Construction join forces to create a special family’s retreat
There aren’t more than a few handfuls of spots around the Cape that lend themselves to the flexibility and functionality of an ideal setting for the ultimate family home with the potential for everything the region has to offer. But for the lucky homeowners who built a home on Baxter Neck in Marstons Mills, at the top of the bay, a perfect spot would soon become a beloved Cape Cod retreat.
Explaining the welcoming nature of the home that was envisioned by Osterville architect Doreve Nicholaeff, AIA, the homeowner says, “When we pull in to the house, we just get a feeling of being welcomed. It is a place that is full of memories of friends, family and good times throughout. It is just a happy home, and we know from the moment we arrive until the moment we have to leave it will be full of laughs and adventure.”
Nicholaeff has a natural intuition when it comes to designing spaces for her clients. In this instance she has fashioned wings that reach out from the center of the home, like two arms that wrap around toward the backyard with the pool and saltwater dock—the area that holds the focus of the family and their guests in the warm days of the summer. By creating these strong and protective wings, the home appears to be providing a warm and supportive embrace to this busy family with three active children. “The clients were very clear that they wanted a home that had a close relationship with the outside. The view, the landscape, the amenities—both inside and out—all had to interrelate with each other so that the lines are blurred,” Nicholaeff explains. “The homeowners were very involved from the early stages and we continually exchanged ideas. I like it when the client is very involved; it sometimes pushes me more to not only be more creative, but really get the design perfectly aligned with them.”
Before getting a glimpse of the spectacular backyard, visitors first are greeted by a front entry that has a center door, flanked by sidelights, with two-over-two divided lites, topped by transoms, across the entire entryway, making for a bright and open welcome. A curved roof overhang sets up another bank of two-over-twos that is crowned by another subtle curve in the roofline, and finally topped by a single four-over-four at the cupola level, banked by two strong fieldstone chimneys—all resulting in a very soft symmetry evocative of a special layer cake waiting for a celebration.
Inside the open floor plan of the first floor, the house rules are immediately established: this is a space to be shared. “We knew we wanted an open floor plan, one where kids, friends and family could just sit back and relax, but I also wanted it to be open to the kitchen, since I’m the one that is usually in there cooking,” the homeowner says with a laugh. A comfortable living room with dark wooden ceiling beams spools off toward the back of the house and is anchored by a floor-to-ceiling fieldstone fireplace with a generous granite raised hearth just perfect for perching. The homeowner goes on to say that she knew they didn’t want a separate dining room, but rather a large table that would seamlessly transition the spaces. The large open kitchen also is free of upper cabinetry so that the views and sunlight barely skip a beat as they fill the interior spaces.
One of the most impressive details that truly blurs the line between life inside and life outside is the massive NanaWall, a folding glass wall that transitions the outside in and vice versa. Nicholaeff was deliberate in the subtlety of the flooring transition to make sure that the travertine tile in the kitchen continued, sans threshold, and functioned as a border for the Ipe decking on the exterior dining porch. The dining table outside is also long and spacious in order to easily accommodate any number of guests who invariably will be stopping by.
Upstairs the spacious bedrooms showcase the personalities of the three vibrant children—in shades of blue and sailboat wallpaper for the boy’s room and pink and white for the girls. Privacy and natural materials offer solitude and respite to the parents in the serene master suite. The bedroom, wrapped in a cool, soothing, misty wintergreen color benefits from a treetop view of the bustling waterways beyond. The master bath beckons luxuriating—in an oversized, freestanding tub or the giant walk-in shower with no threshold and long walls of glass, placing nothing (literally) in the way of the view. A second story reading room is the perfect place for the family to catch up with their literary adventures, since the entire family loves to read. During the day, the views provide plenty of fodder for daydreaming, but at night, Nicholaeff’s round tray ceiling, with a star-shaped light fixture, sets the stage for celestial dreaming.
Throughout the home, there is an impressive and eclectic collection of stunning lighting fixtures. In the living room, two chandeliers, evocative of noted designer Lindsey Adelman’s style, balance the high ceilings of the room while adding a slightly more modern element to the overall design. The kitchen island is topped by a similar piece whose glass bulbs feel like bubbles moving through water to reach the surface. The homeowner explains her enthusiasm for finding just the right item: “Today, with the internet, you can successfully track down anything you want.” It was that kind of investigative grit she exercised when arriving at the design for the blue china hutch that also includes two wine refrigerators. The high-gloss cabinetry, painted in a popular Farrow & Ball color, is accented with a mahogany counter and brass and wood drawer pulls, giving it a timeless presence.
Many powder rooms are simply and succinctly described as being a “jewel box,” but the diminutive powder room created in this thoughtful home is jaw-dropping. First, the chrome vanity, with its one-piece carved rectangular stone sink top, was found, and the homeowner knew it would be the inspiration for the rest of the design for the tiny room. Then, the decision to wrap the walls with shimmering wallpaper that features fish swimming in their schools makes you feel like you are under water and completed the look to truly make it unique.
One of the most surprising and interesting elements of this entire project was their choice of contractor. Delphi Construction of Waltham and Mashpee has built their business delivering high-quality commercial construction over the years. Recently, they have leveraged the principles they have perfected and applied their delivery standards to the high-end residential market. Corey Heaslip, project executive for this project, explains: “This project was under our Delphi Special Projects division, a fairly new endeavor. Within that group our approach is that we can bring the efficiency that exists on the commercial side—things like mature systems, complex schedule and budget management—and combine that with the custom, high-end craftsmanship you would find in a fine home. A very important additional benefit is that the efficient management we bring to a project should result in a shorter production timeline, which is always of interest to a client.”
Since the homeowners live in Florida during the school year, they utilized an Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) to be on-site, make decisions, follow-up and advise for them in their absence. Overall, everyone agrees that the inclusion of this additional party made the entire project that much easier. “For me, it was great,” Nicholaeff explains. “When issues arise on the site, it is too easy to identify someone who is not there with the blame and responsibility. This way the OPM would be invested in a commitment to work things through to a quick resolution.” Heaslip notes: “There were remarkably few issues on this project as a whole, which is quite surprising given the size of the project, but when we did need decisions or a consultation, the homeowners were able to provide input and resolution immediately through their OPM. It ultimately saved time and money for everyone involved.”
One thing all parties agree upon is that, overall, the experience throughout the entire project was very pleasant, stress-free and gratifying. When asked how the project came to her, Nicholaeff responds, “By magic,” meaning that things came together quite unexpectedly, and she never anticipated the extraordinary experience it would become. Also noting her team at her Osterville office as being invaluable, she says, “There are all sorts of projects and all sorts of partners on projects, but this project was great from the first moment to the last, mostly because of the individuals involved.” Heaslip concurs: “We feel very invested in the projects we do, and we approach every project as a partner with the architect and value the creative vision they bring. It is all to ultimately create a home that the client will cherish for generations.”
From the moment this special family loads the kids in the car and heads down to the Cape, to the first glimpse of the home as they pull in the driveway, to the extended handshake and hugs guests receive as they are greeted at the front door, the home is poised to welcome family friends—new and old—and wrap everyone up in a warm embrace.