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A Place to Call Home

A Place to Call Home, Winter 2016 Cape Cod Home |

Photograph by Dan Cutrona

For the redesign, David and Helen moved their own bedroom downstairs and converted the upstairs into an area for their sons and grandchildren. Prior to the changes, they had felt cramped. Now the younger generations, as Helen points out, occupy the entire second floor. “They have their privacy,” she says, “and we never go upstairs anymore.” To create this new space, Swensson and builder Steven Bishopric extended each side of the home’s gambrel center portion. This expanded the overall floor plan by about 1,500 square feet, to roughly 6,500 in total. Swensson states that, “David was very concerned about the appearance from the water—he thinks of this as the front side of the house—so there were issues with balance and symmetry that we had to work out.” The building team also redid all of the exterior finishes including the shingles, and they added a new roof.

Many of the interior changes involved light and, as Cooper puts it, “crispness.” He reupholstered nearly 40 pieces of furniture in an effort to both preserve the original pieces and update them for their new seaside environment. What had been black leather wing chairs in the family’s Cincinnati library, for example, morphed into much brighter chairs clothed in pink and white linen. Helen notes that “the entire house is wallpapered,” which, Cooper adds, “makes it warm and welcoming.” The only piece that the designer kept in its original garb is the sofa in the living room, but he “freshened this up with new white pillows.”

Though the home was built in the early 1950s, Helen Herrlinger’s mother purchased the house in 1968 and had been its owner for more than 25 years. During that time, the family had made few changes. As is the case with many older Cape Cod homes, the cedars and pines had grown up around the property, which imparted a forested feel. In those days, David states, “you couldn’t even see the water.” In addition to the shrubs and trees growing in the floodplain between the back yard and North Bay, phragmite reeds also loomed as both a visual and physical barrier to the water. Then, in 1990, the family was able to fell 18 trees, and the state of Massachusetts changed its laws about phragmite, allowing for its removal, which, as David notes, “was a blessing.”

One of the key changes to the physical layout of the home has been the addition of a huge picture window in the living room. When one enters this space now, it’s impossible to avoid the view, which practically pours into the room—the yard stretching across to the floodplain and its manicured cedar trees, and, of course, the water. Just to the northeast, along the beach, the vista includes St. Mary’s Island, and directly across the bay one clearly sees the shoreline and mansions of Oyster Harbors. One’s gaze can travel into Cotuit Bay as well. As a result of these changes, the living room has become a space that the Herrlingers “use all the time,” according to Cooper. “In Cincinnati it was one of those big, unused spaces,” he says.

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