At first glance, this Yarmouth home is an exemplary depiction of a traditional Cape Cod property: stained cedar shingles are stacked one after another, a stone chimney rises elegantly from the rooftop, and carefully maintained shrubbery line the outskirts like sentries. Nonetheless, the home resists classification. The height, the shape and the numerous balconies all suggest a specific architectural goal. And indeed, behind a halo of trees in the backyard rests the watery feature that has influenced nearly every part of the home’s architectural design.
A sprawling front lawn invites visitors to trek through the meadow of grass to the backyard, where the expanse of Lewis Bay becomes visible, glinting diamonds in the sunlight. Gazing upwards, it is suddenly clear that the home’s distinct features were crafted to take advantage of this backyard bay. Peering upwards, one squints to estimate where the house ends and the sky begins as the midday sun obscures its true height. Its four layers stacked like a chocolate cake of gigantic proportions, the home guards Lewis Bay with the tenacity of a lighthouse. On a stone courtyard under the shade of the balcony recline several lounge chairs, ideal for taking advantage of the bay breeze on a Cape Cod summer’s day. The home’s many vantage points overlook the sailboats and orange buoys bobbing happily on the horizon. Designed by ERT Architects and constructed by MJ Nardone, the home is a thoughtfully-executed celebration of its seaside location.
As a remodel of a preexisting structure, the soaring house which now occupies the property succeeds most where its predecessor failed: in complementing the beauty of its bayside location. The former property was a low-profile, ranch-style home built during a time when waterfront views were not cherished. Making matters worse, the L-shaped home was visually imbalanced, with one side towering over the other. “The homeowner’s vision was to take better advantage of the water views and to modernize the home,” explains Erik Tolley, Principal and Lead Architect at ERT Architects, “Giving the home a better sense of balance from the exterior was a large part of this modernization.”
“One of our objectives was to maintain the character of the house that was built 40 or 50 years ago as it reveals itself when you come down the long driveway. And of course, we wanted to maximize the view,” the homeowner explains. The challenge of simultaneously creating balance and optimizing views of the bay was accomplished through a reconsideration of space in the home. “Whereas the old house was chopped up into lots of small spaces, we opened up the floor plan in the remodel,” Tolley describes, “This was particularly successful in that it completely transformed the feeling of the house into a warmer, more welcoming space.”
The first floor of the home now boasts a modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances that leads into a spacious and comfortable living area. The kitchen and living spaces are bathed in natural light shining in from numerous wide windows and a set of glass patio doors leading outside. The ceilings in this area were raised during renovations to allow space for five floor to ceiling windows that gaze over the bay.
The raised ceilings were also intended to make the living area a space for personal connection. “The homeowner’s intention was to make the home a place where they could entertain, enjoy family, and just be there, and not have to go somewhere else,” explains Mike Nardone of MJ Nardone, “You can be in that house and have a lot of privacy, or be in the open living spaces and really be together as a family.”
The outdoor living space in particular plays a special role for this family. “The L-shaped house creates a natural courtyard in the back,” describes Nardone, “Those two parts of the house used to be really separate, so being able to take that area and turn it into an outdoor living space really brought the house together.”
Because of its central location, the outdoor living space pulls double duty as both a lounge area and a kitchen. The colorful lounge chairs and bubbling jacuzzi share their space with a stone fire pit, a grill and numerous amenities essential for the perfect summer barbecue.
To bring the outside in, natural light is prioritized throughout the home, particularly in the master suite. Located on the second floor, the master bedroom is dotted with white-trimmed windows oriented towards the water. A trio of floor to ceiling glass panels invites the Cape Cod sun to flood the room with warmth, and opens to reveal a cozy, curved balcony furnished with chairs and a table to enjoy a cup of tea on a slow morning. “When you’re on that little round deck facing the water, you can see all of Lewis Bay,” recalls Mike Nardone of MJ Nardone, “It’s really a very unique spot.”
Perhaps the most strikingly sunny spot in the master suite is located in the adjoining bathroom. “My favorite feature in the house is probably the soaking tub,” says Tolley, “One of the homeowner’s desires was for the soaking tub to have a view. It was a little bit challenging, but we ended up being able to put a nice soaking tub right in front of the master bathroom window.” The window offers a landscape view of the stone jetty and wooden docks of the houses along the street, while the tub itself screams sophistication. Bordered by clean white wainscotting and reflective grey granite, the soaking tub is the striking focal point of this room of relaxation.
The materials used for the home were carefully selected to reflect the dreamy location. The flooring throughout the house is the same light grey of weathered driftwood. In the master bathroom, the shower floor is textured with stones one might find on the beach, while the walls of each room flaunt various hues of pale greens, blues and greys. Even the stairs are supported by visible cables reminiscent of fishing wire. “I find that people with waterfront homes really want to capture the sense of the classic Cape Cod beach house,” Tolley explains, “That’s really what drives things like finishings and colors. Everybody wants that beach house feel.”
This vision clearly influenced the design of the home’s uppermost room. Atop the master suite, a half-story office gives way to a sunbathed roof deck keeping watch over the sprawling bay beneath. For Nardone, the office and roofdeck are the most unique attributes of the house. “If I could wake up every day to an office with a sliding door that opens up to Lewis Bay, I’d be happy,” he laughs.
The office itself proved to be a haven during the COVID-19 pandemic. Crowned with a chandeliered cupola, the office ceiling is entirely paneled in natural cedar wood to mimic looking out at the bay from inside the hull of a schooner. Painted a seafoam green and tastefully adorned with white carpeting and a cozy blue couch, the office proved to be the ideal sanctuary to thrive during a year of at-home employment.
Each room in this seaside home embodies its waterfront location in a meaningful way. From stunning bay views to wide open spaces for the family to enjoy a Cape Cod summer together, the property seamlessly unites its extraordinary setting with the importance of family connection. “I love the feeling of improving a house and turning it into something beautiful, and that’s really what we do,” Tolley reflects, “And in this case, I really think we were able to capture everything that the homeowner envisioned.”
The homeowner whole-heartedly agrees, “From my perspective it couldn’t have gone any better since Erik and Mike have worked closely together on several projects, there are no questions marks, so it was very seamless. And once we settled on the design with Erik there really weren’t any surprises. Working with them got us exactly what we envisioned and more.”
Hannah Kunze is a contributing writer for Cape Cod Life Publications.