Brian Shortsleeve takes a look back at building his own Cape House in his Editor’s Note from 1999

Cape Cod Life  /  May 2019 /

Writer: Brian Shortsleeve / Photographer: Terry Pommett 

This was Brian’s Editor’s Note  from the 1999 Annual edition of Cape Cod HOME. It seems appropriate to revisit in this issue dedicated to the “The Cape House.” Brian and his family translated their love of the Cape and Islands to their home so well, HGTV decided to feature it in two separate segments over the years.

Home built by Sean A. Brock, North Falmouth.

One of my favorite reasons for living in New England is that, here, throughout the twelve months of the year at least certain days call for an evening fire. This is particularly true for homes refreshed and buffeted by winds off the cool ocean waters. Coming in out of the night air to a cozy seat by a glowing hearth reminds me of entering a safe harbor after an exhilarating day of boating. A home right at the shore provides the stability and security of being high and dry while allowing we dreamers to keep our eyes and minds on the sunset horizon across the Bay.

A home develops from a sense of place. In this busy world we find a location or an area that feels right to us. Then we either choose an existing house or figure out how to fit a building onto the location, which can make the place our home. Expectedly this means the house should fit our lifestyle; whether we are remodeling or building we need an architect who can “build ideas.” In our case, that is architect Bill Lee of Duxbury.

Judy and I are blessed with two lively sons, Josh, five, and Max, two and a half years old. It may not be a surprise to hear that when you have young children, it impacts your lifestyle. For one thing, a growing family spends more time at home than other families might. Rooms must accommodate afternoon activities in all kinds of weather. Also, a mudroom would be nice, perhaps with an outside shower on one side and an “industrial strength” half bath on the other. Being able to strip and dip the boys when they come in is essential when your backyard includes clamming beds.

In New England, unless one chooses to live as either a hermit or an Eskimo, one learns to embrace the lifestyle of indoor/outdoor living. Ranging from a picnic table on the beach to a sun deck to an enclosed porch, we need to plan for varying degrees of wind and weather. Hopefully the décor and furnishings are informal, comfortable, but above all, functional.

The windows and doors you choose become the transition point from outside living to inside living. I like a lot of glass facing south, particularly since our view is in that direction. We chose windows  with plenty of visibility without losing the New England flavor provided by traditional panel windows. The result is a good size living room with two seating areas, one is placed around the central fireplace, and the other near an entertainment center. The bottom line for me is that I am warm by the fire but very aware of the natural world around me.

The kitchen seems to be the most important room of all. The wish list reads like this—a gathering spot convenient to other important living areas but set apart, open to the cove view but somewhat blocked from dinner guests line of vision, convenient access for groceries while being careful not to create a through-traffic pattern, every convenience you can imagine including proximity to the central chimney for access to the warming oven, and a bay window facing the morning sun.

Bedrooms and bathrooms seem to a large extent to fit into the remaining spaces. Unless of course, you are planning a master bedroom suite on the first floor. Here too we took advantage of the view, included French doors that lead to a small private deck, and don’t forget, a small fireplace. The bathroom, closet, and dressing areas are all generous in size. Remember, you spend a third of your life in your bedroom.

Upstairs the boys’ bedrooms include desk spaces wired for the communication age. Just down the hall from their bedrooms there is a game room. Judy’s office is near the kitchen, off the living room, and has a glass door to catch the view. My office is two and a half stories up in a loft tower; the view reaches the Cleveland Ledge Lighthouse in Buzzards Bay and the room accommodates two chairs, one on either side of a small fireplace.

I say, “May we live where we want to wake up on Saturday morning, and let our home be a celebration of our lifestyle.”

My best,

Brian F. Shortsleeve, Publisher

Brian Shortsleeve

Brian Shortsleeve is the owner, publisher, and founder of Cape Cod Life Publications. His personal column, “Gunkholing,” has appeared in all issues of Cape Cod LIFE since the very first issue in 1979.