Building memories on Wequaquet Lake
A remodeled cottage on Wequaquet Lake is now one family’s dream home
What makes a house a home? It’s the unforgettable memories made. It’s the quality time spent with loved ones. It’s the comfort of simply being surrounded by those loved ones. Simply put, it’s family.
Family brought Cape washashores Eric and Simone to Centerville in the summers of their youth—and family brought the two back to Centerville years later, as husband and wife, to share summers with their two children in a modest cottage on Wequaquet Lake. Modest is putting it mildly when describing the cramped, 1,092 square-foot shack-like structure that lacked not only space but also a dishwasher, insulation and air conditioning. “I’m not kidding, by the time we went home in September, everything was wet,” says Simone, whose family’s primary residence is just outside of Boston. “You would get into bed and the sheets were wet, your clothes were wet, because there was no way of getting rid of the humidity. For a while, it was kind of like camping there.”
Nonetheless, the cottage was a beloved family gathering place with 15 years worth of cherished memories—but the family did eventually outgrow the space. “We just busted out of the old place,” Simone says. “And I think I was tired of doing dishes!” In November of 2014, work began on a complete rebuild.
Simone and Eric enlisted Orleans-based firm Architectural Design and principal architect Peter Haig to craft a casual, comfortable family cottage where everyone can be together and enjoy lakefront living. Having already lived in the area for quite some time, Simone says she and Eric knew exactly how their family lived there—and what they wanted. “We met with several architects, and they already had in their heads what they were going to build, but they weren’t really listening to what we wanted,” Simone says. “Peter got it immediately. He listened really well and was the only architect who walked the whole neighborhood to see what else is here. We’re in a very eclectic neighborhood because there are a couple of the old cottages that have been here forever, but more and more now people are rebuilding.”
About 100 years ago, a family built several cottages in the neighborhood along Wequaquet Lake for use as campsites. For the last 40-plus years, Eric’s family—originally from Germany—has summered in the cottage next door to his and Simone’s house. “It was always nice for the kids growing up to have their grandparents right there, especially grandparents they don’t see so often because they live so far away,” Simone says.
Like Eric, Haig also grew up on a lake—in his case at his grandparents’ cottage in Ontario, Canada. In designing Eric and Simone’s new house, Haig says he pulled from his childhood memories to achieve an understated architectural look that accommodates the family’s year-round needs but stills feels like a cottage. “In cottage design, it’s not so much about how it looks but how it lives and feels,” Haig says. “I think it’s important to achieve both, but that principle is the most important.”
In order to minimize the scale of the house, Haig says he employed varying rooflines and low roof overhangs. “Sometimes shadows bring the scale down, so there are slightly heavy overhangs that emphasize the horizontal eaves more strongly, which pulls your eye down,” he explains. He also designed the house to appear as though it could’ve been built in stages. The left side of the house is the two-story master suite wing; the right side is the one-story side entry, which leads to the mudroom and the son’s bedroom; and the main body of the house is in the middle and includes a tower-like structure added to help meet one of Eric and Simone’s most important needs for their new vacation house.
Now that the couple’s son and daughter are both in college, Simone says a big reason for rebuilding the lakeside house was to accommodate the influx of their college friends visiting for the weekend (sometimes even weeks, Simone notes). “This house is a revolving door,” she says. Since the site only allows for a three-bedroom plan, Haig had to get creative. The tower, which includes a loft that can sleep two, was one fun way to incorporate additional sleeping space. “I imagine myself 40 years ago, and that’s the kind of place I would’ve loved to hang out,” Haig says. “When I spent time at my grandparents’ boathouse, we had those sort of quirky places to sleep.” Haig says the tower design was inspired by the dormer (aka “the tree house”) of the previous cottage, which itself was a mini tower that “poked up” and was where the kids slept. Directly below the tower loft, a pullout bed that sleeps one is built into storage; and built-in alcoves on both sides of the stone fireplace in the first-floor living room boast cushions the size of twin mattresses.
For the casual, comfortable atmosphere the family desired inside, Haig and interior designer Kristen Terrio of Hyannis-based Vu Design worked to establish a natural aesthetic and warm environment. Paint color—and several subtle varieties of it—played a major role in doing so. Terrio used six different shades of gray, including Benjamin Moore’s Edgecomb Gray and Revere Pewter, throughout the house to create seamless transitions from room to room. Originally, Simone says she envisioned all white walls, but she quickly realized that would appear too stark. “All white seemed a little colder,” Terrio explains, “and the soft tones of the grays and taupes add a little bit more interest and warmed spaces up a shade.” Terrio says these warmer tones also complement the white-painted shiplap walls. (For those who watch HGTV’s hit show Fixer Upper, shiplap should be quite the familiar term.) This type of wooden board features grooves cut into the top and bottom, giving it its distinct appearance of horizontal lines between pieces. “The idea of shiplap on the inside walls is that it’s not intended to be tight one to another,” Haig says. “We also used random wood, so there’s no sense of a rhythm that your eye picks up on,” which helps in creating an informal, cottage feel with some character.
Hickory wood flooring found throughout the house and oak trusses, supplied by Architectural Timber & Millwork of Hadley, Mass., continue to provide texture and character and add to the house’s refined yet rustic feel. Terrio also created an industrial feel with lighting, incorporating black iron open-lantern sconces in the living room and gray pendant lights above the distressed gray island in the kitchen. “That was one of the first things Simone picked when we met, she loved those,” Terrio says of the pendant lights. “Once we picked those lights above the island, that led into how the rest of the kitchen flowed, with the darker grays in the marble countertops and subway tile work, and gave it more of an industrial feel.”
Terrio says she and her team selected furnishings with texture and pattern, all in the same neutral color palette. For instance, chairs in the living room feature grass-caned backs and natural linen seats with a damask pattern. “Even when we used pattern, it was more tone on tone,” Terrio notes. “We really wanted the architecture to shine here because it’s a unique house, with the wood beams and the vaulted ceiling, so we wanted everything to be calming and smooth while being able to see the outdoors.”
Haig says it was important to maximize water views and create a sense of connection between every space possible and the lake. Views can be enjoyed from the kitchen and dining room; the master bedroom and its second-story loft, which Simone says is her favorite room in the house, as it provides her and Eric a cozy retreat from the hustle and bustle of the kids and their friends; the daughter’s bedroom, which includes a balcony (“My son let her choose the room, which was very nice,” Simone notes. “He might regret that.”); the second floor landing; and the living room—which opens into a screened-in porch. With retractable screens, the porch can be exposed completely to the backyard, letting in the natural breeze off the lake—and often eliminating the need for air conditioning. Separating the living room and screened-in porch is a NanaWall, which can be folded back to merge the two spaces into one massive indoor/outdoor living space. “We spend a lot of time in there,” Simone says of the screened porch. “We spend a lot of time there, too,” she adds, pointing outside.
Whether water skiing, tubing, paddleboarding or kayaking, Simone says her family and friends spend the better part of their days in Centerville on the lake. “The best part of this house is the location,” she says. “It also has the best exposure. We’ll be having dinner on the patio, and the sun is setting right there.” Another ideal spot to watch the sun set is from the swing on the outdoor porch, adjacent to the screened-in porch. (The swing can even serve as another bed for a guest.) From the backyard, Simone says she enjoys what is her favorite view of the house: the view from the water looking back. The three roof peaks on the backside are another of Haig’s architectural nods to the previous cottage, as they mimic the peak of the old dormer.
When thinking back on all of the years her family has spent in their Centerville cottage, Simone can’t help but be reminded of the special memories they’ve shared. One such memory is now bittersweet. Every July, Simone says the whole family comes to the cottage for a lobster bake to celebrate her daughter’s birthday. Last year was particularly special because Eric’s father, who passed away in September, was able to be there. “That was the only time he made it from his deck to our patio for her birthday dinner,” Simone says. “It was nice that this house was done in time for him to see it—he was very eager to see the finished thing, and he loved it.”
While this first summer without Eric’s father will be tough, Simone says there are still new memories to be made. “I’m just so happy to be here with my family.”