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Bay Dream Believers

The dream team of architect Peter McDonald and Cape Dreams Building and Design creates a treasure on the beach.

A day at the beach renders countless treasures and recollections worthy of cherishing for a lifetime. For homeowners Rick and Michelle, their days at the beach have become the tide table by which they have measured their family’s history for the better part of three decades. After vacationing for years with Michelle’s mother in a variety of summer rentals along Eastham’s Thumpertown Beach, the couple put down their own roots in the early 90s when they purchased a modest, prefabricated Nickerson Home that had been erected in 1979. The home, perched above Cape Cod Bay, was simply, as Michelle describes it, “A box. With yellow shutters.” The two-story structure, while providing adequate accommodations for the family of four, and a long list of visiting friends and family, lacked any sort of architectural character or personality. 

Eastham architect Peter McDonald fit the bill when it came to finding someone to create a design that would stop people in their tracks, literally. McDonald and Paul van Steensel, principal of Cape Dreams Building and Design have been undertaking a bit of a “road trip” in this small, coastal community. The duo has transformed the landscape, arguably for the better, with a slew of projects between Thumpertown and Campground beaches. “Everyone walks along this quiet, sandy road,” Michelle explains, “whether you are on your way to the beach, on your way home from the beach or just out walking your dog. Sometimes it is more people than cars.” It was during one of those walks that Rick and Michelle took notice of a neighbor’s construction project, one that had McDonald and van Steensel’s work fully on display. “The house was coming along nicely, and everyone in the neighborhood was excited,” Michelle remembers. “We talked to the neighbor several times, and he seemed happy with their work. But, when the project was finished he was definitely really happy. That seemed to be a great endorsement.” In the fall of 2018, Rick and Michelle were finally ready to replace the home that they first enjoyed with their pre-school-aged children with a new place to make memories for a new generation that now includes their two granddaughters, Hailey and Bella. McDonald met the couple at the box with yellow shutters and a process of determining what was important to the family began to unfold. 

“We knew the deck and the ability to connect to the beach was key,” Michelle states. Keeping the existing layout of “upside down living,” with the majority of the bedrooms on the ground floor and the main living areas on the second floor in order to capitalize on the 180-degree-view, McDonald created a program that would accommodate an open living, dining and kitchen space with a center fireplace, a convenient bar for easy socializing and even a spacious pantry. The home has three large bedrooms, including the master en suite, a guest suite on the lower level and a family bunkroom allowing for four sleeping configurations. A new foundation with nine-foot ceiling height is currently unfinished but anticipates the grown children to determine the best use once the third generation starts to grow, both in age as well as their network of friends.

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