Tim Smith, owner of Minglewood Homes, puts a fresh face on a timeworn 1930s Cape cottage.
Sitting vacant for years, a 1930s Chatham cottage was in dire need of some tender loving care. When the property came on the market, Tim Smith of Minglewood Homes—who has a knack for reviving old houses in the town—jumped at the chance to purchase it. “The house has beautiful views of Oyster River, Harding’s Beach, and Nantucket Sound,” notes Smith. But time and neglect had left the house in disrepair. Inspired by the natural beauty surrounding the house’s location, Smith devised a plan to re-create the timeworn structure into a welcoming seaside vacation home.
The original three-story shingle-clad cottage had a few unfortunate alterations and additions over the years, which resulted in a house that did not flow well for summer entertaining and its layout didn’t take advantage of the water views. “All heating systems, plumbing, and electrical needed to be replaced and a guesthouse sat in virtual ruin on the property,” notes Smith. “It was quite simply the perfect ‘before.’” Before renovations began, the property was divided into two parcels, with the easterly portion sold to a neighbor. The remaining piece included the old house, guesthouse, and 147-foot frontage on the Oyster River and would prove to become the perfect “after.”
Smith set to work, to design a house that would fit the setting as well as offer amenities for contemporary lifestyle. Due to the age of the existing structure, Minglewood Homes worked closely with the Historic Commission, Planning Board, and the Zoning Board of Appeals to realize the firm’s vision. “We wanted the scale and proportions of the home, as well as the materials, to be in keeping with the original house and other vernacular cottages in the area,” says Smith. Ubiquitous weathered shingles and white trim abound in the historical town and Smith honored these precedents.
The original center massing of the home was structurally sound, but two later additions needed to be removed. The interior was gutted to the studs, except for the main staircase, which was in good condition. Next, the house was lifted off its foundation (supported by steel beams) and turned 180 degrees, relocating the original shell to a newly poured foundation to take better advantage of the views. Minglewood’s crew salvaged the original granite foundation stones to be repurposed for a new walkway in the landscape. Once the structure was in place, two new wings were added—one a garage with a master suite on the second floor, and the other a great room with a cathedral ceiling. Existing shed dormers were reconfigured, creating three gable dormers. An eyebrow window was added into the great room wing to emit additional natural light into the space.
To further create a connection between the house and its seaside surroundings, a large deck, a three-season screened porch with a second-story deck, and several Juliet balconies were installed. “There are plenty of outdoor places to enjoy the views and summer air,” notes Smith. An in-ground pool is surrounded by a bluestone patio. The two-story pool house also offers Oyster River views and a stairway was added down to the river, allowing easy access to the water for swimming, kayaking, and sailing.
To create a more open floor plan, spaces were designed to easily flow into one another. A spacious living room with a barrel vaulted ceiling and eyebrow dormer access a large deck—perfect for summer dining. The gourmet kitchen and formal dining room share a double-sided fieldstone fireplace. American cherry floors run throughout the first floor, imbuing warmth and a sense of timelessness. To keep a traditional Cape feel in the home, the dining room offers Colonial Revival touches such as wainscot paneling, crown molding, and built-in benches. The room’s walls are finished in a robin’s egg blue and the formal dining chair floral upholstery plays off that color. The kitchen accesses an open deck through a set of French doors. An outdoor gas grill, just off the deck, affords another cooking option when the weather permits. Smith explains that he wanted the kitchen to have an early 20th-century feel so he chose an “unfitted” approach. “All the cabinets appear as though they are freestanding much like they would have been in your great grandmother’s house,” he notes. A large center island with a sink offers ample space for preparing meals for a crowd. The kitchen cabinets are painted butter yellow while the island and pot rack above are finished in rustic blue.
More private areas on the first floor include a home study and spacious first-floor master suite with a private bath complete with claw-foot tub and beadboard wainscoting. All the rooms are positioned to take in wonderful views of Nantucket Sound or Oyster River. The second floor offers two guest bedrooms, each with private baths, and stunning views with access to a second story deck. An additional guest suite with a private staircase faces the Oyster River with its own private bath and viewing deck. The third floor offers a cozy study/library with access to the roof deck with gorgeous 180-degree water views over Nantucket Sound.
Today, the once derelict old house is well loved by its new owner. “It’s amazing to see the house come alive again,” notes Smith. “It’s such a special piece of land with such history, I’m glad we were able to save the old place and turn it into something special.”