A talented designer “sets things straight”
Cape Cod Home / Summer 2019 / Home, Garden & Design, People & Businesses
Writer: Julie Craven Wagner / Photographer: Joyelle West
A Life Turned Upside Down
Life throws a curve at a couple, who finds the perfect designer to set things straight
For homeowners Steve and Paula and the rest of their family, which includes grown children, spouses and a handful of energetic grandchildren, time spent on the Cape was the best time of all. Nestled on an idyllic, and iconic, point in Hyannis Harbor, the Cape house was exactly where everyone wanted to be. Built as an “upside down” home to best be able to take in the view, the home had plenty of bedrooms downstairs, a kitchen upstairs that could boil some lobsters and corn, and a rooftop deck over Steve’s favorite spot to retreat, the garage, where he would sit as he watched the ferries, boats and summer sights float by. It was all they needed, or so they thought.
When Paula visited her cousin, who had just completed a home makeover with interior designer Christine Granfield, principal of Sea Squared Design, she was so impressed with the outcome, she asked Granfield to help her incorporate some new colors into her home.
The first visit to the home started a momentum of change that would impact the homeowners for the rest of their lives. “I walked in, and from the front door, on the ground floor of the house, you entered this long dark ‘tunnel’ that was the hallway to the bedrooms,” Granfield explains. “There was a closed-in narrow staircase that went upstairs to the living area. I just couldn’t understand it. I asked Paula, ‘Have you ever considered flipping your house?’” What was originally an interior design project to freshen up the space suddenly became a life-changing, and possibly a life-saving, transformation.
“When assessing my clients’ needs, I often ask whether this is their forever house. Paula told me that she and Steve love the neighborhood, their kids love the neighborhood, but they had friends who couldn’t visit because their knees were bad, or other health issues prevented them from making it up the stairs.”
“When Christine asked if we had ever thought about flipping the house, I had thought about it, but I couldn’t see how that would work,” Paula says.
It didn’t take much convincing, just a bit of envisioning how the dark, closed-off ground floor could become an open, airy expanse that would capture the charming view. Steve Cook from Cotuit Bay Design took the helm for that part of the project. And to execute the plan, David Liimatainen of Mashpee’s Eagle’s Nest Builders put it all together seamlessly.
“It was a fairly easy plan to implement,” Cook explains. “And it made such a difference. The views are the star from everywhere in the house and the bonus is that the aging-in-place design will serve them for years to come.”
One of the many talents Granfield effectively employs is her ability to clearly understand her clients’ needs (sometimes better than they do) and recognize the elements that will make their home not only work, but also generate feelings of joy over and over. “I often ask clients what they don’t like or don’t utilize in their home,” Granfield says. Here, she discovered there was underutilized space in the garage. “Immediately it became clear that we could take needed living space from the garage to make a comfortable ground floor that would include a fire-placed living room, a dining area with a stunning view, a spacious kitchen with an oversized square island, a laundry room and half bath, and a comfortable master en suite,” Granfield explains.
Upstairs, the old living area and kitchen have become a coffee bar and a second-story perch perfect for both grandchildren and adults, as a large flat-screen television, over a second fireplace, offers up sports, soaring windows showcase the nearby boat traffic, and the popular second-story deck has been revamped to include comfortable seating, a fire pit, a grilling area and a proposed new outdoor bar. Three bedrooms provide plenty of respite for visiting friends and family as well as a myriad of entertaining options. “The kids love it, but also when grown-up company comes, they have all of upstairs to themselves. They can be on their own schedule and get their own coffee, until we are up and about,” Paula notes.
Perhaps it was intuition, maybe it was just good old professionalism, but whatever the impetus was for Granfield to suggest such a transformation, it seemed to be driven by divine inspiration. Within months of completing the project, Steve and Paula were headed to Florida for a few weeks of winter rest when Steve suffered a stroke while driving south. “I woke up in a hospital in Florida and turned to Paula and said, ‘Good thing Christine thought to flip the Cape house—I would never be able to get up those stairs.’”
Granfield’s contribution didn’t end with the suggestion for reconfiguration. Innately she understood this family’s love for their home and surmised they would want to enjoy it for as long as they were able. “I worked closely with the architect to come up with a plan that would take into account the need for universal design,” Granfield says. “So we made sure that the doors were wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair if that became a consideration later in life. Or that it would be easy to get from the car into the house.” Paula confirms Granfield’s foresight and her ability to implement common-sense design. “I thought they were all good ideas, like when we were in our eighties. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon.”
The close relationship Granfield has built with the couple has earned her a unique sense of trust that has successfully driven countless design decisions. “Christine has been amazing,” Paula says. “She did such a fantastic job, right down to the drawer and cabinet pulls. There wasn’t one detail that she didn’t think of, and it is all perfect. She absolutely knew what I like, better than I knew.”
“My style of design is not to push what I like on somebody,” Granfield explains. “So when I go out and shop for clients, I literally try to see it through their eyes, and imagine I am living their life.” She also has a fresh take on the choices a homeowner makes regarding the items in their home when she says: “Every part of every house should be the homeowners’ favorite item. Every chair should be really comfortable and make the homeowner smile, every couch should be really comfortable and call to the homeowner from across the room. Why not? There is no reason to have any part of your house that doesn’t work right and be what you want.”
A perfect illustration of Granfield’s philosophy is the effect of the remodel on the home’s small backyard. At the end of the “tunnel” Granfield and the homeowner acknowledge as the hallway that led from the front door, past the downstairs bedrooms to a nondescript back door in the old design, Granfield’s new design has a sleek new glass exterior door. The door, with a maintenance-free blind sandwiched between the glass, has now become a bullseye that beckons visitors to venture into the previously underutilized, narrow backyard. The modest space has sprung to life with new landscaping, a comfortable seating area and an exquisite glass fire pit.
“I am so happy that Steve and Paula and their entire family now have a forever house. A place where they can be comfortable and safe. There is so much natural light now. They have plenty of room to entertain; they use the outside now, which they never did. It just all came together really well and at just the right time,” says Granfield.
Steve’s health has improved steadily and his recovery is strong. He says: “This project was never about ‘What can we do to get the most out of this house when we sell it?’ It has always been about ‘How can we make this house exactly what we want now?’”
Sometimes you just have to turn things on their head to straighten them out.