Embracing the Light

Cape Cod Home  /  Autumn 2023 /

Writer: Julie Craven Wagner / Photographer: Mike Crane 

Interior Designer Irina MacPhee uses smart design, and confident choices to transform a family’s way of living.

East Sandwich boasts a unique subdivision, Quaker Farm Estates, where during its conception in the early 1990s it stood out for its high-quality post-and-beam homes situated on spacious lots. The neighborhood backs up to acres and acres of undeveloped conservation land that provides a certain idyllic quality to the entire community. At the far end of the center street, on a broad cul-de-sac, Anthony and Michelle purchased a two story Colonial home for their active family which includes five daughters and two Labradors. 

“We had always wanted to get a house on the Cape,” Anthony explains. “You know, a summer house where we could come, enjoy the Cape and maybe come down on occasional weekends throughout the rest of the year.” In 2020, when COVID provided the unexpected benefit that people no longer felt tethered to their communities based upon where they worked, this family, like so many others, realized they could choose to live wherever they wanted. “We decided, ‘Why not just sell our home in Princeton and move full time to the Cape?’” Anthony recalls. “Michelle did the research. Extensive research. She knew Sandwich was the town on the Cape for us. When she found this house, I looked at the listing photos and honestly was skeptical.” The photos Anthony references depicted a dark, dated residence that seemed out of character for the coastal retreat they desired.

In fact, upon visiting the listing, Anthony and Michelle discovered the house was solidly built, needed cosmetic updating, but had enough room and inherent charm for their family. Michelle says, “The house clearly had good bones,” but as they started to settle in to the large post-and-beam home, the prevailing wood that dominated the kitchen, dining and family room confounded her sense of design. “I thought, I needed something to give our new Cape home a coastal feel,” she recounts. “So, I went to Home Goods and came back with a bunch of stuff—pillows, accessories, lighter colored fabrics—just stuff. Anthony came home, looked around, looked at me, and said, ‘Maybe you should call a professional.’” For Michelle, who is an avid reader of Cape Cod HOME, Pastiche, an interior design firm founded by Irina MacPhee over 30 years ago, and whose ads and work appear regularly in the magazine, epitomized the look and feel she was going for. 

MacPhee says her first visit with the couple focused on giving a lighter, more coastally-inspired feel to the home, specifically the family room. MacPhee, an accomplished kitchen designer immediately picked up on the family’s love for cooking and gathering together as a group for meals and connection. “They are Italian, so you know, food is a thing, right?” she recalls. “And their kitchen was not only closed off from the rest of the house, but dark.” Cherry cabinets and the abundance of wood from the post-and-beam construction made the kitchen feel completely opposite from the design aesthetic Michelle had originally envisioned. Through MacPhee’s innate ability to get her clients to relax, open up, and be at ease, discussions started to reveal the family’s true passions and habits. Anthony mentioned his love for whiskey, Michelle confessed how much she loves having all the girls home and together. Irina asked if anyone enjoyed coffee and their response was almost unanimous.

A plan came together to give the family what they wanted and a few things they never realized they needed. MacPhee offers Water-Mark® cabinetry which is Pastiche’s private label of fine cabinetry that allows her the freedom to use elegant cabinetry design while utilizing every last inch of space for her clients. The choice of white cabinetry—the favorite among most homeowners—immediately lightened the space along with an attractive blue herringbone tile back splash that extends to the ceiling. A wall was removed to open up the kitchen, and the ceiling between the heavy beams was painted white which now allowed the beauty of the natural wood elements to be highlighted instead of over-powering the space. A massive island, topped with a sumptuous light quartz creates stations on all four sides. The side closest to the dining and living portions of the space are banked by comfortable bar stools. The side parallel to the range features a custom walnut cutting board that slips into the cabinetry when not in use. The side opposite the built-in refrigerator and pantry offers two similar walnut trays that also fit into their own custom-designed slots of the thoughtful island cabinetry. A glass bubbly chandelier hovers above and immediately makes the statement that confirms Michelle’s vision of how a Cape house should make you feel. Two dishwashers, an over-sized range, and a banded hood let everyone know, “This is a cook’s kitchen.”

The hallway, which before housed pantry closets now boasts a built-in refrigerator, freezer and a functional pantry with pullout drawers hidden behind a floor-to-ceiling door. The entire bank of cabinetry is painted in the same white of the kitchen’s cabinets, thereby extending the new light, airy atmosphere that now sets the stage. 

Adjacent to the kitchen, now without the walls, a dining area benefits from a casual connection to the kitchen. An expandable round table extends to allow seating for 12 with little to no effort. And along one wall MacPhee pulls out all the stops with the new whiskey bar. The blue herringbone tile continues in this area, providing a cohesive elegance along with its beautiful walnut countertop. A modestly-scaled dishwasher in the bank of Water-Mark® cabinetry means clean-up is easy and bar glasses stay on the bar area. Counter-to-ceiling pullouts—one on each end of the bar—make bottle storage easy and tidy.

Continuing around the perpendicular flow of the space, the newly furnished living room offers welcoming new upholstered sofas and armchairs to the friends and family who want to catch the game on the television above the fireplace. This space, newly wrapped with white V-notch paneling and a custom walnut mantle ties the entire design together. A built-in Miele coffee bar makes everything simply convenient. Throughout, MacPhee’s inspired lighting choices and subtle accents keep the space from looking as though it was decorated via the local big box store. Instead a casual elegance subtly acknowledges the thoughtful, sophisticated style the designer’s reputation has become known for over the past 30+ years.

For this family, a move to the Cape, a call to Pastiche, and a desire for everything a Cape house has to offer has resulted in a very special space to gather and make memories for a long time to come. 

Julie Craven Wagner is the editor of Cape Cod HOME.

Julie Craven Wagner

Julie Craven Wagner began her experience with Cape Cod Life in 2010 when she joined the sales team after 10 years of working with local businesses on the Cape and Islands with WMVY. In addition to sales, she is the Associate Publisher/Editor of Cape Cod LIFE, Cape Cod HOME, and Cape Cod ART. Growing up on the Outer Cape has given her a unique perspective of life on Cape Cod, from tip to bridge, and that is reflected in her appreciation and presentation of stories found within the pages of our publications. Julie lives in North Falmouth with her husband, Eric, and their yellow lab, Enzo. When she finds free time, she enjoys her Cape Cod life sailing on Buzzards Bay, spending time on the beach in Wellfleet, or exploring Martha’s Vineyard.