Every last detail
College friends join forces to create a colorful and comfortable Falmouth sanctuary
One caveat you can definitely take to the bank: life is unpredictable. Situations arise that you might never have imagined, and your path may take a hard right turn. Such was the case for interior designer Carey Karlan, owner of Last Detail Interior Design, who never guessed a reunion with Trinity College friends would result in a memorable project three hours from her local stomping grounds of Darien, CT. Peter and Louise Donovan hosted a weekend reunion at their home in Westwood, MA for several friends from Peter’s alma mater. The weekend was such a reminder of the close and joyful bond Donovan had with his classmates that, as the guests prepared to depart, he impulsively asked Karlan if she would consider taking on the design work of a new home they were planning in Falmouth.
Moving forward with a full home renovation imagined by Falmouth architect John Dvorsack and executed by the team at E.J. Jaxtimer Builder, Inc. of Hyannis, Donovan added Karlan to the dream team. “We all worked very efficiently together,” Karlan recalls. “John Dvorsack created such beautiful flow within the home, and the team at Jaxtimer is focused on delivering a high-quality product, so everyone worked together to create a lovely home for a wonderful family.”
The Donovans say the goals of the project were to create a Cape home where the family could gather on weekends, enjoy all of the Cape activities they love and truly leave the rest of the world behind. The tone is set from the moment one approaches the home via the driveway. Peter Donovan sums it up best: “When you first see the house, with the green marsh wrapped around it, you catch your breath. Then, you catch your breath again when you walk through the front door.” As you step through the coral-colored front door, into a spacious and welcoming front entry, the ground floor stretches out in front of you, with the view of the marsh through every available window and door. It is as though you have entered a creature comfort portal that is surrounded by an active natural world. Peter explains the deliberate absence of tall lamps, or other tall tabletop distractions, stating, “From any vantage point in the house, you are drawn to the view like a magnet.”
Peter says he knew Karlan would be fun to work with, but when he viewed her work on her website, her fresh take on design and her approachable interpretation of a sophisticated setting sealed the deal for him and Louise. Karlan’s use of color is in the playbook for the Donovans’ project, and the ground rules are set immediately with a coral-painted backdrop in a built-in bookcase, fashioned by Jim Shaw from Pocasset’s Shaw Woodworking. The walls of the open ground floor are painted a soft, delicate blue—the color of a spring sky—and a new stair rail and ballusters effectively gives the contemporary Cape a rich and finished look without looking too formal. The living room’s main seating area is grounded by a caramel-colored sofa with ivory welting and a smartly banded trim at the base. Accents of salmon, turquoise and sea life patterns remind you that you are a skipping stone away from the beach.
“I wanted lots of fun color, particularly in the bedrooms,” Louise Donovan explains. “I didn’t want hotel rooms. I wanted them to each have a distinct personality.” Karlan certainly achieved that directive by deftly utilizing soothing shades of various colors to determine the distinctive design themes of each relaxing bedroom. Guests and family are treated to sanctuary-like accommodations that might cause them to ask if they can stay longer than expected.
The master bedroom is where one could truly escape the real world. In soothing shades of white sand and just a whisper of blue, the room overlooks the tidal tranquility of marshes that buffer a coastal inlet. A low-profile gas fireplace is positioned across from the king-sized bed for the cozy appeal of cooler nights. Shades of pale driftwood appear not only in the stacked tile surround of the fireplace but also in the bedside tables and dresser. The crowning touch in the room is an exquisite seashell chandelier that sits in the room like the pearl in an oyster.
The en suite bath is simply breathtaking, as it appears to be suspended in an undersea wonderland. Wall covering depicting soft, white sea fans floating on a pale aqua background wrap the room in soft hues of the Cape Cod waters outside. Sparkling glass tiles, like droplets from crashing waves, intersect the field of ivory floor tile. A glass-enclosed shower with aqua glass tiles and a beach stone floor is paired with a freestanding slipper tub that takes in the view without compromising privacy. Suspended from the ceiling, as though floating in a water column of their own, a cluster of metal, bead and filament lighting fixtures twinkles like a pod of jellyfish.
On the ground floor, the kitchen is full of light, air and views galore. There are no upper cabinets on the exterior walls, allowing for more windows and more seascape tableaux. A triangular island, painted a light turquoise, is topped with a sand-colored quartz slab sourced and installed by Cape Cod Marble and Granite. This time in the kitchen, Jim Shaw built plenty of cabinetry to accommodate a busy family that enjoys cooking dinners together. The surrounding cabinetry balances against the opposing bank of windows perfectly with backlit, glass cupboards at the uppermost level.
The remaining social space on the ground floor encompasses an open dining room, where Dvorsack intuitively suggested replacing two windows with additional sliding glass doors to the expansive deck outside. Shaw’s craftsmanship is again evident in the built-in buffet that separates the dining room from the living room. And a dry bar in the living room with curved fretwork on the glass cabinet doors was inspired by Dvorsack, executed by Shaw and playfully accented by Karlan.
Peter Donovan says that everything they did was to expose the view. But the scene outside is more than a static vista. The tidal inlet changes constantly through the day and accordingly has a transformative effect on the Donovans as they unwind each weekend. The abundant wildlife on the property is continually responding to the changes that a coastal environment experiences. Peter Donovan says the birds are in perpetual motion, and he and his family can get lost in the quest of the herons and egrets as they patiently wait for their moment to snag an unsuspecting fish or eel. Even the breeze seems to have a unique effect on this family’s home—as it moves through the backyard and filters through the screens surrounding the dining room, it renders a pleasant tinkling sound from the light-as-air capiz shell chandelier over the dining table.
This serene setting was enhanced considerably by Dvorsack’s vision of an expanded deck area that hugs several sides of the backside of the house. Multiple sets of stairs provide access to the various outdoor “rooms” and expedite access to different parts of the backyard. A covered porch with motorized screens protects the dining area, a pergola offers just enough shade for a comfortable seating area, and a comfortable spa keeps the fun and conversation going late into the night as well as the shoulder seasons. “This outdoor living scenario maximizes everything this family wants to do when they are here. It just completes their connection to the view and this special site,” explains Jonathan Jaxtimer.
When the time finally came for Karlan to perform the final installation of her decorating
program, she deliberately made the effort to give the Donovans the television experience of the “big reveal.” “I headed to the Cape with several helpers and a big truck loaded to the gills with furniture and more decorative accent pieces than we could ever need,” Karlan recalls. “We spent almost two full days setting everything up. The light fixture over the dining room table required unwrapping each and every little shell chime. That took all night and a large glass of wine!”
When the Donovans were finally allowed to walk through the front door of their new home, Louise says that her knees nearly buckled. “I was continually stunned. At every turn, I was blown away by every choice Carey had made. It was all just so perfect; I can’t even say it was exactly what I had dreamed of because it was so much more.” The Donovans are in complete agreement—Karlan understood them, understood their family and understood their home. She got it exactly right, down to every last detail.