A resourceful Osterville homeowner helps an architect and a builder design her multi-generational kitchen.
Imagine a new kitchen that is comfortable, spacious, and user-friendly for adults. Now, picture that same room as a safe, warm, and fun space for eight frequent, energetic visitors—who all happen to be grandchildren.
For Cape Cod builder Scott Peacock and architect Doreve Nicholaeff, much of the inspiration for this large kitchen renovation in a historic Osterville residence came from a great resource: their client, who had an unusually youthful and out-of-the-box imagination.
Prior to the project, the homeowner—a creative and quirky grandmother and former business owner—would often stand in the rear doorway of her home, look out across the yard, and envision what she wanted for the kitchen that would one day occupy that space. She dreamed of Dutch doors leading from a connected kitchen/dining room to a cozy new covered porch outside. She imagined a back-to-back fireplace, providing both the kitchen and a porch with warmth and ambiance. She wanted a unique kitchen island, too, with a sleek sink in the center.
She had other touches in mind as well: from egg-shaped dimples cut into the countertop by the stove, to a knife rack that would recess into the counter so its contents would be both accessible and safely out of a child’s reach. There would be a farmer’s sink, too, and shelves for all sorts of family knickknacks, and the room would be painted yellow and bathed in light from lots of windows.
An artist and a collector of treasures too numerous to list, the homeowner wanted the space to be fun and fanciful—in other words a place where children would love to eat, play, and be a part of all family activities. At one end of the room, a crooked staircase winds up to a small balcony just off the children’s bedrooms. In every corner there are hand-crafted chairs, comfortable couches, and shelves for toys, books, and games; this is a quintessential grandmother’s house, almost like something out of a fairytale.
“The house became a canvas for her,” says Doreve Nicholaeff, AIA, founder of Nicholaeff Architecture and Design in Osterville. “She wanted a generous kitchen. She wanted to be able to look out. We really tried to complement what was there and bring the inside up to date so it would function well.”
In her blueprints for the project—which created a new kitchen/dining space, added the porch, and connected the home to an adjacent garage—Nicholaeff says she tried to incorporate all the elements the homeowner wanted, without overwhelming the house. “We were very careful about working with what was there,” she says.
“She gave us the ideas,” says Peacock, the founder of Osterville’s Scott Peacock Building & Remodeling. “It was our job to make it all work.”
In addition to incorporating the creative elements, Peacock faced another construction challenge: the house is an antique. Built in 1850, the structure was originally located on Main Street in Osterville. A century later, in 1950, the house was transported across a field to its current location to make room for a library.
When working on older houses, Peacock says certain obvious issues must be addressed. First, with the new work, the goal is to build “in keeping” with the older construction.
“That’s always the challenge,” Peacock says. “We try to really marry everything together.” Also due to the home’s age, all the proposed work needed to be approved first by the Town of Barnstable’s historical commission.
On the exterior, it is difficult to tell just where the new construction was completed. Peacock says the trim was custom-milled to duplicate materials on the existing façade. Inside, design details and flourishes help the new interior spaces fit in among older surroundings.
Honed granite countertops from Cape Cod Marble & Granite were installed, for example, because the material is made to look older than it actually is. New Andersen Architectural Series windows—which create a virtual wall of light along the kitchen’s rear wall—are made to fit in with the design of older homes, and feature a four-over-four pane design on the top.
The kitchen’s hardwood floor of antique heart pine, milled by Cataumet Sawmill to be in keeping with an old house, adds to the warmth and country-style ambiance of both the kitchen and dining areas. A one-of-a-kind table, created by West Barnstable Tables, adds whimsical flair to the space as does a cozy chair, custom made from a tractor seat.
Simply styled, yet tall and spacious custom cabinets designed by Peacock and the homeowner working collaboratively with Scott Horgan of Horgan Millwork in Hyannis, offer innovative storage options for the homeowner’s three sons and their families, who spend many summer days in Osterville.
Peacock notes that an issue presented by older homes is the durability of the original structure’s walls and supports and whether the existing materials will endure the new construction. “The biggest thing with an old house,” says the builder, “is it is brittle. It cracks. It moves.”
Generally, Peacock notes, an addition can be built alongside the existing structure, and toward the end of the project, the original walls can be removed and the two structures joined together. This project involved an entirely new kitchen space, however, so the whole side of the house had to be completely opened up. “The [old] kitchen had to go,” Peacock explains.
Work on the project took about three months. During a recent visit, the homeowner says the various elements are all working together beautifully, and the kitchen she dreamed about since moving into the house in 1980 is now a reality. “It’s built to be trampled [by the grandchildren],” she says, “and it is trampled on a daily basis.”
As is found in many homes today, this kitchen is the center of activity, and in the room, everything revolves around a unique center island. Designed and built by Horgan Millwork, the island’s tabletop is made of smooth teak, a wood that is both strong and durable—it is used frequently in shipbuilding—and unlike stone tops, is not cold to the touch.
Conveniently centered in the table is a narrow (6 x 30-inch) built-in stainless steel sink; it can hold wine bottles in a bucket of ice, or serve as a last-second hand-washing spot for the grandkids before meals. “It adds a special feature to this kitchen,” Peacock says of the sink. Underneath, a small wine refrigerator is built into the island’s base.
To accentuate the room’s high ceiling, Ford-Diamond Electric Supply Corporation of Hyannis designed unique, angular rail lighting, which adds a functional, yet sophisticated touch to the space.
Peacock Construction also installed a Kohler farmer’s sink by the rear wall, a popular feature many Cape residents have incorporated in the last few years. Adding to the size and utility of the sink are dishwashing drain boards, which are built into the countertop alongside, a creative solution that helps with cleanup.
The stove is a duel-fuel (gas and electric) AGA model and on its burners are hand-crafted ceramic pots from Scargo Pottery of Dennis. Above the stove, a pot-filler faucet prevents cooks from having to carry heavy pots of water from sink to stove while cooking lobster, steamers, or summer corn.
In addition to her creativity (which can also be seen in her original artwork around the house), Peacock says the homeowner was great to work for because she provided good, clear instructions delineating what she wanted. She knew, for example, that she wanted a double-sided fireplace, and she wanted it to serve as a connection between the kitchen and the porch. Peacock says he could have built more cabinets on the kitchen’s rear wall, but the homeowner decided to keep the space open for more windows—and more light. “She knew just what she wanted,” he says.
The client was also flexible. During construction, builders often face the dilemma of what to do about the homeowners moving around, sleeping, and eating in the home. “You have to make the house as user-friendly as you can,” Peacock says. Because this project was completed in the summer, the client was not overly inconvenienced. Peacock says she was even unfazed by the work going on around her, grilling outside often and sometimes washing dishes in the bath tub.
As the project neared completion, there was one small, yet complicated issue. A metal vent extending from the rear of the stove jutted awkwardly into the top corner of an adjacent room, creating an ugly blip in an otherwise thoughtfully designed space. The team went with a ‘safe’ approach; they covered the vent with a plywood box and hired local painter Michelle Amoral of Osterville to transform the vent into an old-timey looking safe. This whimsical faux-feature—dreamed up by the homeowner—has a combination lock, a custom logo, and bills of varied currency that spill out from within.
Seated in her kitchen and looking at the finished work around her, the homeowner recalls the times when she would look out across this same space—once her backyard—and dream. Today, she walks into that same space every morning, and before making her coffee, she starts a fire in the fireplace. Looking back, she says, “there is nary a thing I would do differently.”
Matthew J. Gill is managing editor of Cape Cod LIFE Publications.
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