With the second renovation of a Shingle-style house on the water in Sagamore, a couple finally find their dream home.
When a young couple was looking for a summer home 16 years ago, they stumbled upon the find of a lifetime. A ramshackle Shingle-style gambrel commanding views of Cape Cod Bay had just gone on the market, and the pair, who grew up in New England, knew it was a true gem. They fell in love with the antique summerhouse—so much so that they decided to purchase the property as their primary residence, giving their growing family access to sea and sand in all seasons.
Known as the Pillars, the house, which was built in the 1920s, offered all the romance of living by the sea, but needed some major repairs just to become livable. The first renovation called for some extensive work such as having the foundation jacked up, replacing rotted beams, and updating the kitchen.
After living in the house for 11 years, the homeowners decided it was time for another change. The house layout did not take advantage of the location’s spectacular views, nor did it work for easy entertaining or a modern lifestyle that included three growing children. The couple called master builders Michael Lahart and Leon Pinsonneault of Pinsonneault Construction to discuss how to showcase their house.
What started as a possible kitchen and dining room renovation turned into a complete rehabilitation. Lahart started dismantling the house for the renovation and found rot and termite damage. The contractor knew at this point the scope of the project was going to be much bigger than just a kitchen renovation, so he suggested the couple contact architect Dave Johnson of Skaala, LLC.
Johnson met with the couple to create a master plan for the entire house and design the new interior spaces. “When I walked in the front door, the house had already been taken down to the studs—it was November 2007 and the couple wanted the project completed by June 28th the following year,” notes Johnson. “We had our work cut out for us. But the husband and wife have incredible taste and a great eye for design. So although there was a considerable time constraint, we had clients who came to the table with clear ideas of how they wanted the house to look and function.”
Inspired by old photographs of Shingle-style houses, Johnson adopted the language of the Shingle style to recreate traditional interiors and exteriors. A cedar roof and sidewall shingles as well as fieldstone were chosen to match existing materials and techniques. Johnson also designed large shingled brackets inspired by old Shingle-style cottages in the area to support the side porch roof.
MillworkOne of Cranston, Rhode Island, created the trim for the coffered ceilings, V-groove paneling, built-in cabinets, and a winding staircase, which all contribute to the traditional, elegant aesthetic of a gracious seaside home. The living room mantel reflects Arts and Crafts designs of the early 20th century. “The couple really wanted to respect the design of the old house,” notes Lahart. “They wanted the new design to be reflective of original details, and it was our job to perfect those details.”
The first course of action for Johnson was to decide where to place the kitchen and then install a staircase to the second floor. Once these decisions were made, the design for all the other rooms fell into place. “The couple wanted a more formal entrance—a sense of arrival, which was lacking in the original house,” notes Johnson. “We placed the front door on a 45-degree angle—the front entry hall is formal with a two-story ceiling and a grand carved mahogany staircase. The stairs’ spiral flow also guides energy up to the second layer of the house.”
Johnson installed additional windows into this entry space for enhanced natural light. A limestone floor—although not a traditional material—was introduced for practicality and durability. A stunning touch is an exposed fieldstone wall built by local stonemason Louis Rosado. “The stone chimney had to be rebuilt with both an interior and exterior fireplace,” Johnson explains. A vaulted stair to a basement game room/wine cellar descends down through the stone chimney, offering an almost medieval feel to the structure.
“The couple wanted open flowing spaces for entertaining, but they also wanted more intimate spaces like you would find in a traditional home layout,” says Johnson. The old kitchen, which was placed in the middle of the house, was transformed into an intimate living room with a home office introduced just off the space.
“Even though these are separate rooms, they are still connected to the views and the rest of the house through interior French doors,” Johnson says. The couple wanted the heart of the home—the kitchen—to have great views. The family spends so much time in the kitchen it just made sense to place the kitchen with views opening out to the water.
The couple was very instrumental in collaborating on all aspects of the design—particularly the kitchen. Johnson created one space to accommodate the kitchen, the dining area, and a small sitting space with a fireplace. A large island divides the spaces. A true chef’s kitchen, the space is large enough for catered parties. To fully capture the views of the bay, Johnson incorporated a wall of windows and French doors.
Adjacent to the kitchen, a bluestone terrace with an outdoor grill creates a wonderful transition between interior and exterior spaces, offering a great spot to hang after a long day at the beach. The second floor was reconfigured with a new master suite complete with a soaking tub, which also has spectacular views to the water.
The attic was converted into an additional playroom with built-in benches and plenty of extra sleeping space. Eyebrow dormers offer additional headroom and light. A room for the couple’s oldest daughter has a built-in bed, closet, and desk reminiscent of a ship’s quarters.
This thoughtful, sensitive renovation of a grand old house in a stunning setting provides the family with comfortable contemporary living all year round. “Without such a great team in place—homeowners, architects, and contractors—the house would not have turned out to be such a beautiful place,” says Lahart. “We all put our heart and soul into this old house and it really shows.”