High Point Chatham

A steamship about to launch? A playful cottage ready to please? The well-proportioned gambrel implies both—and a smokestack-like chimney is the cherry on top of the home’s seaside charm.

From the inside out, this Chatham home is seriously playful

While strolling through Chatham one day in 2012, Helen and her husband Ethan happened to come across a house for sale that caught their eye. It was less the house that captured them and more the property itself. Sited at the high point of the neighborhood, the land gently slopes up from Nantucket Sound, with just two rows of houses between it and the water, creating a promontory feel.

Chatham is near and dear to Ethan, who grew up spending every summer in town, and, because of Ethan and their own trips together there, it is a special place for Helen and their three children. So it’s no surprise, then, that he and Helen didn’t let the opportunity slip away to have their very own vacation home in the coastal community they love.

The couple enlisted Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders (PSD) to replace the existing house on-site with one that could comfortably accommodate the active family of five and their friends. “We’d been admiring their work for years, so we knew we really wanted to work with them,” Helen says. To Helen, a PSD house is classic yet fun, and has a distinct presence, which is exactly what she and Ethan were looking for. “Design-wise, we wanted it to be playful,” she says. “We told John to run with it.”

John DaSilva, design principal of PSD and lead architect on the project—which he dubbed “High Point”—worked to achieve that sense of playfulness in the exterior, starting with the façade. Staggered rooflines, a curved bump on one side, and a swooping roof above the screened-in porch play off of the sloped nature of the site and give the house a unique geometric form and whimsical character. DaSilva describes the façade as “balanced asymmetry.” “The entry porch, the over-scaled window above it, and the windows to the right and the left of the entry porch are symmetrical, and they are powerful enough in their symmetry to allow everything that’s around them to be asymmetrical,” he explains, noting the gambrel nature of the roof and the off-centered front door.

Two columns, set flat against the house, flank the arched front entry porch. DaSilva calls these type of columns “carpenters columns.” “It’s a column but at the same time a representation of a column,” he says. “It’s like a drawing of a column made into an actual architectural element. That’s friendlier and less formal, and a little more endearing than a traditional, classical column.”

From the right side of the exterior, a corner of the master bedroom sits above the screened-in porch’s projecting roof. That roof, coupled with the pyramid-like one atop the master, conjures up the image of an Asian teahouse. To DaSilva, High Point is a perfect example of associationism in architecture, meaning a building can elicit subjective associations with other objects or other ideas brought about simply by looking at the building. “When looking at this house, you can see various different things. You can see a teapot. You can see a tugboat—the house has motion. You can see a dancer with one hand up and one hand down. You can go on and on,” DaSilva says.