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Laissez-Faire

“Laissez-Faire” greets the neighborhood as a Cape Cod cottage of today. The back overlooks a serene salt marsh and creek.

Imbuing a laid back vibe, Polhemus Savery DaSilva imagines a home that is both energizing and calming.

The sands of Chatham are notoriously fickle. One year they’ll form an island, the next they’ll rejoin the mainland. Channels shift like moods. Before the age of computers, nautical charts were often works of fiction even as they were printed. If the old saying about God’s humor—“Want to make God laugh? Well, make a plan”—holds true, the freewheeling spirit of Chatham’s sands is a mere variation. The ocean and the sandbars certainly seem to laugh as they dance unfettered, almost taunting, with an attitude of “Go ahead, chart me up.” The freedoms enjoyed by the forces of nature here in the elbow region of Cape Cod extend from Nauset down to North Beach Island, around the tip of Monomoy and into the estuaries of Oyster Pond and the marshes of Chatham. Although the wild nature of change can sometimes prove catastrophic to residences in the area, much of the time this unbridled freedom is fascinating to behold. As long as the shifts are relatively harmless, it can be delightful to discover their transformations if you’re in a position to just go with the flow.

One particular home along the marshes and a tidal creek in Chatham embraces the area’s nature both by its vantage point and it’s name: Laissez-Faire. Completed in 2012, this creation of Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders (PSD) appears from the road to be a traditional Cape shingled cottage; yet it most certainly does its own thing, and the face it presents to the estuary on which it stands reflects this theme of individual freedom. As with many PSD homes, the name Laissez-Faire is more than just a name, it’s a title that offers a window into its meaning. The name derives from a fairly literal translation of its original French concept; “It means ‘Let it be’ or ‘Let it remain,’” the owner explains. “We think of it as ‘Let things be the way they should be.’ This is our second home, so it’s a good name for a place where we come to relax.”

The story of Laissez-Faire begins near the turn of this century, in 2003, when the owners purchased a home with the intention of renovation. The existing structure, a somewhat generic Cape built in the 1960’s, was less than ideal, and it did little to maximize the potential of its perch above the marshland. But the site’s potential was obvious. “The location and view drew us here,” says the owner, “and we immediately started working with PSD.” Through consultation with senior designer Sharon DaSilva, they decided that to meet their needs, it would make better sense to tear down the existing house and create something new. DaSilva says, “It was in pretty bad shape.” It had been built rather shoddily, and its orientation and layout of windows did little to take advantage of either the light or the views. “We were limited by conservation and zoning laws,” she continues, “and needed to stay within the same footprint. We could move things around, but we couldn’t add to it.” The owners met with Sharon DaSilva to discuss possibilities, and Peter Polhemus joined the party to provide examples of features that had been successful in some of the firm’s other projects. DaSilva recalls, “They were great clients; they had imagination and interest, and they were completely on board for something a little different, something unique.” The team tried out a few different ideas for the design and then settled on a plan in 2005. Then the owners’ lives became too busy, and they decided to put the project on hold. 



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