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Light & Breezy

Light & Breezy | Cape Cod HOME Summer 2016

Photograph by Charlie Utz

Just as Chagnon-Holbrook never repeats the same interior design, neither does Dick design the same house twice. Dick, who owns Joseph W. Dick Architecture Inc. with his wife, Michele A. Maykel, customizes home plans based on the environment and site restrictions, the light and views, and, of course, his clients’ desires and lifestyle. “All of that is data for putting a house together,” he says. “I want to see how clients do live, and I ask them, ‘How do you want to live?’”

In the case of this cottage, the original shack had first rested on a dune, but after a particularly fierce storm, it was lifted onto pilings. The new house was built on its footprint and grafted onto the original pilings, but it had to be lifted even higher. Though the owners wanted to take in all they could of the salt marsh views across the road and of the views of Cape Cod Bay on the ocean side, “They did not want to overwhelm the site,” Dick says, “or impose on neighbors.” The neighbors included wildlife. The couple, originally from Malta where trees and birds are scarce, was adamant about protecting an existing swallow’s nest on the property.

Human neighbors were also taken into account. Anticipating that his clients’ neighbors would at some point also replace their shack with a larger house, Dick designed the home so that it recedes to the side lot line, a plan which places the entry porch and staircase on the side of the nearest neighbor and so protects privacy while allowing the rest of the interior to expand toward the panoramic views.

One impulse in designing homes along the shore is to have walls of glass that offer immediate and comprehensive access to the views, but the impulse Dick followed with this shingle-style design was to frame the views and create a variety of discrete living spaces within an open floor plan. To maximize light, he borrowed it from unexpected places—drawing it down from the staircase shaft, bringing it in through a transom over kitchen cabinets, and taking it in through upper triangular windows in the master bedroom and through a pair of windows over the fireplace.

While Dick was ensuring that the home was bathed in light, to temper the strong summer sun and the glare from the sand, Chagnon-Holbrook dressed the windows in “soft floaty sheers and natural glass cloth shades.” These modifying elements give the cottage a “finished look,” the designer says, while seeming simultaneously to disappear. Calling a bit more attention to themselves are the interior light fixtures, which Chagnon-Holbrook describes as both “functional and art.” One fixture is shaped like a star, another a porthole. The frosted mercury glass fixture over the sand and rose granite island and those in the master bedroom recall the color of the sea on a dark, stormy day. Though in general the designer guides clients away from the ostentatious use of shells, preferring that they set one or two favorites on a coffee table as ornaments, the light fixture hanging in the enclosed porch is an amalgam of shells and sand; Chagnon-Holbrook says it’s a tasteful touch that bridges the sitting area and the beach just steps outside.

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