Light & Breezy | Cape Cod HOME Summer 2016

Photograph by Charlie Utz

An open floor plan like this comes with challenges for both architect and designer. The architect needs to delineate spaces, and one way Dick did so was by varying the ceilings. The entry porch has a hexagonal bead board ceiling, for instance, while the dining area is defined by a lattice bead board ceiling with recessed lighting. Flooring and rugs serve the same purpose, with the entry’s reclaimed heart pine flooring laid in a herring bone pattern to distinguish it from the floors of the living areas, and different area rugs are used to corral living and dining spaces.

Chagnon-Holbrook also focused on eye-level sightlines: “Open floor plans are the most difficult to design,” she says. “You have to blend pieces so they all flow, but they have to be a bit different. The way the house is designed, from anywhere on the first floor there is a view.” To ease the eye’s way around and through spaces, Chagnon-Holbrook kept the palette consistent, with textural and visual variation. Armchairs in stripes, striations, and geometric patterns complement sofas in solids. Twin sea grass ottomans serve as a coffee table on the enclosed porch, while the living room coffee table is finished in driftwood, as are the bamboo chairs in the entry. “When you are in the front porch area, you can see everything on the first floor,” she says, “so everything must work together;” that includes the artwork and the accent pillows. “The devil is in the details,” she adds. As proof, she points to the living room armchairs, which swivel to take in both marsh and ocean views, but because they can be seen from different angles, they each feature a decorative buckle on the back. “You have to watch the lines and ask, ‘Is this pretty from all sides?’”

While an open floor plan poses a certain challenge, working within a tight footprint poses another: the need to make efficient use of space. To that end, Dick tucked a powder room with an outdoor-type shower off the entry and designed built-ins, including bookshelves in the living room and twin closets that disappear into the wall in the master bedroom. “This house is like a ship,” says Dick, a longtime sailing enthusiast. “You have to take advantage of every nook and cranny.” Chagnon-Holbrook added storage in other thoughtful ways, such as placing a chest of drawers in the entry, which does not have a closet, and setting an armoire on the second floor landing. These pieces, along with a pair of marble-topped dressers in the master bedroom, like the light fixtures, serve both function and aesthetics.

Though interior space may be tight, there is no shortage of sitting areas from which to enjoy the views, inside and out. The front porch and entry provide views of the marsh as well as leeside protection from the wind, as does the terrace and window seat belonging to the second floor guest bedroom. First and second floor decks bring viewers closer to the seascape, as does a viewing area that interrupts the long path of stairs leading to the beach. When left open, an upstairs interior sitting area between the master and guest bedroom offers a bird’s eye view of the water across the deck, but when enclosed by a clever wraparound curtain, it becomes a private sanctuary.

And in the end, that is what this house is all about, offering sanctuary to its owners, who leave their busy lives in a Boston suburb behind to come to the Cape and immerse themselves in nature. The good news for those who do not own a home right on the shore is that Chagnon-Holbrook’s Eastern seaboard aesthetic translates well in many settings: “The coastal style doesn’t just lend itself to the Cape,” she says. “It could be a Mediterranean villa, tropical cottage, even a city apartment. It’s about being light and breezy with a palette drawn from sand and shells. The Cape palette is timeless.”

A resident of Barnstable village, Laurel Kornhiser is a former Cape Cod HOME editor and a frequent contributor. She is also an English professor at Quincy College.