Limited space, lots of comfort
To satisfy their clients’ requests—which included views of the water—REEF aimed for the sky!
On a postage-stamp sized lot in Dennis sits a beautiful, 2,700-square-foot home with front porches that boast sweeping views of Cape Cod Bay, from the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown to the Sagamore Bridge. This charming residence is the result of a collaborative effort between an experienced and creative design and build team, and the owners of the property who had a vision for their Cape Cod retreat.
At the top of the homeowners’ priority list was a view of the water. The couple, Mike and Kathy, had been searching for the ideal property when Kathy stumbled upon a little corner lot in a Dennis neighborhood. “There was a small, ranch-style home on the property with a park bench in front of the house,” Kathy recalls. “I stood on the bench, and even though I am only 5 feet, 3 inches tall, I could see a small peek of the water. I knew if we built a two-story home, we would have the water views we wanted.”
With just a fifth of an acre of land, though, satisfying all of the other “must haves” on the couple’s list—including four large bedrooms, a two-car garage and a spacious, open floor plan—was going to require a talented design team and a skilled builder. The homeowners found both in REEF Cape Cod’s Home Builder.
“From day one, I considered how we could get the maximum capacity out of the lot,” says Jim Hagerty, REEF’s vice president and the lead designer on the project. “I tried to assess how high we could go and what we could do to take advantage of the grade.” Because the lot slopes down on the right side of the property, an oversized two-car garage fit nicely beneath the home. With that achieved, Hagerty focused on the next priority: a million-dollar view.
Because the left side of the lot featured a slight incline, Hagerty could see that the best views of the water were going to come from the second level of the home—or higher. However, since the front of the home faces the water, the challenge involved designing a second-level deck or porch that would not look out of place. “Oftentimes, it is the back of the home that faces the water, which gives you a little more freedom to build decks and balconies that take full advantage of those views,” says Matt Teague, REEF’s president. “We had to find a way to build something onto the front of the home that would provide the views and be aesthetically pleasing at the same time,” Hagerty adds.
The gambrel roofline on the front of the house provided an ideal architectural element to nicely accommodate a front porch on the main level, and a deck on the second level that wouldn’t appear ostentatious. Built off the master bedroom, this second-story deck provides the water views the homeowners were looking for.
Renovations to other homes in the neighborhood inspired Hagerty and his clients to consider building an additional deck along the home’s roofline. With the construction underway near by, Hagerty and his clients worried that the views from the master bedroom porch might be obstructed once the neighbors’ work was completed. Mike and Kathy asked Hagerty to find a way to protect their investment—especially the wonderful views—while respecting the integrity of the neighborhood and the neighbors themselves. The result would prove to be the home’s piece de resistance.
Hagerty designed a room on the attic level of the home, with a small balcony seemingly built into the roof. Though small, this unique feature plays an important role, offering the homeowners a sweeping panoramic view of Cape Cod Bay. “That room in the attic makes the most of the home’s interior space and at the same time provides the view,” Hagerty says. “When we first went out there and realized we could see Wellfleet, we knew we had something special.”
The homeowners make good use of this “bonus” attic room. “We have a turntable and Mike plays his records,” Kathy says. “We sit there listening to music, watching the sunset, and drinking wine. And the view is incredible.” Mike concurs. “We have fun with it,” he says.
Now, fitting a home with four bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms that comfortably accommodates the homeowners and their adult children, friends and extended family on a lot that is less than a quarter-acre was certainly a challenge, but the challenge allowed Hagerty to stretch his creative design muscles.
One of the most captivating features of the interior of the home is the turned staircase that leads from the basement up to the third level. Featuring solid mahogany, and constructed of steel plates to allow for floating platforms without posts, this special staircase is as functional as it is beautiful. “We kind of backed into that,” Mike says. “We didn’t build the staircase that way to conserve space, but in the end it did, and that was a bonus.”
From atop the stairs—just outside the bonus room on the third level—the view inside the house is mesmerizing. “When you look down the staircase from the attic level, the visual is just perfect,” says Mike. “And the mahogany floors with white trim make this the best part of the house.” Teague adds that the development of the attic space inspired the design of the staircase, and vice versa. “We had to design it this way to avoid cutting the house in half with a three-story staircase,” Teague says. “It really is amazing, and it makes a difference in the utility of the space.”
The staircase design allows for generously sized bedrooms and good traffic flow throughout the home. Despite the diminutive size of the lot, the house boasts a large guest suite with bath on the first floor, and on the second floor there’s a large master bedroom with a walk-in closet and en suite bath, as well as two additional bedrooms with a common bathroom. The main floor includes a laundry room, a half bath, and a large living area with a kitchen and family room. A screened-in front porch extends this space, fulfilling the homeowners’ desire for an open and comfortable floor plan.
In addition to the architectural features, the home includes several thoughtful interior design elements. In the kitchen, the multi-level island with rattan chairs invites family members and guests to sit and talk while meals are prepared.
Since the couple’s off-Cape home has traditional cherry cabinets with lighter-shaded flooring, the homeowners selected an opposite color scheme for the kitchen in this their summer home; the Shaker-style cabinets painted in taupe, along with light Quartzite countertops, evoke the feeling of a summer cottage. “I wanted everything in this house to be light because we are near the beach,” Kathy says.
Despite the home’s many unique features, according to Hagerty, the biggest challenges on this project did not involve design or construction, but garnering approval for some aspects of the project from local regulatory boards. Before the project was ultimately approved, the architect and homeowners had to make a number of changes to their original plans, including moving the proposed screened-in porch from the left side of the home to the right. Each change had ripple effects, of course, and in the end addressing all the changes and getting everything approved took nearly a year.
Other challenges came courtesy of Mother Nature. The home was built in the winter of 2014-2015, one of the worst winters this area has experienced. Teague recalls trying to finish certain parts of the home before one of the season’s weekly storms blew in. “I think we ended up putting the roof on twice,” he says. “We had just finished it, but it hadn’t had time to seal before a storm with 70 mph winds came through and blew off the shingles. But we still finished the house on time.”
With all the hard work completed and the challenges overcome, the end result of this project is an impressive summer home with a coastal style and flair all its own. “The amount of house we have on the amount of land we have is amazing,” Kathy says, “and it looks so good. I feel like our house fits beautifully on the property, like it has been there all along.”
Mary Stanley is a regular contributor to Cape Cod HOME.