Living at land’s end
Ralph Cataldo gets creative as he crafts an awe-inspiring home perched on Cuttyhunk Island
Online only: See more photos of this Cuttyhunk home
“When you build a house on an island 17 miles out to sea,” says Ralph Cataldo, president of Cataldo Custom Builders, “you need workers who are warriors.” Though one may imagine Cuttyhunk as kind of an extension of the Cape, Cataldo notes that the climate is dramatically different from the mainland, especially in terms of fog, wind and cold. When his team constructed a home for two grateful homeowners at one of the island’s highest points in 2006, they worked through the snowy winter, braving ice in the air, ice on the docks, and ice on the driveway. “It’s terribly cold up there,” says Cataldo. “Those guys are just some real warriors.” Ironically, these modern day Vikings constructed not a fort or a garrison but a serene retreat, a mini-compound for a family to enjoy the solitude and peace of this island, the last in the chain of the Elizabeths, the final stop between Buzzards Bay and Block Island 30 miles due West.
Cataldo, architect John Dvorsack and the homeowners began work on the project in 2005 and continued through 2006. “It took us a long time to locate the footprint,” says Cataldo. He and the owners were meticulous in walking the property to get it just right. “You only get one chance to situate it properly,” he adds. The final product is an energy-efficient, year-round home built to withstand the elements, including hurricanes. Dvorsack describes its architectural style as “transitional,” meaning that it merges traditional and modern elements.
The main house is square-shaped, with a pyramid-or hip-roof. A deep porch wraps around the entire home, which Dvorsack says allows the owners to relax outside, yet be sheltered from Cuttyhunk’s fierce winds. Cataldo adds, “Three out of the four sides have direct ocean views, and you get sunrises from the east-facing one and sunsets from the west-facing one.” A small guesthouse, a matching workshop/shed, and gardens complete the mini-compound. Dvorsack notes, “The shape of the house was also purposely kept very low to give it a low profile when viewed from the observation point at the top of the island.” Cuttyhunk’s highest point stands at 156 feet above sea level, but the home is close, at an elevation of 115 feet. This affords near-360-degree views that include Martha’s Vineyard and the cliffs of Aquinnah, Noman’s Land just off the Vineyard, the other Elizabeth Islands, and practically the entire coastline of Southeastern Massachusetts. Cataldo states, “You can see it all lit up at night.”
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