Living the sweet life in Chatham
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A seaside Chatham home offers the luxuries of coastal living with unassuming charm
It’s ironic that the title of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s 1960 classic is La Dolce Vita—that is “The Sweet Life.” Set in post-war Rome, the film follows seven days and nights in the life of an aimless gossip columnist, Marcello, played by Marcello Mastroianni. To outsiders, the protagonist’s indulgent, Hollywood-esque lifestyle may seem quite sweet, but in reality, it is anything but.
Arguably, the film illustrates that a life of extravagance is ultimately an unfulfilling one. If “the sweet life” is found instead in the beauty and enjoyment of life’s simpler pleasures, then the Chatham house aptly named La Dolce Vita is proof of that. Conveniently located just a jaunt away from the center of town and a beach overlooking Chatham Harbor, La Dolce Vita was designed and built by Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders (PSD) as a modest vacation home for a young family. Design Principal John DaSilva and his wife, Sharon, the firm’s senior designer, were tasked with creating a casual and contemporary coastal abode that would function as a traditional family home but still feel like a compact cottage.
Doing so on a narrow, one third of an acre lot meant completely tearing down the outdated, “conventional” Cape house previously located on the property and giving La Dolce Vita a new and improved layout. That took some convincing on the client’s end. “They imagined replacing the Cape with a Cape,” DaSilva says. “With a conventional Cape, the eaves side—or the long side of the house—faces the street, but that design wouldn’t maximize the potential of this small site.” Instead, PSD designed the gable end of La Dolce Vita to face the street, which DaSilva says allows the house to have a compact footprint in a relatively simple form. And, he adds, this site orientation allows for optimal light exposure. “By designing the house this way,” he explains, “the open kitchen, living and dining room occupies the full back of the house, with windows on three sides—south, east and west—that provide all-day direct sun.”
From the street, the “balanced asymmetry,” as DaSilva puts it, of La Dolce Vita’s architecture is on full display. While the façade of the house is asymmetrical, with its beckoning arched entry porch and off-center, square first-floor window, DaSilva explains that balance is achieved through the defined rooflines. This play on symmetry, he notes, adds to the desired casual charm of the home and provides some unique character.
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