Lucking Out

Cape Cod Home  /  Summer 2021 /

Writer: Chris White / Photographer: Brian Vanden Brink 

Polhemus Savery DaSilva applies thoughtful design and exceptional craftsmanship to a unique home for the entire family.

Few dogs are as fortunate as a little gray fellow named Lucky. Sure, some have nice places built of plywood out in the back yard, in the classic style of Snoopy’s pad with the upside-down “U”-shaped entryway. Maybe they even have some all-weather bed from Orvis or L.L. Bean upon which they can lounge in the shade, tongues lolling through the dog days of summer. Or perhaps their owners allow them to sprawl out on the living room sofa or provide them with fancy outfits appropriate for various weather conditions and stylish personal floatation devices for adventures on the seas. Regardless of how pampered or spoiled these other dogs may be, however, it’s safe to assume that few have actual homes named for them. For the little dude called Lucky, his owners contracted with Polhemus Savery Dasilva Architects Builders (PSD) to completely reimagine and build a home on Cape Cod Bay that has been christened “Lucky’s Bluff.”

PSD’s Senior Designer Sharon DaSilva, who led the rebuilding design project, says, “Lucky’s a special dog, who is definitely a big part of the homeowners’ family. He was there for our photoshoot, and he did a really good job of posing.” In one shot, Lucky stands in the home’s entryway, very clearly in the role of welcoming host rather than intimidating watch dog. He seems ready to offer guests a tour, but he also radiates a certain degree of pride in his abode and its dramatic view of the bay. From the driveway, one can look straight through the home and directly to the sand flats and water beyond. From this vantage point, the home transforms through the simple act of opening the front door from a charming cottage in a quiet neighborhood to a viewing gallery of natural wonder. It’s no wonder that Lucky looks so pleased, and the effect provides a window into one of the home’s overall themes—that of expansiveness. DaSilva says, “We often have clients who want space but also want the look and feel of a cottage. It’s like the scene in the fourth Harry Potter movie, where the family is going camping, and what looks like a pup tent becomes a two-bedroom apartment once people enter.”

Polhemus Savery DaSilva frequently dip into their spellbooks for the magic necessary to create illusions and to expand spaces. As is often the case in a rebuilding project, PSD had to design and build Lucky’s Bluff on the pre-existing footprint of the original home. “It was an older house with a funky set up that included a little shop, as well,” DaSilva recalls. “So our challenge was to make the house feel open and airy but within a fairly limited footprint.” On the neighborhood side of the home, which faces roughly south, DaSilva brought traditional elements to bear, such as shingles, shutters, and white trim, but she played with scale to shrink the overall facade. “The hood over the entryway is larger than what is typical,” she says. “It’s more generous, creating a more substantial opening.” In addition, the hood’s brackets are oversized and elegant; they serve as both the traditional element that they are, but because of their grandeur, they also evoke the feeling of columns. “We set tiny windows on either side of this to add interest by changing the scale,” says DaSilva. These tiny windows are paired with only one shutter each, which also breaks up the pattern of the home’s facade. These lie on the outer side of the windows, creating something like bookends to the entryway. Like all the shutters on the front and sides of the home, these miniature, square ones are also crafted with v-grooves and a CNC-machined cutout in the shape of a scallop shell; they are both decorative and actually functional (although it is unlikely that the homeowners will ever find the need to close them, they could). 

“We’ve done boats and starfish designs for other clients,” says DaSilva, “but this was the first time we’ve done scallops. They were actually tricky because the scallops have such a delicate shape.” Directly above the hood is a large double window with correspondingly larger shutters. “These provide light to both the first and second floors,” notes DaSilva. Although it may not be immediately obvious, all of the other windows on the front and sides of Lucky’s Bluff are also oversized. “The muntins are also bigger, which creates an interesting effect,” DaSilva explains. “It makes the house look slightly smaller than it really is.” In combining these various elements of illusion, Lucky’s Bluff blends into the neighborhood in the same way that the Weasleys’ little pup tent fit into the campground outside the Quidditch World Cup. 

While the neighborhood side of Lucky’s Bluff “cottage-izes” the home, the back side expands and practically telescopes the house into the landscape and beyond. From the street, one might actually be unaware that the home is even on a bluff. It’s a fairly wooded area in Brewster, which itself is a relatively forested town. The trees along the quiet lane are tight enough that visitors might fail to even notice Cape Cod Bay until they open the front door and enter not only the home but another world. The design of the home’s north-facing, waterfront side relies upon a number of techniques that maximize access to light and to the view. The most obvious of these is the shed dormer on the second floor, where DaSilva says, “We placed arrays of windows with the idea of bringing in as much light as possible.” In total, the dormer houses three triptychs of windows, with no shutters. At either side of the dormer is another of the same tiny windows that adorn the main entrance. These meet one of PSD’s general goals, which is to allow each room in a home to access light from at least two directions. “They’re also special details that add interest,” says DaSilva. 

PSD is proud to deliver both architectural design and the actual building construction—and is thus able to streamline the entire process of creating homes. The company does work with other designers for some particular items. At this home, PSD collaborated with Classic Kitchens & Interiors in Hyannis for the kitchen design. Designer Barbara Darcy says, “This project was a team-oriented collaboration from the start. As the kitchen designers, we had design input early on, ensuring a smooth process to the completed project. Although each room is defined by custom built-ins and columns, the overall feel is still open and airy. It was important that the kitchen design contribute to this feeling of connection to the view and family activity, while also offering a functional space to prepare meals.” One of the features of the kitchen is the “beautiful honed marble” of the countertops, which seem to pick up both the white of the cabinets and drawers and also the silver tones of the drawer pulls. “This bright and custom kitchen shows very little stainless steel, keeping the space soft and cozy, and includes details like tapered feet around the island for a more furniture-like appearance,” Darcy further explains.  “The simple cottage-style hood with shelf and corbels creates a beautiful focal point while offering the option to display a favorite dish or platter.”

The interior floor plan is essentially open, but Sharon DaSilva and the PSD team used a few other elements to provide definition in different spaces. There’s no fireplace in Lucky’s Bluff; instead built-in cabinetry and shelves create a focal point in the living room that centers upon the widescreen TV. With fireplaces, sometimes the placement of a TV is tricky—it can be too high for comfortable viewing if above a mantle, or it can create a secondary focal point to a room. “Here, the TV doesn’t have to compete with the fireplace,” says DaSilva. Crown molding ceiling treatments, smaller wing walls, and additional built-ins are other key features of the main areas downstairs. “They all help to differentiate the spaces, to break them up so it doesn’t feel like a bowling alley,” explains DaSilva. One feature that is fairly unique to Lucky’s Bluff is the use of big square columns that also help define spaces. “Openness is nice, but these elements all make a big difference in preventing it from being too open,” says DaSilva. In addition to the thoughtful architectural elements, the homeowner relied upon Mary Snow Designs for the cohesive and calming interior design found throughout.

Some of the features on the first floor also broaden space and position the inhabitants of the house immediately upon the bluff and within the broad view. “We try to frame the views,” says DaSilva. “We’re always cognizant of what you’re going to see when you’re walking through a home.” The house is located right near the crook of the Cape’s “elbow” and is nestled above sand flats that seem to extend for miles into bay. Thus, the horizon views most immediately take in the west-facing beaches and coastline of Eastham and Wellfleet. “One way that we expanded space, both literally and in terms of light and view, was by inserting bay windows,” says DaSilva. “There’s one in the living room and another in the dining area. They provide places to perch right up next to the windows and view.” And while Lucky may not be a bed or sofa dog, he most certainly is a window seat pup who seems to have made this spot in the sun his throne. In conclusion, DaSilva says, “Houses are always a collaboration among the owners, architect and builder, and this was one that worked really well.” Perhaps Lucky, himself, had little actual say in design choices, but he certainly has benefitted from the comforts and bayside location of his namesake.

Chris White is a contributing writer for Cape Cod Life Publications.

Chris White

Chris White is a frequent writer for Cape Cod Life Publications and has written on topics ranging from the history of Smith’s Tavern on Wellfleet Island to the sinking of the SS Andrea Doria off Nantucket. Chris also teaches English at Tabor Academy in Marion.