Fair Days at the Faraway

Cape Cod Home  /  Annual Home 2020 / ,

Writer: Julie Craven Wagner / Photographer: Paul Pettengill 

Cape Cod Home Annual Home for the Year!

After building over 350 homes
on Nantucket, J.D. and Laura Bessey have
crafted a home for their entire family

The pages of history and literature are filled with adventurous tales of sea captains, merchant mariners and explorers of note who circumnavigated the globe, all while hailing the island of Nantucket as their homeport. The choice to call Nantucket home is primarily a conscious one, and for one couple, J.D. and Laura Bessey, owners of Nantucket-based Bessey Construction, Inc., the roots they have put down on Nantucket have influenced not only their home but hundreds of others as well. For over 20 years Bessey Construction, Inc. has been fulfilling people’s dreams of a home on what the Native Americans called “the faraway island.” In fact, they have worked on over 500 projects across this special landscape. A recent project for a client with several lots for development, revealed a home style that spoke to the Besseys on a personal level.

“We had actually built this particular home for a client who had four or five lots, and when we built this layout, I had gone a bit out on a limb with the design choices,” Laura Bessey recalls. “With most spec houses you keep it a bit neutral, but in this one I used brushed brass finishes and was a bit bolder on the tile choices. J.D. and I kept talking about this project, and it became very clear that we really liked this house.  Actually, we loved it. We loved the layout; we loved the feel of the home and kept imagining how we would live in it. So we tweaked the plan and decided this was the home we wanted for ourselves because the whole flow and the layout was perfect for the way we live.”

Nantucket’s Brook Meerbergen, principal of Brook Designs, designed the home. Meerbergen, who has been designing residences on Nantucket for many years, including the home that inspired this project, says, “I designed the bones of this house and gave J.D the volumes, but J.D and Laura put their creative touch on the home to make it truly their own.”

Once the Besseys made the decision to embark on this adventure on the south side of the island known as Surfside, the process of building a home, an exercise they have spent decades doing for clients who also were excited about the future of possibility that is inherent in a Nantucket retreat, became one of purpose and conviction. “All of the homes we do for clients as well as for investors for whom we are building spec houses, we build the house as though we were building our own. We will see opportunities in a plan and approach the project always asking the same question, ‘What would we like?’ I don’t make decisions and choices to do something because it is a more inexpensive option, I make decisions that are rooted in what I genuinely like,” Laura says. “But for this house it was amplified. We really put our creativity and imagination to the test, and we just love the way it turned out.” It is that frosting they applied to the well-appointed, thoughtful design that allowed the Besseys to make their cake, and enjoy it as well.

Starting with the front façade of the home, as visitors approach or neighbors consider the structure from the street, it is immediately evident that this is not a typical Nantucket shingled cottage. The home exudes a farmhouse sensibility with an asymmetrical covered porch, that is unexpectedly welcoming despite its covered and protected design, making its approachability a paradox of its design. J.D Bessey, who grew up in the western mountains of Maine explains the home’s barn aesthetic, “We didn’t want that big, aggressive front to the house—columns, big front door and white clapboard that is so easily identified with Nantucket homes. We wanted it to feel simple, small and quaint with an inviting air that makes you feel like you want to come inside. And then once you have entered you are hit with the surprise: a large and welcoming open floor plan,” J.D. says of the 4,600 square foot home.

Inside the front entry, the ‘rustic glam’, as Laura calls it, immediately sets the stage for the casual, yet fully embracing lifestyle the Besseys have carved out for their family. Instead of the popular white shiplap paneling that has popped up in so many coastal homes, especially on Nantucket, J.D. has turned the trend on its ear by literally installing it vertically in what is know as v-groove paneling. A sliding rough-hewn interior barn door allows the mudroom/laundry room to be closed off when the days have been spent enjoying the island instead of doing chores. An interior transom window (a feature that re-appears throughout the ground floor) crowns a stretch of tray ceiling whose insert mirrors the barn door and acknowledges the white oak flooring found throughout the home. “J.D. doesn’t like to waste anything, so the trays in the ceiling are leftover flooring that he had stained to complement the finish on the barn door,” Laura explains.

Entering the main living area, the impressive ceiling detail now becomes a coffered ceiling as the white cross beams and their oak coffered panels subtly define and divide the spaces below. An eleven-foot island topped with White Rhino marble sourced and installed by Cape Cod Marble and Granite, spans the length of the galley kitchen. Most galley kitchens offer maximum function in an otherwise limited or cramped space. Not so in this kitchen where space is a true luxury, but the ease of having most of the function along one long stretch of wall melds the luxury of space with the ingenuity of function. With such a generous allocation of space, the Besseys were able to forego upper cabinets in the space. Leaving just two square windows and a range hood allowed them to tile the entire length and height of the wall in Thassos White tile with a mosaic of royal blue glass, thus keeping things neat and easy to clean while also being design forward. J.D. says of the choice to install extra-wide shiplap on the seating side of the island, “It was a fun detail that really catches people’s eye.” He is correct on that point, but the half-dozen acrylic and brass barstools Laura sourced are also head-turners.

Laura’s ability, (exceptional talent is more accurate) to source, search and successfully identify unique and memorable items for the homes they build is truly a thing of wonder. Throughout the home there are elements that consciously surprise as well as unconscious choices that easily establish the vibe of the space. An example of her unique ability to find the unexpected and ultimately perfect item is present in the four chairs that anchor the transitional space between the kitchen, the pool and backyard beyond. Covered in tufted gold velvet with post-modern lines, the chairs are the kind you just sink into and come up with reasons to not get out. “The fabric is just addictive,” says Laura. “People sit there and invariably, they just start to pet the velvet. They are very relaxing.”

Perhaps the ultimate in indulgence, an Andersen Big Door, opens the seating area to the Ipe decking transitions to the natural stone that surrounds the pool. The Bessey family consists of three adult children and one special little granddaughter. The eldest, and the mother of the granddaughter lives in Farmington, Maine; their son works for their construction company on the island, and their youngest daughter is in college and a member of the Synchronized Skating Team USA. When the family gathers together, it would not be uncommon to see one of them at a full sprint, launching themselves from this seating area across the deck, through the air and into the pool.

Seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a pool, a basketball court, a very special pool house that J.D. Built as a surprise for Laura, a dining pavilion with a fully functional outdoor kitchen, an impressive lower level with a gym, a shuffleboard court and a few hidden surprises—it’s all here in this special farmhouse on Nantucket. The story of the Besseys and their extraordinary team will continue to unfold over the year as we take you into their home and into the life they share with their family.

Make sure to check back throughout the year to learn more about this incredible Nantucket home! For more Nantucket, take a look at what our readers voted the best of the island on our Best Of Nantucket page!

Julie Craven Wagner

Julie Craven Wagner began her experience with Cape Cod Life in 2010 when she joined the sales team after 10 years of working with local businesses on the Cape and Islands with WMVY. In addition to sales, she is the Associate Publisher/Editor of Cape Cod LIFE, Cape Cod HOME, and Cape Cod ART. Growing up on the Outer Cape has given her a unique perspective of life on Cape Cod, from tip to bridge, and that is reflected in her appreciation and presentation of stories found within the pages of our publications. Julie lives in North Falmouth with her husband, Eric, and their yellow lab, Enzo. When she finds free time, she enjoys her Cape Cod life sailing on Buzzards Bay, spending time on the beach in Wellfleet, or exploring Martha’s Vineyard.