Autumn 2013

Natural Progression

Cape Cod Home  /  Autumn 2013 / ,

Writer: Charlotte Roth / Photographer: Eric Roth 

Expanding an Osterville home to fit the needs of a growing family.

Expanding an Osterville home to fit the needs of a growing family.

Photography by Eric Roth

When Jim Righter and Jacob Albert, architects of Albert, Righter & Tittmann (A,R&T), began designing a small family home in Osterville in 1982, they never imagined their work on the home would extend over more than 20 years and several generations. Set on a spacious lot with classic Cape Cod marsh views, the structure was originally 2,300 square feet and just large enough to comfortably house a couple and their children for the long leisurely summers. To accommodate the homeowner’s growing family, the house underwent two phases of expansion over the next two decades: the first in 1996, another in 2003. A, R&T put a lot of work into the house to transform it into a multi-generational destination for the owners, their children and grandchildren, and visitors of all ages.

“The original house was built to look like a modest, authentic Cape,” Albert says. “We did a careful study on the scale of traditional Cape homes.” In order to best showcase the landscape while maintaining the home’s traditional feel, the architect designed the front of the house in the time-honored Cape style, with simple unadorned windows and doors, and an iconic central chimney. The rear of the house, however, boasts a more modern style. Albert added large bay windows to the marsh side of the home to display the sweeping panoramic views of the bay as well as the wildlife that frequent the marsh. Unlike many traditional Cape cottages, the home is winterized and comfortable year-round.

In 1996, the homeowners contacted A,R&T again. The addition that emerged from this second collaboration added 1,000 square feet in total, with more space in the master bedroom as well as a den and two extra bedrooms to accommodate the homeowner’s family and guests. This addition required Albert to think of ways to cater to both adult guests and the children who would be enjoying their summers in the house. The new den became the children’s recreation space—it’s the only room in the house with a TV—while the more formal living room within the original structure remains a place for adults to gather. “This is a multi-generational house—it has to serve the kids well and the adults well,” says Albert.

Expanding an Osterville home to fit the needs of a growing family.

Photography by Eric Roth

As the next generation of the family began to outgrow the still small Cape, a second addition was completed in 2003, this time adding an additional 2,000 square feet to the home. With visitors constantly coming in and out of the busy cottage, Albert added an extra bedroom—a spacious bunk room where the children could enjoy sunlight and playtime in the comfort of the home—as well as a second kitchen and living room, affording both comfort and privacy to the family and their guests. Albert explains, “Two families can be here at the same time and hardly get in each other’s way. It allows privacy for both guests and hosts.” Each generation of the homeowners’ family can stay together while maintaining their own separate spaces. This is a house for visitors; each addition has its own entrances and exits, sweeping views, and all the comforts that the homeowners’ guests might need.

In his design, Albert was conscious not only of the homeowner’s needs, but also of the connection between the house and the striking landscape surrounding it. The placement of the windows and doors maximizes the family’s views of the marsh, and the floor plan itself mimics the openness of the outdoors. “The home has the kind of open arrangement that people in modern times like,” says Albert. In the original house, the architect allowed space for a hallway that would run throughout the entire home, ensuring each room could be accessed easily from any other.

In the same way, each of the additions are designed to recreate the original home’s open plan; the second addition’s large back room, for example, serves as a combination kitchen-living room, a compact yet airy space for visitors to cook, eat, drink, and relax together.

Expanding an Osterville home to fit the needs of a growing family.

Photography by Eric Roth

In addition to working with the views in mind, the architect also had to adjust his design to the landscape of the lot. The original house was built on a slope overlooking the water, and the subsequent additions were molded to the higher ground above.

“We kept adding one small, Cape-style addition at a time, marching on up the hill,” Albert explains. “The finished home looks like an intimate collection of cottages, each responding to the surrounding landscape.”

It was important to both the architect and homeowner that the additions maintain the same scale as the original house, each section blending seamlessly into the others. The house is designed with several different half-levels and sets of stairs to accommodate the slope of the land, with each addition stepping upwards. “You’re never too far from the outside,” adds Albert.

The homeowners maximize their enjoyment of the outdoors and their home’s location on the Cape’s ocean-side with outdoor gear, including canoes, kayaks, and small sailboats housed in a special garage designed by Albert.

The home and the landscape around it have both played a role in transforming the ongoing project. Reflecting on this long, fulfilling collaboration Albert says, “It was great fun and a great privilege to be involved in the evolution of this home from start to finish.”

Charlotte Roth

Charlotte Roth is a frequent contributor to Cape Cod Life Publications.