New Beginnings

Cape Cod Home  /  Summer 2020 /

Writer: Allyson Plessner / Photographer: Dan Cutrona 

A home on Great Island gets a fresh start while paying homage to its historic roots. 

If an artist were to create an idyllic scene of Cape Cod, what would it look like? Almost surely it would be a sparkling seascape; perhaps a watercolor bleeding across the page to reveal a sandy coastline and a sprawling naturescape beyond. And of course, a lighthouse.

Great Island in Yarmouth is a stunning representation of all of the Cape’s best features; it’s exactly what that watercolorist would look to for inspiration. An expansive natural landscape gives way to private beaches, a picturesque lighthouse, and endless ocean views as the Atlantic reaches with shining, rolling waves out toward Nantucket. But, it is perhaps the homes that make this private peninsula so profoundly special. Thanks to strict building guidelines focused on protecting and preserving the historic charm that Cape homes are famous for, traversing Great Island is like stepping back in time to the days when horse and buggy ruled those same roads, passing shingled homes and inviting porches. Don’t let the charm be misleading though; these homes still have very much to offer in the way of modernity. Take, for example, a home built by the team of Osterville’s T.A. Nelson Construction, Hutker Architects, and Washashore Home Design. Quaint lines outside give way to an open floor plan inside, and the space remains historically deferential while still translating to a modern lifestyle, complete with delightful nautical accents that add a touch of that renowned Cape Cod charm. 

“As a whole, the homes on Great Island all blend in well with the surrounding nature. This house was an old Cape. It was structurally sound, so instead of taking it down and building something new, this homeowner really wanted to keep the home historically correct,” says Tom Nelson of T.A. Nelson. “Great Island has so much history and charm to it. We knew that this home needed to feel some of the vibes of the area. The renovation provided a lot of updates to the home, but the bones were original and a lot of the character remained in the design,” adds Peyton Lambton, interior designer and co-owner of Washashore Home Design. Inside, a marriage of old and new permeates the space. Antique furniture adds charm to a contemporary, open space, perfect for summer living. 

“So, I close my eyes to old ends and open my heart to new beginnings.” – Nick Frederickson

Originally built in the 1800s, the team did their best to salvage as much original material as possible. And where they couldn’t, masterful recreations took center stage: like with the heart pine floorboards. 

“Hutker Architects did a great job opening up the floor plan while keeping the integrity of the home intact,” comments Nelson. A second floor dormer was added, providing a bit more space and playing off of that old Cape Cod feel of the home. “We salvaged as much original material as we could,” he explains, pointing out the antique heart pine flooring. Where the original flooring could not be used, Nelson turned to Cataumet Sawmill. “They’ll make anything!” he enthuses. “And their specialty is reproducing old growth pine. So, they mill new product that matches almost perfectly to the original material.” T.A. Nelson also worked to restore paneling throughout the home as well as the original doors. “We used a company called True Style doors to match the old doors that we couldn’t salvage,” says Nelson. 

Great Island in Yarmouth is an idyllic picture of Cape Cod, and this home is the focal point. 

For the décor, Lambton and her partner, Sarah Waldo, drew inspiration from the homeowner’s personal collection of marine art. “While preserving the character of the home was important, we also wanted it to be a true representation of the owner so it felt like his home when he came to stay,” says Lambton. Each room has its own distinct personality, from the chic kitchen created by Horgan Millwork (Nelson’s favorite space in the home) to a colorful kids’ room. Throughout, nautical accents and the homeowners’ treasured art pieces ground the space as a whole, tying the different rooms together in a way that is both personable and eye-catching. Lambton describes the finished project as, “A truly successful marriage of antique furniture and art, with fresh open living.”

“While the home was originally built in the 1800’s, the end result was anything but old and stuffy. The rooms felt fresh, current and ready to be lived in,” says Lambton. Her favorite part of the project was breathing new life into antique furniture with colorful upholstery and highlighting those traditional elements with stylish accessories—a Washashore specialty, as Lambton and Waldo are known for finding “diamond in the rough” pieces that add charisma and imagination to a space. “Creating original spaces is important to us, so when we see something with character that you wouldn’t find in a catalog, that’s a moment for us,” says Lambton. “This home needed the character from vintage pieces to mix in with the patterns used on the bedding and rugs. In the end, we love how this house was really brought back to life on an island that really seems to be from yesteryear.”

Yesteryear is certainly the perfect descriptor for Great Island, and for a home so intrinsically rooted in the nostalgia that surrounds it, the homeowners couldn’t have turned to more perfect professionals. T.A. Nelson’s almost 40 years of expertise, along with their commitment to quality and customer satisfaction, has resulted in a company that specializes in capturing those unique elements of history and passion for the region that make a Cape home so much more than just a simple structure. From old sea captains’ homes to houses throughout Nantucket’s historic district, T.A. Nelson consistently goes the extra mile to bring new life to the homes that have traditionally made the Cape & Islands standout, and their partnership with Hutker Architects on this project was one characterized by efficiency and harmony. “The Cape is a wonderful place to live,” says Nelson. “Our clients put a lot of effort into their homes here, often just to spend a few weeks in them, and we’re lucky enough to be here all the time. So, we want to create something special for them, something more unique than what they find in their hometowns.”

Washashore Home Design is similarly positioned to understand the unique history of a Cape home and the importance of capturing their clients’ personality throughout an interior. Washashore got its start thanks to an HGTV show where Lambton and Waldo quickly realized how well they worked together. “Sarah grew up on the Cape and I grew up in Tennessee so we like to find that balance of rustic and coastal to make a space feel livable and authentic to the homeowner,” says Lambton. This Great Island home was a perfect opportunity for Lambton and Waldo to apply their keen instinct for unique details and an understanding for how a homeowner lives in a space. 

As Nelson puts it, “The client was easy to work with and really eager to bring the house back to life. It was an amazing transformation.” Having worked across the region since the 1980s, Nelson explains that they now find themselves collaborating with a second generation of customers, even sometimes renovating homes that they built 30 years ago. This positions them to continue to respect and build upon the historic beauty, natural landscape, and intrinsic charm that Cape Cod is founded on, and this project is certainly proof of that. History often comes full circle, and with this renovation, a Great Island summer getaway is now poised to offer a new family new stories and precious memories that will forever be part of the history of this special Cape home.

Read about another home by Washashore Home Design HERE.

Allyson Plessner

Allyson Plessner is a former editorial intern for Cape Cod Life and now works for the publication as a staff writer and digital media coordinator. Born in Florida, Allyson has been a lifelong summer resident of the Cape. She is a recent alumna of the College of Charleston, located in Charleston, South Carolina, where she completed bachelor’s degrees in both English and Spanish. In her free time, Allyson is an avid sailor, beach-goer, and—like her fellow Cape Cod Life colleagues—a dog-lover.