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No Judgement, Plenty of Deliberation

Happenstance brings a Miami couple to West Dennis, where they find a house that becomes a home.

“Some people come back from vacationing on the Cape with a T-shirt,” says Lew Gordon, a corporate lawyer from Miami Beach. “We came back with a house.”

Gordon and his husband Paul Kress, who owns a court reporting agency, had flown north for the wedding of a good friend’s son and were staying at the friend’s house in West Dennis. “The weather was crappy,” Gordon says. “It was raining the whole time, and we didn’t have anything to do. Our friend had a friend who was a realtor, so we got together with her, went for what we thought was going to be ‘window shopping,’ and ended up buying a home.”

They purchased it as an investment, strictly for short-term rentals. But after they furnished it, they liked it so much that they decided to use it only for themselves, friends, and family. And those friends and family started coming in droves. “‘Oh, Uncle Lew, Uncle Paul, can we come visit?’” nieces and nephews kept asking, recalls Kress.

Light streams into a bright and airy kitchen designed with the help of White Wood Kitchens in Sandwich.

After about a year, they realized the two-bedroom, one-bath residence just wasn’t going to cut it. They weren’t yet in high gear on their search for a new home when one afternoon, as they were driving around, Kelly’s Pond in West Dennis showed up on the GPS. They decided to go have a look just for fun. Upon arrival, they saw a house backing up to the 25-acre pond, less than a mile from the ocean, with a “For Sale By Owner” sign.  

They called the phone number on the sign, and the owner asked if they would like to see the place.

“Sure,” they answered.   

“When?” the man responded.

“Look out your front door,” they said. So the guy invited them in, which was when they made rash real estate decision number two. But this time, they didn’t look back. The three-bedroom, two-bath ranch with water access was exactly the kind of place they could enjoy retreating to with loved ones during scorching South Florida summers.  

Arm chairs covered in a blue and white checkered cotton blend from Ethan Allen anchor the dining table (also from Ethan Allen). 

What it lacked, however, were the water views the home was not taking advantage of despite its setting at the shoreline, the light that could have been streaming in from all angles but wasn’t, and just a little more elbow room the couple needed for large dinner parties and entertaining in general, which they love to do. So they got to work, enlisting the help of residential design firm Archi-Tech Associates in Cotuit to massage their new getaway into exactly the place they wanted it to be. White Wood Kitchens of Sandwich was on board to assist in creating a new cooking space in addition to other areas around the house for which the couple desired extra design help plus custom cabinetry.

One of the first orders of business was blowing open the walled-in galley kitchen that chopped up the main living area and hid the pond from whoever was cooking or prepping. They also gave themselves a little more kitchen space with a bump-out for the sink and surrounding cabinetry that took over what had been a front porch. 

Archi-Tech of Cotuit pushed back the home’s main room by about 5 feet to make room for the baby grand piano (and pull the pond even closer).

White Wood principal Gail O’Rourke helped them plan the new kitchen layout. “She has a wonderful three-dimensional computer program, so we were just able to move everything around until we got it where we wanted it,” Gordon says. The result is a commodious workspace complete with an ample island and two dishwashers. “If you’re designing or redesigning a house for entertaining, two dishwashers are a must,” says Kress.

Archi-Tech enhanced the new kitchen still more by turning the flat ceiling into one that soared, allowing light to pour in from new transom windows built high above the sink (and which open remotely to let heat escape when hot air rises). Kress and Gordon chose kitchen finishes including marble backsplash tiles bordered by mosaic inlays that they picked out at Cloutier Supply Company in Harwich and spectacular pendant lighting of seeded glass from the Feiss Collection, purchased from New York Lighting (one of the few design choices not sourced directly on the Cape). 

A wall of windows in a three-season porch that the owners expanded and turned into an indoor “bar room” takes advantage of the home’s pond side location. The antique bowl on the coffee table was executed by a student of Madam Lalique.

On the pond side at the back, Archi-Tech extended the living area about five feet across the entire stretch of the home’s main room, which afforded a) more dining space, b) a place for the baby grand piano, and c) a sense of “just being able to stand there and spread your arms out wide,” Kress says. It also brought the house a little closer to the water, and bringing it closer still was loads of new glazing along the back wall that replaced a couple of glass sliders with distracting mullions. 

“Everything we did was aimed at the water,” says Gordon. He and Kress, who have been together 40 years, can now see fish jumping out of the pond and enjoy paddle boarding and other (non-motorized) watercraft just outside their back door, in addition to watching the day and its light disappear over the water as they sit in the backyard by the fire pit they installed.

They also enjoy gazing at the pond from a three-season porch that they enlarged and insulated to create a family room, which they call the bar room because they added a wet bar (cabinetry courtesy of White Wood Kitchens). The wet bar and the new half bath just off the bar room were carved out of space appropriated from the garage.

In the main bedroom, transom windows above the sliding doors echo the transoms in the kitchen and bar room.

One more addition to the home’s footprint to take advantage of the setting is the main bath. It doesn’t get much more glorious than looking out over the water from the en suite’s steep tub. (The previous en suite bath was on an inside wall, where a walk-in closet now accommodates lots of clothes.) In the main bedroom, sliders topped by a row of transom windows that have taken the place of two small windows orient the home’s inhabitants to the pond that much more. Ryley Construction of Osterville added all the new spaces and other building enhancements seamlessly — nothing feels like an afterthought or appendage.

Altogether, between the area added to the home’s main living room and kitchen plus the bar room and the new en suite bath, the couple enlarged the 2,000-square-foot home by only about 300 square feet. But what a difference those judicious additions have made! While not a large house by any stretch, it definitely feels like one now, making good use of every inch available.

Baths become positively sybaritic with a view like that.

Says Archi-Tech senior designer Joe Lima, “We were very happy that we were able to give the house a little more elbow room without sacrificing any of its cottage-y charm or scale. We were even able to work within most of the existing roof line, which kept the street-side facade intact. Cedar shingles, functioning shutters, and the stone chimney added to the effect.”

The home also includes another full bath and two guest bedrooms, one for Gordon’s 96-year-old mother, known to all who meet her as “Mom,” who frequently comes to stay with the couple. She chose blue beds and furniture for her room, and the couple brought further élan to it with signed prints by Alexander Calder.

Space for the wet bar was made by taking square footage from the garage.

Fine art enlivens the entire house, with museum-worthy names at the bottom of almost every painting, print, and lithograph. To the right of the fireplace, for instance, hangs a 1911 Picasso pochoir called “Still Life with a Bottle of Rum.” Directly over the fireplace, an oil painting by Chilean artist Luis Tejada adds a bit of a Gauguin-like feel. And to the left, an abstract oil by Argentine artist Antonia Guzman enhances the overall effect.

In the bar room, a giclée on canvas print by noted Provincetown artist Anne Packard shares a wall with a Rembrandt etching made from a plate authorized by the Dutch artist, while signed prints by Miro adorn other of the home’s spaces. In the main bedroom, a signed Erté lithograph does service as a significant nod to the couple’s penchant for Art Deco, which can also be found in some of the residence’s lighting.

Exquisite glass objets d’art throughout add incredible interest and dimension of their own. Baccarat, Steuben, and Lalique bowls, sculptures, and lighting can be found in almost every room. One particularly arresting Baccarat lamp base rests on an occasional table in the bar room, while nearby on the coffee table sits an antique bowl made by a student of Madame Lalique herself. A vase on the piano is a Steuben, while a Lalique collection of angels purchased in support of AIDS research graces the main room’s coffee table, alongside a bowl by Dale Chihuly. 

“Lew and I love glass as a medium,” Kress says. “It captures both color and light and makes light bounce around the room in wonderful ways.”

But what the couple love most about the house is that serendipitously, the pandemic has grounded them there, and they have gotten to enjoy it in a way they otherwise wouldn’t have. 

Paul Kress (left), Lew Gordon, and Lew’s 96-year-old mother enjoy cocktails by the warmth of the fire pit.

“The summer of 2019 is when construction ended,” Gordon says, “and then we had to go back to Florida. So we never really got to live here. Then we came up in March of 2020 for a quick trip, and two days later the world shut down. We’ve been here the whole time and like it so much we’ve decided that we will be up from Miami much more than we originally anticipated.”

“Cape Cod is great,” Kress adds. “People are so friendly and welcoming and warm. It has been amazing. It’s also the reason the name of the house is ‘No Judgement’ and that we put a sign with those words over the garage. We love the live-and-let-live ethos that defines life here.” 

Larry Lindner is a contributing writer at Cape Cod Life Publications.



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