Osterville abode provides a home away from home
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Boston-based Wilson Kelsey Design creates a fresh, relaxed second home for an active family in Osterville.
For those fortunate enough to have a secondary or vacation home to share with their family and friends, the balance of retreat, respite and recreation can be a tricky or elusive equation to successfully resolve. When Claire and Mark McCarthy decided to break the cycle of several years of summer rentals in Osterville, the couple decided to investigate the available options for purchase. A traditional home designed by Osterville architect Ivan Bereznicki offered a conveniently located home with enough room for the McCarthys’ growing family and most importantly, ‘good bones,’ a term in the building and design industry used to acknowledge that the core layout, structure and style, will serve as a malleable base for any design expression. Bereznicki had so adroitly conceived a classic home that a freshening and update was all that was needed for an active family that wanted to experience every great thing the Cape has to offer during the summer and special weekends throughout the year. Consideration of whom to enlist for the project briefly entertained the notion of local designers who could translate the Cape Cod vernacular, but the decision to enlist Sally Wilson of Wilson Kelsey Design was an easy one, especially after their relationship with Wilson was built upon a long and successful history, begun when they built their dream home in Acton, MA. “Our home in Acton is beautiful,” says Claire McCarthy, “but it is very traditional. We wanted something very different. We wanted to go down to the Cape and feel like we were ‘away.’ Sally said she wanted to do this project, and she wanted to do something different for us, since she knew us and our family so well. So, we enthusiastically said, ‘Go for it!’”
The key to understanding the journey this renovation experienced lies in understanding who Sally Wilson and John Kelsey are. Principals of this Boston-based design firm, this husband-wife team have enjoyed the accolades and opportunities afforded to the top echelon of interior design entities in New England. Wilson, who specializes in the softer side of design while accommodating families, and Kelsey, who utilizes his superior spatial and planning skills to manipulate the interior architecture of the space, leveraging a lengthy background with historic homes, make up a team that thoughtfully transforms unique spaces for their clients. To translate the McCarthy project just right, Wilson and Kelsey embarked on a road trip to the Cape, seeking out open houses, boutiques and local home accessory shops on several main streets of the quintessential villages of Chatham, Orleans and Provincetown. They ‘checked-in’ to the McCarthy home for a few nights with little to no furniture and got the feel of how the home would live, then they started making lists and forged ahead with sourcing every last element that would bring their vision to life. A budget for a secondary residence is often more constrained than that for a primary home, so custom pieces were rarely used here, but Wilson maximized her investigative skills in search of unique elements while still achieving a customized, high-end look. She oversaw every element within the house, from furniture to rugs, bedding, pillows and artwork. The challenge also included a very tight timeline, five months, in order to make sure the McCarthys could enjoy their home for the upcoming summer.
Entering the home from the formal entrance, guests are greeted by a serene sunken foyer, which sets the casual tone with a blue-gray, sisal-wrapped console table beneath an ethereal print of blues and grays that showcase a dreamy, calm sea that bridges the gap between a white sandy beach and a fog-soaked horizon. Two steps up, the blue, simply textured living room rug anchors a blue couch and a comfortable pair of cushioned, white, spooled armchairs around an oversized wooden coffee table. Extra stools in the foyer and throughout the home, in pops of color, encourage relaxed gathering and the ability to easily accommodate several people. This grounded seating area is just that, because overhead, a balconied oculus soars through the first floor ceiling, framing a back-lit stained glass panel above on the second story. A triptych of custom-coordinated glass tiles by artist Connie Kolman is displayed over the centered fireplace and mantle, balanced on each side by three-quarter height built-in cabinetry, all drenched in the white paint that serves as the canvas backdrop throughout the house. Out of sight, behind the fireplace and cabinetry, is a modest, uncluttered, yet massively functional family room that gathers the family around another fireplace, for watching television, reading or early morning email for Mark at the built-in desk. Continuing the nautically familiar blue and white palette, Wilson centered a striking print of a close-up of the bow of a boat behind a dark blue couch accented by additional seating in whites, orange and neutrals, all pulled together with textural pillows, including an oversized blue Ikat print.
Being a busy family with four children under the age of 12, and older children from a previous marriage of Mark’s, a large, functional kitchen was essential and thankfully, Bereznicki had already obliged in his original design. A long granite-topped center island dissects a very traditional kitchen enveloped by classic white cabinetry with upper glass display doors and yards of counter space sporting traditional soapstone.
An eat-in kitchen nook offers a long pine table for family meals, surrounded by sun-filled windows and crowned by an exquisite chandelier that has just enough bling – taupe crystals that descend from a rectangular linen shade. A small mudroom in shades of celadon with a natural stone tile, punctuated by black square dots, connects the dining area to the side entrance, accessed via an exterior colonnaded walkway, yet another inspired and brilliant architectural element inherited from Bereznicki’s plan. The only major change in the house was the client’s notion to use the original dining room and butler’s pantry as a billiard room and bar. Assisted by the McCarthys’ indispensible caretaker, Peter Barattini of Homesitters, a property management company in Osterville, Claire and Mark decided to remove the upper cabinets of the former galley-style pantry and open up the space to the new billiard room. With fun and recreation being the prime motivators of this summer home, and dining options available outdoors on the terrace, a billiard room rather than a dining room made perfect sense. The new bar, created from the former pantry, has now become a convivial buffet and beverage center where guests may pause for conversation, indulge in hors d’oeuvres, and partake in good-natured harassment of the pool players.
Friendly games of pool, sports on the over-sized television, and all matters of fun are evident in this billiard room, largely due to Wilson’s daring treatment of the space. The existing gray painted wainscoting was transformed with a rich marine blue high-gloss paint. With white walls above the wainscot, Wilson envisioned a yachting environment, but she had to convince Mark to trust her until the installation was complete. A print featuring an aerial shot of a world-class yacht under sail set the tone for what might have been assumed to be a masculine space, but in reality gathers the entire family and a whole suite of friends, age and gender regardless. “Mark had trouble endorsing the color, especially when the rooms were empty and all you saw was this strong high gloss color on the wainscot,” Wilson confesses. “I just asked him to trust me until the whole project was complete, and I promised to change it if he didn’t like it, but it turned out perfectly. The key was the high gloss. It all comes together to say ‘New England nautical.’”
The staircase to the second floor is another achievement Bereznicki incorporated into his original design. While not imposing by any means, it pauses and climbs on multiple flights and landings as it wraps around the foyer below, subliminally reminding one of the home’s classically designed qualities. The landing at the top as it embraces the oculus, serving as the hub of a wheel with multiple bedrooms at each spoke. Wilson says that her goal was to provide that peaceful, seaside sensation you get when you go on a much-needed vacation. A game table and four chairs encourage family and friends to pause and collaborate on a jigsaw puzzle, a beach inspired craft, or a raucous game of Crazy Eights. A casual seating area on the landing opens to a second story balcony overlooking the perfectly manicured fairways of the Wianno Club. Surprisingly, when asked about her favorite part of her new home, Claire reveals that the upstairs landing is special to her, “I guess just because it is so simple and laid back; it’s about taking some time and just stopping to connect. The kids love it, I love it, and we continually find ourselves drawn to whatever we have going on in that area.” Given the bird’s eye view, the encouragement of childlike exploration, and the peeking over the balcony to the adults below, one can certainly understand how it might have that magical tree house sort of attraction. Additional inquiries as to what the kids love most about their new home, Claire quickly acknowledges that the village proximity is a new and quaintly adventurous upside for the family. “Our home in Acton is lovely, but fairly remote. We live on a winding country road, and it’s just not safe for the kids to go out adventuring on their bikes. Here, they can ride or walk to the library, walk to the penny candy store or for ice cream, it’s just all right here. We simply love it.”
The lower level finished basement is indulgently fun. The requisite comfortable seating for movies and sports is punctuated by games from another era. A retro-style Pac Man Battle Royale for two players commands attention in a corner of the space, and games from the ages are found on coffee tables and end tables – even the walls are ready to throw the dice. Wilson sourced digital prints by New York artist Peter Neumann that depict still life interpretations of classic boards and game pieces that instantly transport one to a simpler time. A lobster pot rocker crafted by Chatham’s Local Color Gallery owner, Julie Eldredge-Dykens, provides the seaside flair found throughout the home.
But perhaps the most popular space to gather in this expertly executed vacation home is the outdoor patio. Accessed via a smartly appointed sunroom dressed in crisp gray-greens and orange, the outdoor patio was slightly enlarged to accommodate a custom fire pit designed and built by Barattini. Understanding how much the McCarthys loved and used their fire pit in Acton, Barattini incorporated the smallest detail into his plan to provide a worry-free outdoor spot. Wilson furnished the large terrace with lounge chairs for the fire pit, additional seating for conversation groups, and a large dining spot for the whole family, all overlooking the verdant grounds of Wianno. The McCarthys’ eldest son is just starting to catch the golf bug, and he and his father are taking advantage of the course whenever they can, but Claire, despite not being much of a golfer herself, says, “Surprisingly enough, it is completely enjoyable to just watch the golfers move up and down the course at a leisurely pace. It’s like our version of watching the boats go by.”
They say that sometimes it takes a village, in this case it took a world-class interior design team and an abundantly caring care-taker to create a new home for the McCarthys’ on Cape Cod. Claire and Mark gave Wilson Kelsey free rein to make the decisions about how their family would enjoy and experience their vacation home. Claire told Wilson she wanted the ‘television reveal,’ and that’s what she got. In the spring of 2016, the McCarthys’ drove their lively family from Acton to their new house in Osterville and walked into a home. The family ran and poked around the entire house, discovering surprising yet accurate interpretations of their lives at every turn. Beaming, Claire McCarthy turned to Sally Wilson, looked her in the eye and said, “I know it sounds like a cliché, but, Sally, you nailed it! Completely nailed it!”
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