When architect Doreve Nicholaeff of Nicholaeff Architecture & Design was chosen to design a sprawling summer compound on Osterville’s “Gold Coast,” she knew that the main house, guest house, and pool house had to be grand—and not just because these structures had to be large enough to accommodate a family of seven and extended family visitors as well as weekend guests.
A Stunning Seaview Avenue Compound is a Cape Cod Showcase of Architectural Design and Innovation
Nicholaeff also wanted to capture the sweeping beauty of the seascape, the expansive flow of sea, sky, and beach that have made Seaview Avenue one of the most coveted addresses on the East Coast for more than a century.
When she saw the seaside 3.4-plus-acre property, Nicholaeff knew that she had to let her imagination roam beyond the usual architectural principles she uses to design a single structure. “It was a challenge trying to figure out how to design—and integrate—three separate buildings, all of which had to work together and yet individually take advantage of the spectacular environment,” says Nicholaeff.
In her Osterville office, Nicholaeff spent many hours working on the spatial relationships between the three structures, which eventually covered 18,966 square feet. “These three structures were in my head the whole time I was doing the design,” says Nicholaeff. “The challenge was creating defined spaces that work together providing for relaxed, comfortable seaside living.”
Nicholaeff worked closely with Edgehill Construction Enterprise of Needham, who had experience working for the homeowners and who put together the entire design and construction team for the project. “We found the site, gathered the team, and delivered a one-of-a-kind home that would fullfill anyone’s once-in-a-lifetime dream of what a waterfront home could be,” says an Edgehill spokesperson.
Nicholaeff notes that the family wanted an open, informal floor plan throughout. “They wanted the interior spaces to flow into each other, yet be separate,” she says. “The whole house is about connected volumes and geometry. It is all about looking through the interior areas to the outside. There is nothing fussy here. This home is about big moves, dramatic spaces. Wherever you are in the home, there is something beautiful to see.”
At the same time, the homeowners—sensitive to the shingle-style homes on Seaview Avenue—also wanted the house to reflect that time-honored Cape vernacular. “On the exterior, everything was done as much as possible to capture Cape Cod’s shingle-style aesthetic,” says Nicholaeff, noting that she worked to minimize the scale of the house on the street side, while allowing in as much light and air as possible on the waterfront through the use of floor to ceiling windows on all three floors.
“We tried to bring the house down as much as possible on the front by creating dormers that have a Cape vocabulary,” says the architect. The choice of traditional building materials, including white cedar shingles for siding stained a light gray and red cedar shakes for the roof, create a timeless Cape aesthetic reinforced by the siting of the main house on an angle to reduce the horizontal impact from the street.
Landscape architect Dana Schock of Sudbury’s Dana Schock & Associates, working with landscape contractors R. P. Marzilli, integrated new evergreen plantings and Japanese maples with existing native trees throughout and along the property lines for enhanced privacy. Hardy seaside plantings including hydrangeas, colorful perennials, beach grasses, and roses were planted around the foundations of each of the three structures. The main house, pool house, and a completely renovated beach cabana are on a 2.74-acre parcel, while the guest house is on an adjacent lot, all accessed by an elegant gated entrance and a winding driveway.
The heart of the main house’s first floor is a soaring two-and-a-half-story foyer with an elliptical staircase constructed of stainless steel balusters with oak handrails bathed in natural light from ocean-side windows and an atrium of glass in the roof above. Nicholaeff says the staircase was a design—and a structural—challenge. “We had to structurally stiffen the staircase in several places,” says Nicholaeff, who has an advanced Masters Degree in architecture from MIT. “To make the curving, almost suspended staircase completely sound—especially on the third floor—was an engineering feat.”
A chandelier of glass balls in coastal hues of gray, blue, topaz, and soft purple—custom designed and manufactured by California’s Studio Bel Vetro—cascades nearly 25 feet down the center of the stairway, giving the home’s spare, minimalist interiors a warm, playful intimacy. The project’s interior designer, John Pompeii of Boston’s Pompeii Design Group, worked closely with Nicholaeff and the chandelier’s designers to create this signature piece, which connects many of the main house’s spaces with refracted light and movement.
“There are LED lights in some of the bubbles as well as halogen lighting above on the nickel canopy,” says Pompeii. “There are literally hundreds of bubbles on the chandelier that are lit from within. It is just a stunning, custom-designed signature piece and at night, it’s amazing—you can see it all the way up the driveway to the house. It is a masterpiece.”
Radiating out from the central foyer on the first floor are expansive living and entertaining areas with floor to ceiling windows and multi-story window wells on the front of the house allowing in maximum light and air. The floors are light-hued, rift-sawn white oak with a matte finish, perfectly complemented by Pompeii and Nichoaleff’s paint choice used throughout the house, a coastal-inspired hue by Benjamin Moore called “Whisper.”
“I wanted the paint to be a soft, subtle, gray-blue color. Whisper, which I thought was going to be too light, was absolutely the right choice,” says Pompeii. “It had just enough color and it really changes in the light . . . in the sunlight, it is more blue; in the shade, it is a subtle gray. It changes throughout the house, but is so harmonious.”
A gourmet kitchen includes a Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer, Sub-Zero drink and wine coolers, a Wolf gas stove, two dishwashers, custom cabinetry and a marble island with an ocean-facing eating area. The kitchen opens out into a large family room with a gas fireplace and access to a covered side patio facing the pool with retractable screens.
The homeowners’ belief in the importance of building green is reflected in the choice of energy-efficient windows and doors with low-E glass; open-cell foam insulation and geothermal HVAC systems, including ducted air supply and radiant floor heating. Electronic shades throughout can be easily activated to keep interiors cool on hot summer days. In the home’s nine full and two half bathrooms, environmentally sensitive materials such as bamboo and stone were chosen for floor tiles and cabinetry by Pompeii.
On the second floor, there are four spacious bedrooms and a guest room featuring floor to ceiling windows and a private deck with water views. Nicholaeff notes that despite the size of the main house, the bedrooms are cozy, comfortable spaces. “Even though all the bedrooms are not huge and are very private, the spaces still work organically together,” she says. “Since this house was designed for a family with several children, we wanted to be sure that the parents had privacy with the master bedroom suite located on the third floor, yet easily accessed by front and back stairways and connecting open hallways.”
Nicholaeff notes that the homeowners’ request for a third floor was perhaps her greatest challenge. “It was difficult to get the third floor in without having low ceilings, which was something the homeowners definitely didn’t want,” she says. “The floors through the first and second floor range from eight to nine feet tall. On the third floor, we designed ceilings that started at seven feet and ran up to nine to ten foot tray ceilings throughout.”
“It’s all about perceiving the outside, the land and the water as you move up, around, and through all the spaces, even the third floor,” says Nicholaeff, who worked to soften the contemporary angles of the home with curving walls, such as in the master bedroom where the wall enclosing the bed is gently curved in, lessening the impact of a large rectangular space with an almost solid expanse of waterview windows. “Even from the back stairway there are great views down to the backyard and the guest house,” the architect notes.
Pompeii notes that the guest house—with four bedrooms, five-and-one-half bathrooms and a chef’s kitchen as well as an attached two-car garage, is basically a smaller version of the main house, yet features a cosier, more intimate layout. Nicholaeff and her team made certain that guest house views of the ocean were unimpeded, despite the sprawling main house and the pool house.
“Our main goal is to start with the homeowners’ lifestyle always—with their individual vision and expectations—and then create a customized space throughout that reflects those needs, but also complements and enhances the overall environment,” says Nicholaeff. In the case of this seaside oasis, architecture and nature flow together in a rare coastal showcase.
This home is for sale for $19.5 million. Please contact Stewart Young of LandVest, Boston for information at 617 357-8930, or visit landvest.com.