Summer 2015

Paradise Found

Cape Cod Home  /  Summer 2015 / ,

Writer: Laurel Kornhiser / Photographer: Brian Vanden Brink 

An old Cape home comes alive with magical architectural and design touches by a visionary team.

It’s called Fools Paradise, and, indeed, the weathervane balancing on a finial atop this Lower Cape home is based on the fool from the Tarot deck of cards.

Courtesy of: Brian Vanden Brink

It’s called “Fool’s Paradise,” and, indeed, the weathervane balancing on a finial atop this Lower Cape home is based on the fool from the Tarot deck of cards. In one hand, the fool holds a golf club, in the other, a martini glass. His profile, though, is really that of the homeowner, digitally transferred to copper from a photo surreptitiously snapped by his wife. Other whimsical details also appear, like the star cutouts in the shutters and front door screen, and the moon, star, and sun cutouts in an interior stair railing.

However, there is nothing foolish about this extended Cape, originally built in the 1930s, added on to once or twice in the decades that followed, and recently fully renovated and expanded by Chatham’s Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders.

Before its most recent transformation, the house was nondescript, a typical full Cape, with a central door and paired windows framed by standard issue shutters. A little jog of an addition was added to the right and another in the back, creating a bit of an imbalance. The landscape was also uninspired, a bit unruly, and definitely disorganized. A few overgrown bushes crowded the entry, and though this large property has access to a slice of a water view, the only element in a position to enjoy it was the driveway, which then snaked behind the house to reach the garage.

Inside, the spaces were cramped and dark. “It was not unpleasant,” says principal architect John DaSilva. “It was just not special.” Today, this place is magical, with a variety of gardens and outdoor living spaces taking full advantage of the lot and the view of the water now available to an outdoor circular terrace and a two-floor tower addition.

Having lived in the home for a bit before it was renovated, the couple realized they liked its rambling nature, and DaSilva worked dynamically with the earlier additions preserving that classic Cape house effect. When the dormered projecting bay was added to the right side of the house, possibly in the ’50s, it broke up the symmetry of the original Cape, so, DaSilva explains, “We did an addition that breaks up the symmetry on the left, and though it is much bigger than the original addition, rather than have it step forward, we stepped it back.” The new tower nearly doubled the square footage of the home, but in recessing it slightly, DaSilva ensured that its porch would not be mistaken as the main entry.

It’s called Fools Paradise, and, indeed, the weathervane balancing on a finial atop this Lower Cape home is based on the fool from the Tarot deck of cards.

Courtesy of: Brian Vanden Brink

To keep the original door front and center, he added flattened columns to it with pilasters topped with pineapples. This symbolic gesture of welcome was DaSilva’s idea: “Our architecture is not something that shies away from symbolism,” he says. “I love it when clients respond to that.”  To further enhance the centrality of the original Cape, DaSilva upgraded the chimney from its existing metal cap, which, he says, was “functionally quite good, but aesthetically ugly,” to the new flaring copper cap stamped with flame cutouts that DaSilva’s firm created.

Balancing the older dormer are two new dormers, which create, DaSilva says, “a diagonal progression that crosses the façade. It’s balanced asymmetry, a play with forms in a controlled and aesthetically pleasing way.” The resulting varied rooflines create a dancing surface of sorts for the balancing fool.

Polhmeus Savery DaSilva was responsible not only for the new architecture and construction, but also for the site planning, which was then expertly executed by Hawk Design Landscape Architecture and Land Planning.  When the new tower took over the space originally occupied by the driveway, DaSilva placed the new driveway and garage on the opposite side of the house, connecting both via a new breezeway, which leads to a mudroom created from the original kitchen.

The original garage is now an exercise studio, and rather than being bisected by the driveway, the back yard is now a mini paradise, with a large swimming pool, peaceful courtyards, walkways lined by swaths of Hydrandea and Astilbe, an evergreen labyrinth tucked behind a grove of trees, and an outdoor kitchen conveniently located near its indoor counterpart. The property’s potential, now realized, was one of the key selling points for the homeowners, DaSilva says: “They saw the potential for gardens. To have such a large piece of land is very unusual in a long-developed place such as this.”

The interior is eye-catching as well with new spaces and new vision for the old.  Rather than dark and confining, the interior is now sunny, airy, and flowing, its neutral palette setting in relief the homeowners’ art collection, contemporary furnishings, and eye-catching accents, all chosen or designed with the help of Herbert Acevedo and Kevin Miller of Shor Home Furnishings & Interior Design based in Provincetown.

“Opening up the spaces to light and openness brings freshness to classic Cape Cod homes,” says Acevedo, who welcomed the opportunity to design with a modern sensibility in a region where traditional and nautical themes reign. Before helping to select everything from the furnishings and paint colors to the hardware, sinks, and toilets, Acevedo and Miller traveled to London where the homeowners have an apartment to get a sense of their taste. Acevedo says the partners found that, “The owners are adventurous, spirited, well-traveled art enthusiasts. Their tastes are varied and as rich as their personalities.”

It’s called Fools Paradise, and, indeed, the weathervane balancing on a finial atop this Lower Cape home is based on the fool from the Tarot deck of cards.

Courtesy of: Brian Vanden Brink

Though Cape home styles might be firmly rooted in strong regional traditions, since the days of globe-voyaging seamen, it has long been the custom here to furnish homes with items found around the world, and so it is with Fool’s Paradise. The dining room table is Italian, as are its chairs, which Acevedo says are of a “classic French shape re-imagined for the twenty-first century.” The living room Rolf Benz sofas are German-made and pair well with the New York-based Pace Collection glass and steel coffee table.  Perfectly suiting the setting are the custom-designed Tibetan carpets in the dining and living rooms.

DaSilva is responsible for giving the long, narrow living room new definition by reconfiguring the ceiling into three sections, with the largest, middle section centered where the fireplace—one of three—is located. “We did not change the footprint of the living room,” DaSilva says, “but such long, narrow rooms are typically uncomfortable, and we mitigated that by creating shapes in the ceiling. This helped organize the space into something more comfortable to occupy.” To add much-needed light, DaSilva cut a new window into a wall where a large armoire once stood. The living room now looks through two columns to the newly added kitchen and dining room, with recurring elements tying the spaces together visually. For example, the glass dual-level Pace coffee table is echoed by the raised glass platform above the Altura custom island in the kitchen, which itself was designed by Classic Kitchens and Interiors of Hyannis, and glass recurs as a stripe running the length of the middle of the walnut dining table.

For his part, DaSilva repeated architectural elements to create unity as well as visual interest. A swelling exterior bracket that frames one part of the tower porch (all the while hiding the staircase behind it) returns as a wave-shaped landing on those interior stairs, and this curve is again recalled a few steps up in a built-in window seat.

Up those stairs, on the way to the master bedroom that occupies the second floor of the tower, two elements from very different periods vie for attention, a small medieval window and a geometric light pendant by LZF, whose “sensual curvy shape contrasts well with the gothic shape of the window,” says interior designer Acevedo.

The second floor master bedroom has water views and reflects the homeowners’ more formal side, with its deluxe silk and woven linen fabrics, sleek birds-eye maple and rosewood dresser, and refined leather headboard by Ligne Roset.  In a room of muted aquas with golden highlights, the drama comes from the multi-faceted cupola ceiling. The master bath is also both dramatic and sleek, achieving spa-like serenity with walls clad in large 18 x 24-inch glass tiles by Ann Sacks.

A second master bedroom on the first floor of the home was designed for the wife’s sister and her husband, who are frequent guests.  With the sister’s personality in mind, Acevedo created a space that is “warm and sweet” and relies on an earthy palette highlighted with aquas and punctuated with pops of yellow and orange, most notably in the large contemporary painting called Stillness by South African artist Penelope Stutterheime, that hangs over the bed.

This expanded and much-improved version of a decades-old Cape gives its new owners their ideal retirement home, a place where they can enjoy the company of family and friends, a cool dip in the pool, a contemplative walk through a labyrinth, a vigorous workout in the exercise pavilion, a quiet read by the fireplace, or a beautiful space from which to view the sea.  Such amenities are far from foolish, and so the fool atop the finial on the roof really bears witness to the words of Touchstone, Shakespeare’s fool from As You Like It:  “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

For more information, visit,, and

Laurel Kornhiser

A former magazine editor, Laurel Kornhiser is a professor at Quincy College where she teaches literature and writing. After living in the woods on the Cape for many years, she now lives in Plymouth and can see the sea. Laurel has written countless articles for Cape Cod HOME over the years and has a knack for putting into words the beauty of Cape Cod and its many fine residences.