When Past Shapes Present
The dogwood tree—the site of an occasional family pig roast on summer days—was one untouchable sacred cow, recounts Mark Hutker, speaking of a home he and Gregory Ehrman, a senior associate at Hutker Architects, designed in the upscale Bourne community of Scraggy Neck. Another was the front garden, long tended by Roger’s mother, who had owned the property since the 1960s.
Also growing on the property were ferns cultivated by Roger’s great aunt, a world-renowned fern expert. On this land and in this new house, the past and present are kindred spirits.
When Roger and Andrea Stokey decided to relocate to this family property from the Falmouth home where they raised their own three children, their intention had not been to tear down the original Cape that stood on this stunning site, with its views of Wing’s Neck, Buzzards Bay, and the Cape Cod Canal. It had been to renovate and add on to what was there in order to accommodate an ever-growing intergenerational family.
There were issues with the original home, though. The ceilings were too low, the insulation inadequate, and the windows needed replacing. The hope was that at least the foundation could be saved, but even that was a dream. “We went through a cathartic design process of trying to save what was here,” says Hutker. “We started down the renovation/addition path, but we ended up with a new home for all of the right reasons.”
While the need to start fresh made common sense, Roger, in particular, had to wrestle with his strong nostalgia for his childhood summer home. Finally resigned to the fact that saving his family’s old Cape was not an option, he says, “What I envisioned was taking the old house out and plopping down a new house, keeping everything the same. Halfway through construction, everything was leveled and destroyed. I thought, ‘Nothing will ever get back to the way it was.’” However, pleasant surprises awaited Roger and his family.
The new kitchen and upstairs bedrooms are essentially in the same spots as the old, but they are bigger and offer a greater degree of separation. Familiar armchairs now share living room space with a new sectional sofa. The couple’s old round dining table serves as a game table on a lower level, while their new dining table takes center stage on the first floor, expanding to seat up to 24 people.
Some of the changes were particularly welcome. Ehrman points out that Roger’s garage had the best view on Cape Cod, but was serving as a storage space for kayaks, boats, and other assorted objects he had collected. When he agreed to let it go, the family gained a luxury theater space. This cool retreat, with two tiers of leather stadium seats, makes sports and movie viewing light years better than that offered by the old basement TV room, which Roger says, “was dark, moldy, and nasty.” The kayaks and boats are now neatly stowed under a first floor bedroom suite.
Roger’s deep attachment to the past was one of the challenges for architects Hutker and Ehrman. Hutker says, “Roger grew up here. He loved and understood the history of this property. We had to respect his experience.” Another challenge for Hutker was preserving his friendship with the Stokeys, which he did not want to be compromised by the work relationship. The friendship had given Hutker an advantage, however. He had participated in some of those pig roasts, so he knew where the food was laid out, and he knew where the guests aligned their chairs to enjoy the view.
The dogwood survived the construction process, and the sweet spot for the views was converted into a new deck and a three-season sunroom. Roger had wanted a screened porch where the sunroom sits, but a visit to the site on a windy day during the design process convinced Andrea that the strong breezes that regularly blow would make such a porch impractical. Sliding doors on three sides satisfied both, and if the northern winds are particularly fierce, a granite fireplace keeps the cold at bay.
Andrea’s practical side again showed its value during discussions about the number and location of solar panels. Her idea of using time-lapse photography to track the sun provided the justification needed for more panels than recommended. Not only do the panels qualify for a tax credit, they generate more than five megawatts of energy per year. An engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (in fact he works in the same building where his mother worked during World War II), Roger was interested in the technicalities of the solar panels as well as details of the insulation and hurricane-proof windows.
For her part, Andrea, a retired nurse, wanted to make sure her children had their own rooms, wanted a room for the grandchildren, another room for guests, and a master suite that gave her and Roger their privacy. To satisfy those needs, Hutker and Ehrman designed a suite of guest bedrooms that cluster on one side of the upper story while still providing privacy.
One that does this particularly well is the room designed for Sarah, one of the Stokey’s daughters, who, when not visiting the Cape, lives in Alaska. Hutker says Sarah needs her “away” space even in her parents’ home. Like her father, though, she cherishes her deep ties to the past and has hanging in her room two paintings that once belonged to her grandmother. From Andrea and Roger’s suite, the couple enjoys panoramic views, thanks to windows that wrap around on three sides, including an uninterrupted picture window directly in front of the foot of their bed.
While private space is sacrosanct upstairs, there is an inviting yet intimate two-story library. A gentle push on one set of bookshelves leads to Roger’s secret music room. Though he no longer plays in a band, he has been known to pull out his guitar during the pig roasts, and as Hutker says, that is when the party really begins.
A floating staircase leads to these upstairs spaces, but unlike the original centered staircase, this new streamlined version starts up from the side of the entrance and looks as if it is supporting itself. Ehrman says, “We wanted the support to be as light as possible. It is safe, comfortable, and beautiful.” The waterfall design features risers and treads of the same wire-brushed white oak found on the flooring throughout the house.
Ralph Cataldo of Cataldo Custom Builders in East Falmouth says the staircase was a unique construction challenge for his company’s crew. “There was a lot involved with this staircase because it went up three levels and the design was complicated,” says Cataldo, noting that in such a project the teamwork between architectural and construction professionals is critical.
“With a beautiful house like this, you have so many opportunities to make the house better along the way—especially when you have talented professionals sharing ideas,” says Cataldo. “Working with really respected architects—like those from Hutker—the ideas just start flowing, and the house gets more and more unique and therefore, more valuable for the homeowner in every way.”
At the top of the stairs, a bright atrium affords views of the front gardens, the sky, the Kris Horiuchi-designed landscape, and the water views beyond. This atrium serves as a bridge between the guestroom half of the house and the master suite. When everyone wants to come together to watch the spectacular sunsets, a roof deck off the atrium offers an elevated vantage point of the western sky.
Once the sun does set, the group heads downstairs to gather at the baronial dining table. The couple found a model of the table in a New Hampshire antique store; the final product was made to specifications for length and width in France. The dining table is just steps inside the foyer, and an island of oak flooring beneath both the foyer and dining table articulates the space. The same pattern is repeated in the ceiling above. Andrea, recalling the 30 people she hosted for Thanksgiving last year, remarks with a smile, “A full house is a fun house.”
Andrea also smiles when she remembers working with her husband, Ehrman, and his associate, Abby Bart, who helped select many of the home’s fixtures, tiles, and furnishings. A particularly inspired choice was the selection of unique blue-swirled light fixtures above the dining room table made by Sandwich glass-blower Michael Magyar, who also made the glass light fixtures in the theatre dining area.
Cooking for such a crowd calls for a generously sized kitchen, and while Andrea initially wanted it to be situated on the street side of the house, so as not to waste precious views on a utilitarian space, her mother-in-law urged her to locate it right where she could work and appreciate those views. Her mother-in-law prevailed, and the long workspace of sink and Labradorite granite counters as well as the gray-stained maple island faces 270 degrees of views. To make room for the windows, storage is in base cabinets and in the pantry, hidden, like the Sub Zero refrigerator, behind a panel.
To prevent the home from overpowering the property, Hutker and Ehrman conceived a design that takes its cues from New England architecture, appearing as if it evolved over time. Ehrman describes it as having “two volumes” with the staircase in between acting as a “joint” for the private and the guest side of the house. Hutker elaborates: “When you look at the house from across the ocean, there is a loose narrative of two smaller houses being joined over time.”
Andrea reveals just how successful the architects were at taming the scale of the house: “Our friends live across the water on Wings Neck, and they said, ‘We watched the house being built across the water, and then we saw it disappear.’ ” Having used natural materials typically found on Cape houses, such as the cedar trim, cedar shingles, and IPE decking, the house will continue to weather gracefully, blending in even further with its surroundings as time goes on.
The home’s first-floor bedroom suite was originally intended for Roger’s mother. Though his mother saw and approved the plans for the home that would take the place of her Cape, she did not live long enough to move in to her new room. Her spirit survives, though, not only in the paintings in her granddaughter’s room and in the garden blooms that she planted, but in the shared vision, outward and inward, of this family. As Andrea says, “The new house has the soul of the old house, and when you walk in, it feels like home.”
For more information, visit hutkerarchitects.com and cataldobuilders.com.
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