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Pleasant Bay Blues

This open-concept Orleans home provides a private summer retreat, complete with the perfect calming, coastal palette.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” the color blue is thought to represent hope and whimsy. With every reference of the color, the story unfolds amidst idyllic and aspirational scenes. Whether it be the glasses of Dr. Eckleburg or Gatsby’s blue garden beneath the stars, blue conjures hope. In the Madsens’ family home, the color blue calmly flows throughout each space, acknowledging the waterfront exterior as it informs every corner of the interior. Like in the novel, the blue in this Orleans home emits peace and serenity. “I just think this house is a happy house,” homeowner Paula Madsen says. 

In 2018, homeowners Paula and Drew Madsen began searching for a New England summer home to escape the Florida heat. The couple looked at multiple properties to find the one with the bones and location that would fulfill their wish list. Finally, they found their home along a quiet shoreline in Orleans. A water view was at the top of their list, and while the Atlantic Ocean is majestic in its own right, Pleasant Bay won their hearts. “We thought, ‘Pleasant Bay is really interesting because it’s a huge body of water, you can see the National Seashore, but it’s a bit calmer with so much dimension,’” Paula shares.

“It became apparent that this property was once in a lifetime. They don’t come around like this often. We looked at a million houses, and I remember catching my husband’s eye when we walked into the house and just nodding at him,” Paula recalls. Aside from the water views, the home offered the ability to entertain and had an array of comfortable spaces for people to congregate.

For the new homeowners, a significant renovation and addition was needed. Leslie Schneeberger, AIA, Associate Principal of SV Design, became the Madsens’ trusted architect for the project renovation. When the plans were complete, SV Design introduced the father-and-son team of Ted and Matt Spencer of Spencer & Company to the homeowners in 2019. The Chatham-based builder’s expertise in custom millwork and details made them the perfect partner for the job. 

The plans focused on enhancing the property into the high-end haven it has become. “I feel like we got big impact out of small changes. It was smart in the planning. Partially because the Madsens were so involved in the design process, so there was a lot of working together and playing out scenarios. They were the right changes, because they had a significant effect,” Schneeberger says.

From the start, a key objective was to better utilize the expansive view by enhancing the windows. “All of the windows and doors on the east elevation were replaced with wider and taller units to take advantage of the views and brighten up the space,” Matt Spencer says. The main floor now boasts beautiful sliding glass doors and large windows to invite in the view. Further, it was imperative to maximize the open floor plan, which the team thoughtfully adjusted. “It can be hard to find an existing open floor plan when looking at real estate. That was what was so great about this house. There were kitchen cabinets and islands arranged in a way that blocked the flow, but there weren’t walls. We enlarged the opening between the living and dining room, but structurally, we made very few changes,” Schneeberger recounts. 

Today, approaching the newly finished home feels like reaching the very edge of the “Olde Cape” to unveil an untouched haven. Nestled behind a stone walkway, a cozy farmer’s porch welcomes guests and sets the tone for the charming interior. “The house changed in that when you approached the home, we added a lot of character at the entry approach. One of our first things is we wanted there to be a porch, an overhang or some kind of extra layer before you get into a house. We added the porch and rearranged the garage doors to the side so that front courtyard, instead of being an expanse of driveway leading into the garage, could be lawn and greenery. Then, we added the porch and that allowed us to add the mudroom and powder room spaces. We focused our attention, as far as additions to the house, right there,” Schneeberger says.

Stepping through the front door, there are multiple layers to admire in the view, from the back patio, to the lush greenery, Pleasant Bay, and the coast of the National Seashore just beyond. Paired with the airy, coastal design of the interior, the home is a serene environment that washes visitors over with a sense of ease. 

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