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Pleasant Bay provides the perfect backdrop for this jaw-dropping home

That sense of “old-fashioned Cape Cod” in the natural beauty is what has drawn the owner and her husband, residents of Boston’s South End, to Orleans and the Outer Cape for family vacations year after year since their children were preschoolers. Now empty-nester grandparents, the couple wanted to make the Cape a more permanent fixture in their lives—they wanted a place here all their own, a restful retreat from urban life, where their growing family could gather for many more years to come. In April of 2017, they began searching for a house. “It’s funny because so many of our friends said it’s going to be a year’s journey, just start looking now and just keep your eyes open, and don’t jump the gun. … We found this property literally on our second trip to the Cape after we engaged a broker,” reveals the owner. “[Our broker] said, ‘You’ve got to come down and see this piece of land. It’s just spectacular and unique.’ When I drove down and saw it, I called my husband and said, ‘We’ve got to buy it,’ and then he came down and agreed. We had been talking about it and talking about it, and we didn’t expect to find something so perfect.”

The couple could have bought the land as is, with the existing home on site, but they had a second purchasing option: contract with Paul van Steensel of Cape Dreams Building & Design to build a new custom home designed by Bernadette Macleod of Ryder & Wilcox. But the new home’s footprint would be limited to a 3,000-square-foot house due to the conservation land surrounding the property. “The neat story is that one of the original founders of the Orleans Conservation Trust originally owned this property, and he and his wife granted permanent conservation easements on the property, resulting in a relatively narrow building envelope,” the owner explains. That didn’t deter her, though. “I’m a chief sustainability officer for a major company, and I love the fact that the property is so protected,” she says, “and that it could sit comfortably in this beautiful part of the Cape. I love the design of the house—it is a very classic Cape vernacular. So we said yeah, we’ll go for it. That was the start of the journey.”

“To me, the biggest challenge was fitting all of the elements that most people want in a home these days in a smaller space,” says Paul van Steensel. Making the most out of what space they had, then, to comfortably accommodate the homeowners and their visiting family would be a significant theme throughout the two-year project. 

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