Tides of Change
A historic home on the Chatham waterfront gets a much-needed makeover.
Merriam-Webster may not define the term as such, but a riptide is, in effect, an unforeseen tidal force that unexpectedly pulls an object or a person in an unanticipated direction.
It could be said, then, that a figurative riptide drew Bill and Bonnie Daggett to “Riptide,” the historic coastal oasis on Chatham’s Shore Road they would come to call home. While out jogging one day in 2008, Bill Daggett noticed a house for sale just a sand dollar’s throw from the Chatham Bars Inn—thus providing the couple the opportunity to live in an accommodating waterfront home in the town they love.
Riptide is the third historic Chatham house the Daggetts have called home, having outgrown their previous two Old Village abodes as their family expanded. The 5,100-square-foot colonial revival, one of Chatham’s most well-known properties, sits high above Chatham Harbor and offers sweeping water views. This was tough to tell prior to recent renovations on the property, though, given the overgrown trees and bushes lining the property and the home’s dark, closed-off first floor. “It had potential,” Bonnie says, “but it took a lot of imagination. We wanted to maintain the charm of the house, but it needed to be opened up, it needed to be brighter, and we needed to take advantage of the beautiful views all around.”
So the Daggetts enlisted Cape Cod-based integrated architecture and construction firm Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders (PSD) to do just that. The goal for the remodel, says design principal John DaSilva, AIA, was to transform the early 20th-century house into a home conducive to comfortable, contemporary living. For their work on the project, which includes a reconfigured floor plan and a few exterior tweaks, PSD won gold in the 2016 BRICC Awards Excellence in Remodeling category.
Having worked with the Daggetts on renovations to both of their prior Old Village residences, DaSilva says he and his team were confident going into the collaboration with the couple. “Their interest in doing something playful and whimsical falls right in line with our interests,” he says. “We’re very serious about not taking ourselves too seriously.”
Whimsical is the perfect way to describe many PSD homes, and the firm’s sense of whimsy is apparent upon pulling up to Riptide. The “fanciful” new mailbox stand announces the home from the street, DaSilva says, and features an abstracted classical urn design that serves as a backboard. A commanding “Riptide” quarterboard, designed by the Chatham Sign Shop and displayed on the street side of the house, also makes the home’s presence known.
For this project, establishing an entry sequence was a must. Working with landscape architect Clara Batchelor of CBA Landscape Architects in Cambridge, DaSilva says a portion of the driveway the home shared with a neighboring house was eliminated, thus creating a defined pathway complete with a low stone wall and white picket fence. Batchelor also removed overgrown bushes that once hid the house from view. DaSilva says his team replaced the railing of the “rickety” old widow’s walk with a more substantial balustrade, which echoes the same urn shape found in the mailbox backboard. This design is also incorporated into a child’s gate atop a steep indoor stairway as well as the new arbor in the yard.
“The house is unusual in that the back door (the mudroom door) faces the street,” DaSilva says, “and there was previously an arbor that announced the path from the driveway to the mudroom door.” PSD replaced this arbor with a new one that creates an entrance to a path leading to the gridded glass front door, which faces the south side of the house and was previously difficult for first-time visitors to locate. The team restored the glass door and removed the solid-wood storm door that had closed it off. Inspired by the fan light design seen above the front door, DaSilva created an abstracted fan light pattern atop the arbor, adding playful emphasis to its classical design.
Just beyond the arbor is a seven-foot, white marble whale’s tale sculpture, fashioned by Brewster artist Tim Dibble. “From the beginning, John felt we should have a piece of sculpture outside of the main entrance, and that made sense to us,” Bonnie says. “Seeing the whale’s tale among the daisies in bloom with the water in the background is lovely.”
Inside, the home’s pre-existing dark and brown-stained interior was not only deprived of light and water views—it also lacked functionality. Daily living spaces faced the street side of the home, and the only access from the water side to the street side of the house was through either a butler’s pantry or a narrow door hidden in paneling. “There is all this spectacular water view, but the kitchen, daily dining and family room spaces weren’t located to take advantage of any of that view,” DaSilva says, “so the floor plan really needed to be rearranged in order to get the daily living spaces on the water side of the house.”
Without expanding the home’s footprint, PSD created a more open and flowing floor plan that welcomes light and view. Walls that had enclosed the central entry hall were removed, exposing the stairway behind them. DaSilva designed a set of three whimsical Greek columns that now define the stairway as its own space. DaSilva explains that the column capitals, made out of flat cutout boards and grooves, are a playful seaside reinterpretation of ancient Greek architecture.
“Like the arbor, the columns provide a classical pavilion character, which is appropriate for a traditional old house,” DaSilva says, “but they are abstract, less formal, and more fun by design.”
Off the stairway, one finds a new dining room in a space previously used as a study. The room features new French doors leading out to the terrace as well as an original fireplace, one of five refurbished fireplaces located throughout the home. The dining room opens up to the hall and a new kitchen that extends into a new family room—converted from the old dining room—which overlooks the harbor from the northeast to the southeast. To create this connected, open space, which also includes an informal dining area that is surrounded by windows, PSD removed the butler’s pantry, which had been blocking off the view.
On both the first and second floors of the home, PSD also replaced all of the water-facing windows with larger windows that stretch across the back of the house. As part of the new master suite on the second floor (the former master bedroom on the southwest corner is now a guest suite), the team also created a new bay window that offers a panoramic view of the harbor from the bedroom. “With the changing nature of the harbor, it’s always a different picture looking out on the water,” Bonnie says. “The view is everything.”
The view provided endless inspiration for Denise Maurer, a New York interior designer who has collaborated with Bonnie Daggett on several home projects. “We took our cues from everything we saw outside those windows and then just brought it inside,” Maurer says. This involved color, and lots of it. Knowing that Bonnie loves color, too, Maurer says she had the freedom to play with a seaside palette throughout the interior to transform the house into the bright, happy home the team envisioned.
Take, for example, the celadon-hued kitchen cabinets—installed by Classic Kitchens & Interiors of Hyannis—which Maurer says are the starting point for the color scheme of greens and blues found throughout the house. “The color just pops and brings the water right into the house; it just marries the interior and the exterior,” Maurer says, “so we chose that color after some discussion of, ‘Are you ready to take a risk and do something a little different?’ I tell my clients that the most successful projects have been those in which people have gone for it and done something totally out of their safe zone.”
In an effort to achieve Bonnie’s desired casual, cottage-like feel within the home, Maurer modified a glass-inset Victorian door, designing a wheat sheaf pattern that was then sandblasted onto the glass. Maurer explains that this design touch gives the appearance of being preserved from the past, which ties in with the Daggetts’ appreciation of historic Chatham homes. Riptide’s existing wide-plank wood flooring also merges the old with the new, Maurer adds.
Bonnie Daggett’s favorite interior design touch is found in the kitchen, where she once again enlisted the help of Tim Dibble to create a custom design in the apron of the soapstone sink. The carving features a lighthouse (the house is just up the road from Chatham Light), a windmill (neighbors have a windmill that’s visible from Riptide), a “cute” whale (Bonnie says she particularly likes whales), and a harbor scene illustrative of the house’s water view. The word “Riptide” is also carved in the waves to complete this whimsical design.
For both Maurer and DaSilva, working on Riptide was not only fun but also personally rewarding and meaningful. “[Riptide] is very much a New England, Cape Cod icon,” Maurer says, “and it is just a very special property.”
“The house has always been an icon,” adds DaSilva. “Now it’s a polished icon.”
The name “Riptide” did not originate with the Daggetts; rather, the original owners gave the home its enduring moniker. When she and her husband moved into Riptide, Bonnie says the outgoing owners left them a note indicating that, while the house is formally known as Riptide, they had come to call it “Heaven.” For the Daggetts, Riptide is now more heavenly than ever.