Cape Cod Home / Winter 2021 / Home, Garden & Design
Writer: Julie Craven Wagner / Photographer: Mike Crane
A collaboration between discerning homeowners and Pleasant Bay Homes results in a very special custom modular home.
Joe and Mary Rahal’s story is a fairly familiar one. Joe spent summers on the Cape with his family, even attending a YMCA summer caddy camp at Oyster Harbors as teenager. Mary first visited the Cape in 1968, the summer between graduating from college and starting a teaching job in Ohio. She met Joe in a bar that first night. After they were married, and later as their two children each developed their own love for the Cape, the family would pack up the station wagon every Friday and make the trek from their central Massachusetts home in Grafton to spend time at Joe’s parent’s home in West Yarmouth. Vacations were dates circled on the calendar early in the year, and the momentum of excitement started the day after they had returned home following the previous summer’s getaway. Year after year, memories and friends were made as their children progressed from toddlers to young adults. They purchased the home from Joe’s parents, but unfortunately the house suffered a fire, although in 1994 the family found a home on the northside of the Cape in historic Dennis Village. Like many vacation homeowners, the Rahals decided to rent the house and squeeze their own vacation into the “off-season.”
“We rented the house to the same family, for the whole summer, for 14 years,” Mary states. “And we came for our vacation for two weeks in June,” Joe finishes. Shortly after buying the house in Dennis, a job opportunity moved the family to Omaha. “We went through a period of deciding whether or not to keep the house in Dennis,” Mary explains. “We had sold our house in Grafton, because we moved to Omaha, but we still came home to Massachusetts now that our kids were in college here, and we have a large extended family. I would say, ‘We have to keep the Dennis house because where will we put a Christmas tree? In a hotel room?’ That’s why we kept the house.”
In 2010, the time had come—the kids were grown and married, grandchildren were part of the mix, and the friends and family were always welcome—they needed a larger, more modern home. It didn’t take long to find the perfect contractor for the job. “We saw his ad in Cape Cod HOME,” Mary says, laughing.
Jacques Lapointe, owner of Pleasant Bay Homes in East Harwich, has been in the building business on Cape Cod for decades, five of them in fact. After years of constructing “stick-built homes,” basically a house built with common and standard construction practices—frame it with lumber ordered locally, make it tight to the weather as soon as possible and work with a variety of trades and sub-contractors to get the house finished for the homeowners, hopefully on-time and on-budget—Lapointe decided in 1999, maybe there was a different and better way. “I researched modular homes, and the concept made a lot of sense to me,” he explains. “The first modular home I built was my own, here on Pleasant Bay Road. So, I started my own modular construction company and named it Pleasant Bay Homes.” Since then, Lapointe has built over 200 prefabricated homes on the Cape and surrounding region. Lapointe explains the reliability of construction and cost-effective production of a modular home results in a home that is superior in many facets to a traditionally built home.
“Thirty years ago, a modular home consisted of two trailers attached to each other. Now, the homes are built with materials that are stable since they aren’t exposed to the elements, by employees who have mastered their part of the process, in regions of the country where labor and supplies are optimally priced. And the homes are built to very high efficiency ratings, so the homeowner saves there as well.”
The Rahals were intrigued by the value and expediency offered when choosing a modular solution, but it wasn’t until they met Jacques at his home that “We knew immediately he was the one. His home is simply beautiful, and when I saw his garden, I just knew,” says Mary, who has been a longtime member and officer of the Dennis Village Garden Club. “His garden and the design choices in his home told me he was more than a contractor; he was an artisan.” To confirm Lapointe’s claim that modular construction is not what it used to be, the Rahals chose a style of home from Pleasant Bay’s standard selections, “The Bostonian” in fact, and sat down with Lapointe to discuss changes and modifications they wanted to incorporate. “The home we ended up with is only remotely associated with the original design,” Joe reveals. “We really ended up with exactly what we wanted.”
Lapointe began the process of construction of their new home, which replaced the tired structure at the end of a sandy lane in Dennis, in September of 2010 and had the family moving in March of 2011—an aggressive timeline for any traditionally built structure. “My customers know exactly what to expect, and exactly how much it is going to cost, because everything is determined in advance,” Lapointe explains. “And the institutions like banks and insurance appreciate these projects as well. Construction loans have a very clear disbursement schedule, insurance rates are very easy to determine and usually very favorable due to the consistent and predictable method of construction.”
Some of the customization the Rahals incorporated into their plan included a custom gourmet kitchen with classic traditional crown molding above the cabinets, a massive island and plenty of workspace. An open foyer with an impressive staircase that makes great use of the landings—one for display and one for a home office space for both Joe and Mary which were designed and installed by Fresh Interiors in Dennis.
“The one thing we insisted on from the start, was a dining space large enough to accommodate a dining table for ten,” Mary says, “because that is the minimum we have when we all get together.”
Lapointe and his crew made it happen, almost like magic. Throughout the home, rich American cherry flooring spans from room to room, but more importantly, it represents the personalization that can be incorporated into a design that is prefabricated. “The flooring was really important to me,” Joe says. “I looked at the options but I really wanted something special, so I did the research and found this flooring for a good price in Tennessee. I bought it and had it shipped here. Jacques and his team installed it and it couldn’t be more perfect.”
The Rahal’s home feels like them: warm, comfortable, inviting. There are plenty of places to relax, two separate living areas (one more secluded and quieter than the other), the spacious dining area, that fantastic kitchen, welcoming guest rooms and a good old-fashioned rumpus room downstairs which even incorporated some of the iconic knotty-pine doors from the old house.
Highlighting all of the impressive craftsmanship throughout the house is Joe and Mary’s collection of art. At most every turn, a painting or a vase or a sculpture catches one’s eye and elicits a pause. “We have collected art throughout our entire relationship,” Joe explains. Mary continues to say, “Some of it we have acquired on our travels, but most has come from Wellfleet or Provincetown.” And those travels include Croatia, Italy, Spain, Santa Fe, Monterey and Carmel—a tour of the home becomes a travel guide to some of the most eclectic and exciting places on earth—especially for art lovers.
For the Rahals, finding the right contractor was perhaps the most important treasure they have stumbled upon. And Jacques Lapointe’s subtle and discerning eye for quality and style might appear to be a contradiction of what most people assume when they hear the words modular or prefab. But for this family, the opportunity to indulge their love of gardening as well as tennis and golf, and of course the famous Cape Cod beaches, stacked up with years of memories for the Rahal family, their extended family and their network of visiting friends and relatives is altogether pretty “fab”.
Julie Craven Wagner is the editor of Cape Cod HOME.