The Best of Both Worlds

Cape Cod Home  /  Spring 2020 /

Writer: Elizabeth Shaw / Photographer: Dan Cutrona 

Blending old world style and modern Cape comforts has never looked so chic in this historic Provincetown renovation

Much like Provincetown itself, this renovated home may look like classic Cape Cod on the outside, but has so much more to tell inside. Homeowners Christopher Amplo and John O’Doherty split their time between Provincetown and London, and wanted to feel at home no matter what continent they were on. Combining cultures and styles takes skill and effort, not to mention the right flair. With a goal of blending classic Cape comforts with the charm of old school England, Amplo and O’Doherty put their trust in the experts at Cape Associates and Project Manager Chris Dio for this renovation. As only the second owners of this house, Amplo wanted to make sure the history of the home and its family were honored throughout the project. A plaque out front welcomes guests to “The Cook House”, a nod to the former family’s last name. “The Cook family had owned the house since 1890. And anytime I’d call anyone to the house, when I told them the address, they would say ‘oh the old Cook house!’ and that’s how it got its name. There’s a lot of history here and when we did the renovation, we wanted to respect that,” says Amplo. Dio worked closely with Amplo to turn this historic house into a home that embraces the past and welcomes the future. 

The exterior of the house welcomes visitors with the classic Cape warm cedar shingles, but what really helps this Provincetown abode stand out is the eye catching red that trims the house and colors the front door and dormer above. “The red was already there. We respected the previous owners red, and I would never give it up anyway, it’s quite unique to Provincetown. So we brightened it up a little and repainted it. I feel like the Cook House can only be red,” explains Amplo. This renovation offers a spot of warmth on even the coldest Provincetown days. 

“The original house was pretty cobbled together; there was a base house that was pretty small, built sometime around the mid 1800s, a typical Provincetown house. There was a single story addition in the back of the house, there was no basement and it had a poor crawlspace. So as part of the renovation, and as part of the historic preservation in Provincetown, we were able to tear down the addition,” explains Dio of the work to bring this 19th century house into the 21st. “We designed the house, the architectural portions, with our in-house designers with input from Chris Amplo, and he then really did a lot with the interior design aspect. He was very, very involved in the process, especially with the finishes and the kitchen.”

Once inside the house, the entryway offers visitors a preview of what the rest of the house has in store, with cool white and gray shiplap walls and black and white stair railings juxtaposed with an antique table and eclectic accents, such as artwork printed on old dictionary pages and a nautical lantern. Keeping the front door open on a warm, sunny day, and exposing the glass storm door adds another pop of color to the entryway. “I moved to London five years ago for work and I was inspired by country houses and beach houses in the UK and Europe where they’re much more bold with their color choices. It’s really a mix of the traditional and modern,” says Amplo. As one walks through the home, each room offers its own character and flair to the house. From the clean, monochromatic kitchen to the warm and cozy living room and den, there is a room to fit any inspiration. 

Looking at the outside of the house, one wouldn’t expect to see a completely monochromatic gray kitchen. But with artfully placed accents and the perfect color selection, the gray kitchen provides the warmth and comfort promised by the exterior of the home. Gray has been building its name as the new neutral and this kitchen proves that it’s here to stay. “I find it to be a very calming, relaxing color, but also not so typical. With all the different shades of gray, it actually enhances the sunlight in the summer, but you feel cool when you’re in the room,” Amplo says. The deep gray cabinetry contrasts the white sandstone countertops and the light subway tile backsplash. Covered in the same Shaker style cabinetry as the upper and lower cabinets, the refrigerator blends seamlessly into the rest of the kitchen; so seamlessly in fact, that at first glance, one might wonder where the appliance is. The kitchen is warmed up with brass hardware on the cabinetry and light fixtures, and a retro style stove top and farmhouse sink hint at the eclectic style that can be found throughout the house. “The stove is a French range. I love to cook and there’s just an old world style to that kind of kitchen where things don’t necessarily need to match,” explains Amplo. While there is a harmonious flow throughout the room, small details like the brass hardware on the cabinetry contrast the silver of the faucet. “It was very much, ‘how do you build something that’s new and modern but also very classic and timeless?’” 

But the stunning kitchen didn’t always look like that. “The old kitchen was a tiny galley style kitchen,” Dio describes. “Everything was redone; we opened it up with French doors, blending the old with the new, the lounge area taking over the old dining room.” Part of the redesign was bringing the dining room into the kitchen, and converting the old dining room into a more functional lounge area.

Cool gray trimmed French doors open up the kitchen and dining room into the cocktail lounge. “Each room really has its own feeling. In the old dining room, which is now a cocktail lounge area, you see people sitting but they are actually using the rooms and talking much more,” Amplo notes. “It’s not a house where people are on their phones, there are no TVs in any focal points, it’s all about connecting with people and being social. Even in the kitchen, the counter has two stools so when my neighbor comes over, that’s the perfect spot to have a chat over coffee.” The gray of the kitchen flows into the lounge connecting the two rooms that, at their cores, couldn’t be more different, but thanks to a few key pieces, the connection and flow is executed flawlessly. Gray pops up throughout the room, most noticeably in the velvet couch, and complemented by the geometric black and white area rug. The couch and two blue velvet arm chairs provide a sense of luxury, while pieces like a soft, warm end table and pillows featuring sketches of tall ships add rustic flair. Pops of color grace the room, including welcoming yellow throw blankets and warm taupe lamp shades. Mismatched end tables, coffee tables and footstools add a sense of playfulness.

Nestled behind the sitting room is a den perfect for cultivating the next project or planning the next adventure. Like a siren call, the room beckons to the voyager within with its sea blue walls and cozy leather chairs. “When we bought the house, it was 100% dark stain and knotty pine, and it felt a little bit like a cabin in Montana. Our first renovation we did completely ourselves, and we just painted everything white to make it feel a little more beach-like. But in that one room, we wanted to keep the knotty pine. And for this renovation, I tried four or five different blues until we got the right one in there,” says Amplo of the room he refers to as “the map room.” The maps placed on the walls help keep track of places visited and places to go. “That’s where you sit and talk to your mom on the phone or where you call your friend, but it can also double as a sort of guest room or kids room,” says Amplo. “We call it the map room because we put maps from different places we’ve visited on the walls. But the color is really about being in a warm place and creating a place of privacy and a sanctuary from the rest of the house.”

Across the hall, the living room provides homeowners and guests a warm oasis to sit back and relax. Texture plays a large role in the comfort and style infused throughout the room. The walls alone embrace at least three textures. Three of the walls feature white shiplap: the top half placed vertically and the bottom horizontally. The accent wall highlights the inviting fireplace by surrounding it with white painted brick, while the ceiling is its own masterpiece, showing off white painted exposed beams. While floor to ceiling white paint can make a space cold, the accents and key furniture pieces throughout the room imbue a sense of hygge. The space is warmed up with wood accents like side tables, couches and a driftwood mantelpiece topper. “The driftwood was found on the beach, and thrown either on the back of a bike or into a rental car. We actually found the pieces separately; we put the one on the mantel and it just didn’t work and then we found one very similar,” says Amplo of the striking mantelpiece. Warm beige lampshades and off white curtains cozy up the space, while dark hardwood flooring and a woven carpet soften the floor. 

The living room was inspired by Amplo’s childhood, with mismatched textures, different style couches, armchairs and loveseats, and blankets, furs and pillows artfully strewn about. “Growing up, my father was an artist and photographer and my mother was a banker, and we grew up in a very eclectic home and everything was just mixed together. So here, there’s black and white photography of my father’s from the 60’s and paintings from local Provincetown artists. It’s very mixed and matched, but everyone who comes to visit really just relaxes; it’s not a living room for show, it’s a room to be used and enjoyed, and that’s how we grew up,” says Amplo of the distinct, cozy style of the living room.

Renovating and redesigning a house can be a daunting task, but when the inspiration is clear and the goal is set, even the smallest details come together in perfect harmony. “It’s about the romance of train travel and being at the beach and good conversation, being in a small house that feels big, a small house with a lot of privacy,” says Amplo.  “The main goal was to marry a little bit of European style and a little country house to warm it up and not do a typical beach house where everything is white. We want to respect the history and the past, but also make it a little more social.”

Check out more Cape Associates projects at capeassociates.com!

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth Shaw is a former assistant editor, photographer & videographer for Cape Cod Life Publications. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Elizabeth spent many summers on the Cape, before she and her family moved down full time in 2016. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island as a double major in Writing & Rhetoric and Film Media, and started at Cape Cod Life the following fall. In her free time, she takes as many pictures of her dog, Watson, as possible, in between beach trips.