Racing Beach Retreat
This Falmouth family home has it all: expansive waterfront views, a bocce court, pool, and a modern interior. Thanks to a skilled team of professionals, this is the epitome of oceanfront living.
Carved into an elevated landscape overlooking Buzzards Bay sits this multifamily getaway, meticulously designed and completed through a global pandemic. The end result is a resort-like dream, complete with a bocce court, putting green, heated pool and spa and overlook terrace with a gas fire pit. Behind the scenes, the stars aligned and a group of talented professionals perfectly connected to make this a reality. Rooted in a sense of trust, each individual exceled in their own field and flowed cohesively, so the final result became a thoughtful work of art. Architect Denise Bonoli, Cataldo Custom Builders, landscape architects Bilowz Associates Inc., and interior designer Donna Burns all joined forces to fulfill the DeVellis family’s dreams.
Beginning in 2019, the build was on a steadfast deadline to get the families in and settled by May 2020. This was to become a getaway for two brothers and the seven daughters between them, and during a summer impacted by COVID-19, this became a much-needed retreat to unwind in the beauty and safety of their new oceanfront home.
Homeowners and brothers Jim and Paul DeVellis have longtime ties to Falmouth and dreamed of sharing their own home with their children. As Jim was searching for waterfront properties in Falmouth, he stumbled upon this lot for sale. Overlooking Racing Beach, when he wandered around the back of the property to discover the view, he had definitely found home. “I happened to drive up this road and saw the for sale sign for this house hidden by trees. I went down the driveway, and the realtor said we could look around. When I walked around to the back, we really realized that it had a beautiful view. It was just gorgeous and had west-facing sun in the afternoon, so beautiful sunsets every night. That was really the drive to try to purchase the property,” Jim says.
Its elevation was key, being set back behind conservation land, the view will never be obstructed. The existing home was an older traditional Cape. Once the purchase was finalized, discussions began on whether to remodel or tear down. Jim brought longtime family friend and architect Denise Bonoli on board, and the discussions led to a new build outlining all of the pieces that the DeVellis clan desired. From the start, Jim envisioned a Gambrel design in keeping with his year-round home in Lexington, as well as the customary Cape Cod shingled exterior. As with many builds on the Cape, the family wanted a first-floor master and guest bedrooms upstairs. With the two families sharing the home, space and privacy were necessities. The layout became two first-floor masters, second floor guest bedrooms and bathrooms, and a suite above the garage for the younger family with a bedroom, living room, and bathroom.
“To me, the exterior was traditional, while the interior was more of how people need to live now in large, open spaces. Jim is a super smart guy and very decisive. He knew exactly what he wanted out of this house. I presented him the design, we tweaked it a bit, and we were good to go,” Bonoli says. Heavily involved in guiding the process was Rich Lemanski, Managing Director of Jim DeVellis’ commercial real estate company, assisting in decisions and organizing details.
For the build, Bonoli recommended Ralph Cataldo, having worked together on previous projects and trusting his expertise. When it comes to oceanfront building, Cataldo Custom Builders is one of the most reputable firms on the Cape and Islands, with over 30 years of experience and a striking portfolio. On the DeVellis project, the team credits Cataldo with spearheading the schedule and ensuring the build was completed on time with no glitches, especially when COVID-19 hit last March. “The homeowners really wanted a Buzzards Bay spectacular sunset and views. That’s exactly what he got. Everybody had to come through and they all did. I had an aggressive schedule and everyone adhered to it. We were trying to finish both the extensive interior finish work, but at the same time finish a built-in pool, outdoor kitchen area, fire pit terrace and extensive landscaping work simultaneously. If not for the sacrifice of Jason Rebello, our staff in the office, and our subcontractors, there was no way this could have happened. Our clients Jim and Paul DeVellis and Rich Lemanski, as well as Denise Bonoli, Greg Bilowz, and Donna Burns all supported us and worked as a team with one common goal,” Cataldo reflects.
Thankfully, the sizable lot gave the new build space to grow. Cataldo and Bonoli brought landscape architect extraordinaire Greg Bilowz of Bilowz Associates, Inc. onboard, who had a great understanding of the regulatory environment. In the end of the design process, the conservation commission, homeowners and building team were all pleased, and all of the amenities fit perfectly.
Cataldo kept to the timeline by coordinating schedules with the entire team and ensuring all materials were ordered as soon as possible to account for delays. Along the building process, a few amendments were made to enhance the home by the keen eyes of the team. Originally, a long hallway connecting the space above the garage was going to lead to the rest of the home. During the build, it was decided to transform this into an enclosed breezeway, creating a bridge between the two areas.
Another unexpected addition that unfolded in the process, the overlook terrace, became one of the prime outdoor spaces of the property. An existing wooden deck was raising questions of possible erosion, and the solution became a concrete retaining wall and granite deck with a gas fire pit. Now, the overlook has a feeling of permanence, luxury and the ultimate view that makes this property remarkable.
For the interior, Jim’s longtime friend and designer Donna Burns achieved his vision, keeping with coastal hues and blending traditional elements with modern touches. “When they were framing the home, Jim and I took a ride down to see it. We climbed to what would be the second floor and were standing in open air just looking at that water. That was really my design inspiration. I couldn’t get over the blues in the water from that height. The colors amazed me. I was really influenced by that,” Burns notes. Going forward, the hope was to use colors that pulled in the views. Almost every room had a touch of blue in it. “Jim had a real affinity for the color blue. Every room had a different feel to it, yet some tone of blue. He allowed me to push the envelope and incorporate color and patterned fabrics. It all turned out beautifully and we worked wonderfully together,” she continues. Touches like the custom-made chairs with a bold fabric and the textured wall covering in the master bedroom are a testament to their bold choices. Each master is complete with its own patio for quiet, peaceful moments.
In the kitchen, the design choices make for a modern, luxurious oceanfront spot. “The island is situated so that your eyes are drawn out over Buzzards Bay, looking out at either the sunset or the sun high above the sky,” Lemanski says. “I think the tones he chose in there are very timeless. For a waterfront property, I feel like the family will always go there and find it very peaceful and tranquil,” Burns adds. The herringbone backsplash, white cabinetry, modern lighting, and the contrasting darker toned island create a sleek and coastal kitchen. In the dining area, the wet bar is a distinct, elegant space with a corresponding herringbone backsplash and crisp navy cabinets. Over in the living room, the fireplace is a central focal point with modern seating, while by the windows, a separate seating area soaks up the natural light and expansive water view.
On the second floor, the guest bedrooms are each coastal havens with their own unique accents. Above the garage, the girls room is Lilly Pulitzer inspired, with colorful, playful pinks and greens that will last as they grow up.
On the exterior, the planning was extensive to execute a high-touch entertainment space that seamlessly flowed from indoors to out. Greg Bilowz, Principal of Bilowz Associates, Inc., was introduced by Ralph Cataldo and Denise Bonoli early on in the project, and brought his thorough skillset to ensure each amenity the family envisioned was put into place. “Denise and I went back and forth with where to set the finished floor of the foundation of the house. You have to pocket the deck in the foundation so you can build the grade up very close to the finished floor elevation. When you open the sliders to walk into the pool terrace, it’s one step down. That requires collaborative work with the architects, builder, and engineers,” Bilowz comments.
In the early discussions, it was clear that the outdoor living was to be a huge component of the property. For Bilowz, it was about how to place these amenities naturally so the space flowed and still felt open. In the end, the bocce court, putting green, and large circular driveway with an island in the middle fit perfectly. Every detail, like the orientation of the flooring, was accounted for. “Jim had said he loved salt and pepper granite, and I found a source called Silver Cloud and had it cut linear so it has a grain that picks up the character of the wood floors. The linear orientation runs in the direction of the wide plank wood flooring, so when you step out to the terrace, it flows. Everything is oriented north to south, even to the overlook terrace and fire pit,” Bilowz says.
Keeping the material selection controlled, the Silver Cloud granite was used for the front pathway, landing, pool terrace, overlook terrace, and pool coping. For the pool tile, a ceramic tile was chosen that picks up the character of the stone. With a spa on one side and a sun shelf in the shallow end, the pool is a luxury space in itself.
“There was a chemistry here. If you get a good team together, you can build and create anything, make it enjoyable, and keep the client informed. A lot of us on this team have worked together for a long time. Now that it’s all complete, you can tell the family is really living there and enjoying it. That’s what it’s all about for me,” Bilowz says.
For this Racing Beach project, the glowing remarks each team member and the homeowners have to say about one another are infinite. This dynamic is evident in the end result, a masterpiece on both the interior and exterior that this family can thoroughly enjoy for the future. “It’s just very calming to be there. The world is so busy and when you’re there it just feels like a little oasis. We look at this as a generational home for years to come, hopefully it will be passed down to our kids and their kids will get to enjoy it, too,” Jim DeVellis says.
Brenna Collins is the story editor at Cape Cod Life Publications.