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Silver Screen Dream

North By Northeast, Nauset Heights

The warmth of red cedar, mahogany and a glowing fire characterize screened-in porch living.

Hitchcock loved monuments. In addition to his use of Mount Rushmore, in other films he staged pivotal scenes at the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Jefferson Memorial. Likewise, North By Northeast may as well be set upon the Cape’s most stunning and valuable landmark, the Cape Cod National Seashore. In fact, this portion of the beach is Orleans town land, but it’s virtually indistinguishable from the stretch owned by the U.S. government. Nauset Beach both greets the Atlantic’s tides and provides a protective barrier for Nauset Harbor. PSD constructed North By Northeast upon the elbow of a promontory that perches above and overlooks both bodies of water. From its patio and from most of the rooms, the views span at least 180 degrees. The home is currently on the market, and realtor Dolores Alberti of Gibson | Sotheby’s International Realty notes that: “It’s amazing to have such access to both the harbor and ocean. Someone could put a pie-in-the-sky price on it because its location is so rare.”

Like its movie namesake, North By Northeast weaves multiple narratives and interpretations. It’s a lens that opens to an exquisite corner of the Cape, but it also functions as a grand theater—a true cinematic experience in IMAX and Dolby Surround Sound. From nearly every room, one can view boats on the harbor, ships on the Atlantic, storms approaching, the phases of the moon and constellations, the shimmering heat of the sun, shorebirds, and the sifting of sand in the incessant surf. Alberti says, “Sometimes residents in this area will even see whales spouting as they migrate past.” One prominent feature of the house is an octagonal tower at its southeastern corner. Given enough power and lumens, this could probably serve as an actual lighthouse, but with normal lighting, it is more of a representation of one—an homage to the structure just a few miles to the north, Nauset Light. Additionally, though the home and estate lack the overall acreage of a classic shingle-style mansion, they evoke the same ideas or notes; one could understand North By Northeast as a story about this particular design. The home also conveys a tale of outdoor living, as its patio and fire pit create an open-air living space, ceilinged only by the sky. The outdoor kitchen and outdoor shower contribute to a storyline that allows residents a near-complete experience of the location without ever stepping foot inside the actual house.

Hitchcock was a proponent of “pure cinema,” or storytelling through the juxtaposition of images, montage and intentional lighting, and he wielded various camera angles and shot distances to elicit different effects upon the audience. PSD brings similar non-verbal approaches to its narratives, but rather than using cameras and an editing room, the firm relies upon scale, a type of symbolism called “associationism,” and transitional devices to create its works of art. In the exterior skin of North By Northeast, PSD employed flat, robust detailing with bulging brackets that exaggerate the shingle style. The firm’s design principal, John DaSilva, explains: “They are both brackets and representations of historic brackets. People can see what they like, what they choose, because the architecture includes symbolic meaning yet is loose enough to allow for interpretation.” One might see the curved brackets as reflections of waves, the lines of a chalice, or the contours of a half hull model ship. However, they also provide transitions from the sky to the land and from the outdoor world into the house. The tower structure, in its evocation of a lighthouse, draws in the nautical. Its lower level contains a screened porch, the quintessential expression of a “fade in”—to borrow from film technique—from the outdoors to the home’s interior; it literally contains both, as well as a fireplace, which creates yet another connection between terra firma and the celestial.

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