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Silver Screen Dream

North By Northeast, Nauset Heights

Even when open to a view of the vast land and seascape, the living space is made cozy by a grounded fireplace and chimney.

One of the challenges facing PSD when they began designing North By Northeast is the triangular shape of its lot, with its apex at the street. “We had to shape the house so the main mass is at the back to capture the view,” DaSilva says. “So the entry is actually tucked in at the end of a symbolically important porch that slides along the side of the garage. This has very robust detailing, standing up to the scale of the location and to the storms that bear down.” The same type of effect reappears throughout the home, such as in the windows of the living room, where PSD provided beefy muntins to rise in defiance against the crashing waves so nearby. While it’s one thing to copy an architectural concept of a bygone era, DaSilva argues, “The more complex idea is referencing the past.” Thus, the columns that border the main entryway porch are flat and grooved rather than round like the ones in classical Grecian style. “They’re more fun, more interesting,” he says. “They produce an image that has the right scale for the house.” The fanlight motif, which conjoins the porch columns and reappears in the living room and in the screened porch, is also an exaggeration of a traditional device, commonly found in historical homes in places like Beacon Hill. DaSilva says, “What we’ve done here is abstracted and enlarged the fanlight into a kind of pop art, contemporary version of what would have been a delicate original feature.” However, the most prominent initial highlight that one encounters upon entering the home is its staircase. “This is grand but informal,” explains DaSilva. After all, North By Northeast is meant to serve as a relaxed summer escape rather than a formal city home. “The stairway is partially a sculptural object,” he continues, “similar to a piece of furniture. The banisters finish in a gambrel roof shape that is also turned into a newel post cap with an egg sitting on it; the egg is in scale with your hand and smooth to hold onto as you climb the stairs.”

One can recognize a PSD project, and Dolores Alberti asserts, “I think that PSD sets the standard for quality in their homes.” While John DaSilva is the design principal, the firm’s success arises from its teamwork; the team both designs and builds all of their projects, and they work collaboratively throughout the process. Similar to film “auteurs”—directors such as Alfred Hitchcock who imprint their movies with signature style and motifs—PSD crafts homes that are emblematic of their firm in a number of ways, including the details discussed above. Another of their standbys is the arcade. While the concept is ancient, contemporary application is somewhat uncommon. In North By Northeast, PSD created an interior arcade with the same flat columns of the entry porch, once again connecting the home’s exterior with its interior. “As an organizing device, the arcade allows for circulation but doesn’t separate people from social interaction, from the light, or from the view,” DaSilva says. “It provides the traditional feeling of being directed by a corridor but without the full enclosure.”



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