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Storybook Ending

A woman’s investment property becomes her forever home.

The owner, a pilot for Cape Air, never intended to live in the house. The modest A-frame dwelling was a purchase for her parents. Just 10 minutes down the road from the Sandwich home where she was raising her three children, it would allow her to pop over easily when they came north from Florida for half the year.

She didn’t do any significant renovations to the residence, which looked like a poor man’s version of a ski chalet. The envelope was covered with a combination of vinyl siding and T1-11— the long, vertical siding you might see on a shed at Building 19. “We painted it and slapped some pictures on,” the owner says, and that served her parents for the better part of 10 years.

Then the trip back and forth from the Sunshine State became too much for the aging snowbirds, and the owner rented the place out. But after several more years, she had to have the tenants evicted. They had completely trashed it. “Refer to the movie Pacific Heights,” says Rick Anderson of R.W. Anderson & Sons, a Sandwich-based member of the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod who had done some work on the family’s primary home. 

Interior designer Donna Elle came up with a hollowed-out fireplace mantel to hide television wires and also had the room painted in Benjamin Moore’s Marilyn’s Dress–a soft bluish–grey that adds warmth.

The owner brought in Rick and his son, Caleb Anderson, and a real estate agent to help figure out what to do with the property. Their verdict: hold onto it and sell the other home. Yes, the house was in bad shape, but it was sited on almost three quarters of an acre down a long, private driveway on Sandwich’s Peters Pond, offering fantastic water views and direct access to boating and swimming.

Her next step was selling her first home and, with her eldest away at college, moving with her two younger children into the one-bedroom apartment above the pond-side house’s garage while a designer drew some CAD drawings with plans for enlarging the residence.

Then the owner, along with the Andersons and Nantucket-based interior designer Donna Elle, who had been recommended by a former Cape Air colleague, started redlining them. The drawings were very basic, very cookie-cutter, the owner says. “I wanted something Hansel and Gretel, something with some detail, some character.” 

A backsplash of iridescent subway tiles provides the perfect light-reflecting contrast.

The drawings were also over-scaled, designer Donna Elle says. For instance, they showed a kitchen addition that would simply be too big for the home, not to mention budget-unfriendly. A kitchen addition was definitely called for; there was only a kitchenette on a wall at one end of the living room. But it had to be right-sized.

“I had no feel for the size, for the scope of it, from the drawings,” the owner says. “Donna took it to a scale that made it both livable and also fit well within my budget.”

One important step was to design a not-huge but still commodious 8-foot kitchen bump-out that would provide plenty of room for prepping and cooking. For still more judiciously added space, the Andersons built a windowed shed dormer on either side of the roof’s ridge line to create more headroom upstairs and bring in more light. The shed dormers in the CAD drawings were “bigger and boxier,” Rick says. “We shaved them back, so you’re still getting extra space, but it’s not ugly and boxy from the outside.”

An 8-foot kitchen bump-out gave Donna Elle the room she needed to design a right-sized prep and cooking space with bark-colored Shaker cabinetry.

One of the new dormers allowed the Andersons to create more square footage in one of the two upstairs bedrooms, along with raising the ceiling in the upstairs bathroom so you didn’t almost hit your head every time you stood up from the toilet. The other dormer expanded headroom on the staircase. The Andersons also built closets in both upstairs bedrooms, which previously had no storage, a feat accomplished both by moving knee walls and creating a couple of new walls.

For each of those bedrooms, one for the owner’s middle child, a daughter, and one for her younger son, the Andersons designed and constructed a floor-to-ceiling window bay that lets light flood in, opens up the incredible views, and stretches each room outward by a relatively small but still meaningful 20 inches. It’s just the amount of space that gives each bedroom a feeling of expanse, especially with all the added window panes.

The bay for the girl’s room, which has the best view of the pond in the house, was not in the plans. The Andersons gifted it. “There was just so much enthusiasm about the home, and I knew it was something that would add a lot of character as well as dimension,” Rick relates. And I have to say, [the owner’s] daughter is a sweet girl, so we spoiled her a little bit,” he adds.

A new deck built by R.W. Anderson & Sons brings the pond closer.

All the changes look positively charming from the outside, adding depth and interest to the facade, which is now sheathed in red cedar shingle from Shepley Wood Products in Hyannis. Uncharacteristically, the shingle is not broken up with corner boards at each of the home’s edges, which would have interfered with the fairytale look. It instead has what are called laced corners, giving the envelope a very uniform feel.

The Andersons also re-built the outside staircase leading down to the home from the driveway, by which one reaches the newly created arched entryway at the home’s front door. Before, it had just been a series of railroad ties that were low to the ground. Now, the approach to the home is literally gentler and looks and feels positively magical. “We string white lights down the stairs and around the arch at Christmas time,” the owner says. Hand-crafted copper lanterns by Sandwich Lantern complete the charming effect.

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