Storybook Ending

Cape Cod Home  /  Summer 2021 /

Writer: Larry Lindner / Photographer: Dan Cutrona 

Storybook Ending


Cape Cod Home  /  Summer 2021 /

Writer: Larry Lindner / Photographer: Dan Cutrona 

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.

The work was not easy. “Steep” does not begin to describe the descent from the main road down to the house. Bringing in the equipment to dig out a full foundation to support the kitchen addition was an engineering feat in itself. Also, Rick says, because the home sits on conservation land by the water, “we had to pull permits months and months in advance. We had to go before the Conservation Commission a lot.” It took the better part of a year for the Andersons just to get permission from the town to remove a telephone pole that proved an aesthetic eyesore once they put the telephone and electricity lines underground. 

Inside, Donna Elle worked her design magic by creating specs for a beautifully appointed kitchen that comfortably fits an island and allows not just for plenty of elbow room and prep space but also for flow. For finishes, she chose bark-colored Shaker cabinetry that anchors quartzite countertops with a leathered, non-glossy patina. “I wanted a countertop that was more textural, more gritty, more earthy than some of what you might see,” Donna Elle comments. “It says ‘Lake.’” 

“It was very important that all the textures, finishes, and colors go with out there,” Donna Elle says, pointing to the greenery and the 125-acre pond. That’s why she didn’t go with white, which is often the default choice for kitchens right now.

She complemented the kitchen colors and feel with living room walls painted in Marilyn’s Dress, a soft blue-grey produced by Benjamin Moore. And she gently contrasted the room’s cottage-y matchboard ceiling and ceiling beams in Benjamin Moore White Dove. White was her choice as well for the brick on the fireplaced living room wall at the opposite end of the main living area from the kitchen. In its original, very dark brown iteration, “it had been giving off a dingy vibe,” she says. 

Donna Elle replaced a pre-fabricated shower in the main floor en suite with a glassed-in oasis that has a mosaic tile floor.

Above the fireplace, Donna Elle designed a hollowed-out mantel that hides the wires leading to the television, painting it a soft grey to offset it a little from the wall. And a new firebox surround installed by the Andersons syncs, both dimension-wise and design-wise, with the flatscreen TV above. “All together it updates the look,” Donna Elle says.

Outside the living room, the Andersons built a new deck that overlooks the pond. And they replaced two sets of sliders leading to it with French doors and huge side windows, enhancing the view toward the water and the surrounding greenery while also giving the home a much warmer feel. 

The budget was reined in by saving all the home’s oak floors. The original plan was to rip them out and start anew, but the Andersons were able to salvage them, in part by surgically removing rot and refashioning some of the dark oak borders. Where the new kitchen meets the main room, a strip of that same dark oak marks the delineation, helping to make the entire added space look as if it had always been there.

The Andersons snuck in a closet next to the staircase in the entry hall, too. Before, you could see straight through to the powder room leading from the living room to the first floor’s main bedroom.

In the main bedroom itself, they reconfigured a walk-in closet to allow much more room for clothing and other items and turned the regular closet door into a pocket door to save space. They also transformed a hall closet into a much needed linen closet in the en suite that now opens from the other side. These small changes add both efficiency and livability.

Donna Elle dolled up the en suite bathroom by swapping out an unattractive pre-fabricated shower for a glassed-in oasis with a mosaic tile floor. For bathroom fittings, she chose satin nickel from Snow & Jones in South Yarmouth

Upstairs, Donna Elle chose a bathroom vanity base in an arresting navy blue, topping it with quartz from Cape Cod Counterworks in Mashpee that has bits of blue inspired by sea glass.  

In the basement, the bulk of which comprises a large, open family room space, an original stone fireplace anchors one wall, except now it is graced with a mantel salvaged from a home built by the original owner of the Sandwich Glass Factory. The downstairs bath, destroyed by the tenants, has been refurbished, while across the hall a ballet room for the owner’s daughter now has newly lengthened windows, making it more pleasant for the teenager to practice her pliés. Donna Elle had the room painted in Benjamin Moore’s Antique Pearl.

Rhododendrons below the garage makes the entryway even more magical in spring. At Christmastime, white lights strung along the banister and around the arch enhance the fairytale effect.

The owner did not go crazy with new furnishings, choosing instead to hold on to such heirlooms as her grandmother’s bedroom set for her own room. Pieces the owner did buy were mostly for the living room. Working with Denise Belair of Bassett Home Furnishings in Chestnut Hill, she chose a blue and silvery Alastar rug, and everything else riffed off of that.

All told, the project took two years from start to finish, as long in the planning as in the building. But it was worth the wait, the owner says.

The water access is definitely part of it. “We have two kayaks, my daughter has a paddle board, and we all enjoy swimming as a family,” the owner comments. “And we have lots of friends over to enjoy the water.” 

But it was more than just the pond. “I can’t say it enough that Donna, Rick and Caleb took my vision and my dreams and made them a reality,” she enthuses. “I wanted this sweet little home, and they made it happen. It feels just like living in a storybook.”

Larry Lindner is a contributing writer for Cape Cod Life Publications.

Larry Lindner