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The Beauty of Balance

This innovative home in West Dennis is all about finding the balance between sustainability and thoughtful design. A3 Architects and McPhee Associates collaborate to create a home that will last through generations of family adventures on Cape Cod. 

On Cape Cod, building homes to last a lifetime—through generations of sandy feet running excitedly from room to room and innumerable summer cookouts with neighbors and friends—is a purpose of the highest order. For a young family of five in West Dennis, imbuing their colorful spirit into a home that will yield lifelong summer memories was exactly the goal when they finally found the perfect spot to build a family vacation home. 

“Once I found the property, I walked past a nearby beachfront project that McPhee was building,” the homeowner explains. “I asked if I could see the inside, and they were great about letting me check it out. I could not believe the quality of their work, particularly the finish; it was perfect. So when I started to work with A3 Architects I specifically asked to have McPhee included in the consideration of builders.”

As a second-generation building and design firm, Dennis-based McPhee Associates of Cape Cod has their finger on the pulse of Cape Cod, crafting custom homes to last a lifetime…or several. They have built lasting relationships with local architects to create buildings that are thoughtful representations of a homeowner’s desires and lifestyle. From beginning to end, the team at McPhee uses their vast expertise to bring to reality the goals of a homeowner, and with this project, the desire was to create a sustainable and modern space for lifelong memories and colorful adventures. 

“It was a very exciting project and a bit of a departure from the traditional Cape style homes we see so often,” says Rob McPhee, president of McPhee Associates. For a company with almost 50 years of experience, that’s saying something. The home itself is a spectacular example of collaboration between builder, architect, and homeowner. “It was really rewarding for us to work with the owner and architect to bring their visions to reality with clean finishes and style,” says Sue Contonio, vice president at McPhee and project coordinator. “Seeing the unique spaces, such as the children’s nook under the stairs, come to life, is personally one of my favorite parts of this project.”

McPhee’s commitment to quality and the overall success of the project resonated with the homeowner as well. “McPhee’s quality is indisputable, but another important element is how well they communicate. I knew I couldn’t be on the Cape for meetings on a frequent and regular basis, so I needed someone who could really support me through the whole process and McPhee was absolutely fantastic about that. They communicated and consulted on every detail.”

With views of Nantucket Sound from the front of the house, and a charming pond to the back, Alison Alessi, of A3 Architects, was particularly focused on working with the client to design a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces, capturing the effervescent scenery that is so intrinsic to Cape Cod. A variety of covered porches and roof decks facing a multitude of directions makes for a variety of incredible spaces to enjoy classic Cape Cod views, rain or shine. Structurally, the collection of decks create a home that is beautifully intricate—and statuesque. Due to the home’s location in a flood zone, the structure is organized vertically and sits some six feet above grade.

“This home was definitely a challenge, but an exciting one,” notes Alessi. “The site, which is somewhat limited at around 11,500 square feet, required conservation and zoning approval while also needing to be built above the flood plain. All of these sometimes competing requirements are design opportunities.” For example, having to build vertically gave the A3 team the opportunity to emphasize one of the most essential aspects of such a towering home: the stairwell. 

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