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Changing Yellow Blue

A Hyannis Port landmark takes on a fresh future.

In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the unnamed protagonist is a young woman whose husband takes her to a lovely summer home for vacation, where she imagines entities from the past, and soon becomes obsessed with freeing what she perceives to be another woman who has been imprisoned beneath the yellow wallpaper. Spoiler alert for those out there who have forgotten the content of their eighth or tenth grade English classes: in the story’s conclusion the protagonist peels off the yellow paper to reveal a deeper truth about her own situation in life. 

A neighborhood icon in the bucolic seaside community of Hyannis Port has been universally known among generations of residents as the Yellow House. Hyannis Port, despite its international and historic name recognition is, at its core, a typical small neighborhood, not so unlike many found across the region. Tree-lined streets map out summer-inspired architecture with patches of green grass and hedges of privet and hydrangeas. Light car traffic enables children to ride bikes down the middle of the road with carefree abandon. On the corner of two principal streets, across from the stretch of beach enjoyed by the residents, the Yellow House has borne witness to the quaint neighborhood for generations. While this is not at all the same story Gilman presented in her short piece, the Yellow House did conceal its own separate kind of reality beneath its surface, and the efforts of one young woman, in this case interior designer Nina Mayfield, helped to transform it from something of a neighborhood novelty to a home that is both elegantly sophisticated and breezily summery. It is a story of renewal and rebirth, of rediscovering identity, and of both the liberation from and the honoring of the past.

The Yellow House inherited its color decades ago, at a time when vinyl siding was exciting and trendy and when the color combination of yellow with green trim was somewhat en vogue. Perhaps every hamlet on the Cape was home to such a yellow house back in the seventies and eighties, each with the color scheme of a legal pad. And so, for many years, the Yellow House sat upon its corner in Hyannis Port. The people looked upon it as they walked their dogs in the evenings, as they biked their children down to the yacht club for sailing lessons, and as they drove out of the village to Four Seas Ice Cream after a family supper. They looked upon the Yellow House with affection, perhaps, or at least with fondness, but also sometimes with a wistfulness for the potential of both the home’s location and its original character.

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