Interior designer Mary Maloney takes on a Dennis project that transcends time and space.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”– Ernest Hemingway
During the early days of the newly formed America, the town of Dennis was a bustling hamlet, mostly due to the reinvigoration of sea-faring trade after the 1814 peace settlement that brought the 1812 war with the British to an end. One of those busy and hard-working captains of industry was Sea Captain James Downs, and as a result of his success in ship building, he was able to build a masterful home for his family.
Three hundred years later, a new family calls the 19th century property home, with restorations by interior designer Mary Maloney of Hopkinton’s Bee’s Knees Interior Design Studio, and mid-Cape builder George W. Blakely.
“I fell in love with this place the minute I crossed the threshold,” Maloney recalls. The home, which is actually a married structure of two homes, had been relocated from its original site to a stately neighborhood in the middle of Dennis. The transformation over the centuries has evolved into a very long narrow abode that showcased a plethora of period details and charm but clearly required some updates to bring it into 21st century livability.
Gordon Clark III of Yarmouthport’s Northside Design Associates, a firm with a solid reputation for restoring antique structures in this area, was tasked with a design plan for the home that would include a new addition that would provide an updated functional kitchen for the busy family with grown children. The addition also allowed access to the exterior spaces for seasonal enjoyment of the quiet bucolic setting. The mechanical systems of the home were also updated and a basement was excavated under the addition for many of the mechanicals. George Blakely, an established fine home builder across the Cape for more than 40 years, and his son Josh Blakely directed the renovation of the project with lots of input from the homeowners as well as Maloney. “I’ve worked on a lot of old homes,” Blakely says. “And there is a difference between renovation and restoration. On this project everyone involved had the restoration of this structure firmly in the focus.” One of the elements requiring restoration were all of the windows of the home which required removing them, and repairing them, and re-installing them with remarkable functionality. Blakely and his son diligently restored every antique window in this project.
Blakely also cites the importance of interior doors in an antique home. “New doors are much thicker these days than what craftsmen were making by hand hundreds of years ago. Luckily I have collected lots of doors through the years so when I take on a project we do what we can to replace any inappropriate doors with the correct period details,” he shares. An addition on the second floor allowed for a new bath to be added to the primary suite. Blakely says that when he opened up the structure it was evident that part of the original structure had been a one-story original Cape Cod style home. The road map of history often tells the stories of many families over the years who have inhabited the home and how it evolved through their lives.
For the thoughtful and respectful design of the home, Maloney’s deft touch “married the old with the new, all while respecting the past,” she states. “Our goal was to keep everything feeling timeless and classic, nothing trendy.” Maloney, like each of the other professionals on this project, embraces working with period homes. “It’s what we love to do. If I could take my favorite projects over and over again, it would be old homes; bringing old homes back, improving their infrastructure, updating the electrical and the plumbing, and then adapting the environment so that we can make it suitable for the way we live currently, yet with the long-ago charm that we don’t find a lot today.”
Throughout the home, Maloney and her team used their modern resources to complement the historic charm of the home. Simple lighting fixtures which evoke colonial sensibilities are found in the dining and kitchen areas. Subtle wood tones are prominent and serve as primary accent colors to the soft hues found in the paint colors used in the overall design scheme.
Upstairs in the primary bedroom an antique wallpaper, yet without any historical significance, became a topic of design decisions. “I really thought about how we could keep it, but ultimately it was removed and the original plaster with its handcrafted textures and warm tones worked perfectly for the homeowner who appreciates the calm and serene palette that sets the stage for her bedroom.”
Both the homeowners and design team embraced the concept of a painted brick backsplash. The homeowner initiated the idea of applying the German Schmear technique for painting the brick in the new kitchen and “thankfully it came out beautifully,” Maloney affirms. The kitchen was so artfully accomplished by all involved, upon first inspection, it does not immediately appear to be an addition, but rather a long-ago established space that feels as though it has been part of the home for centuries. “That is the greatest compliment of all,” both Maloney and Blakely state after hearing the assumption.
The new kitchen area has become the hub of the home as the adult daughters gather with friends and extended family. Weekend days in the summer end with a fresh feast of local delicacies being prepared with everyone’s input. Dining al fresco on the adjacent deck just outside the patio doors puts the finishing touch on memorable moments together as a family. “It is such a beautiful piece of property,” Maloney confirms. “So now there is a seamless connection to the exterior landscape. And just beyond is a little guest cottage that is adorable. I could just move in there.”
Julie Craven Wagner is the editor of Cape Cod HOME.