A modern interpretation of classic New England design sets the stage for a family’s retreat
Online only: See more photos of this Brewster home
When Chris and Steve Richards first met with Hutker Architects in Falmouth, they didn’t quite know what to expect. “I’ve never built a house before,” Chris says. “I was under the impression it was going to require a lot more from me, but everyone just made the whole process so easy.” That is the goal for every experience between clients and their architects, and according to the Richards, that is exactly what was delivered from Hutker and C.H. Newton Builders, who collaborated to create a home for this energetic family.
“I feel like they ‘got’ what we wanted,” Chris says, as she explains how the process evolved. “That is what made it so easy.” That ability to “get” a client doesn’t just happen because two parties sit down together. It is an underlying skill—one when put into motion is not obvious, but instead sublimely natural—that distinguishes an effective and successful relationship, particularly between an architect and a homeowner. That is the kind of firm Hutker Architects exemplifies.
Chris and Steve Richards had enjoyed a Cape home in Brewster for a decade—a home that was filled with memories of raising their children and welcoming extended family and friends. The time had come to re-consider the possibilities of what kind of home could support and encourage their busy lifestyle for the future. As project manager, Hutker’s Kevin Dauphinais started with a new structure on the existing lot and incorporated all of the things the Richards thought they wanted, and some of the things they didn’t yet know they would enjoy.
“We got along right away,” says Mark Hutker, FAIA, principal of Hutker Architects. “Chris was very articulate about her goals for the house and how she wanted to embrace her family lifestyle. We always start with lifestyle. For Steve it was all about the outside spaces and the possibilities of how the family could enjoy the area outside. Chris was focused on the interaction of the different spaces inside as they related to her kitchen, since she loves to cook. If you put a fulcrum point under the house, it is under the kitchen; she knows that’s where people tend to hang out, yet she has a defensible kitchen where she can be highly functional, but can still welcome involvement and interaction.”
Surrounding this center stage, the living room, the sunroom, the dining room and the family room are all within a few steps of each other and offer areas that can be private or social, all at the same time. These rooms are not overly large, but Hutker explains that because of their openness and adjacent placement, they feel larger and borrow space visually from each other.
The interior spaces, and the fine craftsmanship provided by C.H. Newton to produce them, are resplendent with details that give a nod to the long New England history of homes and architecture. A coffered ceiling sets the tone and scale for the ground floor, but a stuffy environment is avoided by incorporating details like the board and batten treatment throughout the home and exterior shingles introduced in the sunroom. An exquisite split-face adirondack granite fireplace in the sitting room, crafted by Fagan and Sons Masonry in Arlington, commands attention due to the unique color and texture of the stacked blocks of stone, a custom mix named Essex created by Doug Fagan specifically for this project. An Anne Packard painting, evocative of the Cape Cod Bay beach a short stroll away, rests on the mantle.
When reflecting on the team that brought this project to its successful end, Hutker is quick to credit C.H. Newton. “See that corner and the joined point in the mill work?” he asks, pointing to a challenging angle of the ceiling in the sitting room. “That doesn’t just happen. That is C.H. Newton and their expertise, and attention to detail. They do it right.”
Other details that set the tone for the home include built-ins throughout the home, like an alcove that offers a highly functional yet modest built-in desk. The design and execution of this corner is evocative of what you might find in a classic Herreshof yacht, yet with a modern ease that encourages a stop to check email or pay some bills.
A ground floor master suite, with a light-flooded serene master bath and sumptuous walk-in closet, will take the couple far into the future.
The far corner of the home finds a sunroom created for the couple that Chris says they use constantly. This special spot combines Chris’ love for the comfort of the home with Steve’s love of the outside, and frames an idyllic marsh view. “We have coffee there in the morning, we watch all kinds of wildlife interact with the marsh, including deer, and sometimes we just sit and relax in the sun,” she says.
Outside a low covered porch—designed not to take too much depth, thus allowing light to enter the home—transitions to the outdoor living spaces, Steve’s domain. In truth, it is the whole family’s place to gather. Mild nights throughout the year are spent, long after the sun has settled behind the marsh, around a massive wood-fueled fire pit constructed by R.P. Marzilli Landscape Construction of Medway. Comfortable furniture completes the outdoor rooms.
Working with a small lot and wetland restrictions called for Falmouth’s Horiuchi Solien Landscape Design to create the perfect solution for the family while managing the challenges.
Hutker sums up the collaboration on this project, saying, “This was a great group to work with. The Richards love craft, they love detail, and they wanted this sort of inside/outside experience of tying together with the land. We approached this by listening carefully to the things that make them happy and focusing on positioning the spaces to take best advantage of the coastal sunshine, and then identifying their activities during the course of the day to choreograph the layout of the house relative to their lifestyle.”
Hutker Architects’ talent is not producing any one archetype, but rather informing their designs with the way people live by exploring their sensibilities and delivering homes that surpass their clients’ own imaginations. The Richards, who might have characterized their style as traditional before this project, and having now journeyed through the evolution of this process, say they don’t really have a label for their home. “Maybe transitional, maybe modern Cape. We just know it is us,” Chris says with a smile.