Orleans residence designed with family—and the ocean—in mind
Some houses immediately make you feel calm—the palette is neutral, the furniture sleek, the spaces uncluttered. Others immerse you in a theme: yacht-club nautical, executive formal, rustic country. Then there are those homes you enter and immediately feel happy. Such is the case with the East Orleans residence of Doug and Jennie Jacoby.
To begin, the home offers fun, fresh colors: lime greens, periwinkle blues, lavenders, pinks and pops of yellow. There are whimsical elements that surprise and delight, like the white Victorian birdhouse that harbors a small, decorative crow in one corner of the living room. Nearby, a large painting by Maine artist David Witbeck depicts an elongated fisherman named Amos, whose enormous hands hold out a fish as large as Amos’ boat.
A teal crab stands on a nearby windowsill, and starfish can be found everywhere: in the corners of the fireplace screen, cut out of the Seaport Shutter-designed storm door, poised in the European chandelier over the dining table, and on throws, pillows and cabinet pulls. In fact, all of the home’s knobs are eye-catching; there are knobs of sea glass on storage cabinets under the open-frame living room/dining room divider, MacKenzie-Childs fish knobs on the generous window seat dubbed “Peggy’s Place”—as this is Peggy the dog’s favorite spot—and black and white pinwheel knobs on the master bath vanity.
Every level of the home holds surprises, including a lower level landing where a mannequin named Lily stands, clad in an antique bathing suit, with a hat that is changed for each season.
Naturally, these feelings of fun and lightness the home inspires are by design. In the wake of her mother’s passing, which took place as the house was being built, Jennie made a conscious decision to fill the home with “color and happiness.” It was her parents, after all, who instilled in her a love of the Cape, having rented and then built a home in this same neighborhood, where Jennie grew up spending summers and long weekends in the non-winterized, sweep-the-sand-out-the-door cottage. Though they met in Ohio, Jennie and Doug bonded over their connection to the Cape, for Doug also had Cape Cod ties, having attended summer camp here as a child, and learning to sail on Pilgrim Lake.
In 1998, Jennie’s parents gave her and Doug their Nauset Heights cottage, which they refer to as “Little Bit of Heaven.” In recent years, with their three children grown and having significant others of their own, and wanting to accommodate an extended family as well as their friends, Doug and Jennie searched for another property in the area. When they received a letter saying that a nearby house was going on the market, they decided to take a look. Though she was not enamored by the property’s 1940s ranch—long used as a rental—Jennie wandered up the knoll behind the house and called back to Doug, “You need to come up here.” What the couple saw from the hilltop was an uninterrupted view of Nauset Beach, its surrounding conservation land and the glinting ocean beyond. Then and there, they knew this was where they wanted to be.
Having seen the work of John Dvorsack in a magazine advertisement and having checked out the Falmouth architect’s work online, Doug and Jennie hired him to design a home to replace the ranch. They toured several houses Dvorsack had designed and gave the architect a wish list; within a month he showed them blueprints.
While the location offered stunning views, it also presented certain challenges. “It was a very tight site,” Dvorsack says, “and had restrictions in terms of where you could site the house as well as restrictions in general due to the topography.” Essentially, the house would have to be built in the upper right-hand corner of the lot, and Dvorsack would have to front-load as much of the living space as possible, as that was where the views were. “You have to take what the site gives you,” Dvorsack says. “I stepped the architecture up the hill. There is the driveway level with the garage. Then there is the deck level over the garage, and as you go up, the house steps back, to the master bedroom and its deck.”
As the oversized, one-car garage is located in the front rather than the back or side of the house, Dvorsack says, “We wanted to make it look good, so we used beautiful wood doors.” Houses exposed to the elements can involve a lot of maintenance, so to reduce the impact of salt, wind and winter, Dvorsack used red cedar for the shingles, copper flashing, PVC trim, fiberglass gutters, and ipe wood for the decks.
With the varied rooflines, gables and porch wing, Dvorsack succeeded in providing 10 of the house’s 11 rooms with views of the water. This design also “creates a sense of scale,” the architect says. “You are not looking at three stories looming over you.” This was important to Doug and Jennie as well, Dvorsack recalls. “They showed me their existing house, and it was obvious that they were interested in cottage-style details and smaller scale.” While Jennie wanted “color and happiness,” Doug says, “I am all about simplicity and relaxing. I did not want a picture on every space.”
Jennie and Doug’s other cottage—“Little Bit of Heaven”—had been owned by Jennie’s parents since the 1960s, and when two of the couple’s children realized they were building a new cottage, they felt slightly betrayed . . . until they found out the new place would feature both air conditioning and Internet access. Now, Jennie says, “We use both cottages simultaneously and seamlessly.” Given that the new home can be seen from the original, the couple has dubbed it “As the Crow Flies,” a name commemorated by the raven weathervane that stands atop the house, and the many depictions of crows popping up throughout.
Jennie and Doug cherish the routine they have established in their new home. They start their day on the enclosed porch eating local cranberry muffins and watching the sunrise over the water. Later, they may watch the moonrise from the same spot. If it gets chilly, they can build a fire in the outdoor fireplace, which is made of antique reclaimed brick. This is Dvorsack’s favorite detail: “We suggested the reclaimed brick because you cannot reproduce that look. It is one thing I really love about the house.”
On the other side is the living room fireplace, painted white to suit the Blue Veil Benjamin Moore paint on the walls. The effect is a bright, crisp, serene space. Like the brick, the floors in the great room are reclaimed—the longleaf heart pine was once part of a student center at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The floors on the lower level are also noteworthy. After a day at the beach, the couple and their guests can rinse off in the outdoor shower, and enter through the lower level mudroom, its stones studded with depictions of scallop and horseshoe crab shells. The basement floor, prepared to handle the foot traffic of future grandchildren, is yellow and white striped Marmoleum. The bathroom on the main level features a pebble floor, with the occasional stone shark embedded in the mix. With such distractions, one may forget to look up, but every ceiling in the house is different: one features exposed beams; another is a tray; and yet another is tongue and groove. “I love ceilings,” Jennie says.
This is a house full of surprises, such as the “barn loft” bedroom, with its sliding door and faux hayloft. Jennie, an English teacher, calls this “a mixed metaphor,” given that this is a beach, not a farm, house.
When the house was being framed, Doug and Jennie stood in what would become an office/bedroom abutting the living room. “It’s too bad,” Doug said at the time, “we won’t be able to see the view from this room so I can look out at the water.” Jennie suggested an interior window; both husband and architect approved. The window, which can be shuttered for privacy, provides the added advantage of allowing additional light into the office. “I am very much into borrowed light,” Dvorsack says. “The goal for any house is to maximize the natural light, and sometimes opening up spaces to one another allows this.”
As the summer daylight begins to fade, the Jacobys are ready to read on the porch; beers follow on the deck while the couple watches the changing colors of sky, grass and sea, backlit by the setting sun. Then it is time to make dinner in the kitchen, outfitted in clean-lined, simple white cabinetry and a honed-black granite island, surrounded by lime green chairs from Maine Cottage furniture. The dining table, made in the 1970s by West Barnstable Tables and refurbished, is made of wood from a dismantled Boston Harbor dock.
Though the house is filled with new pieces from Circle Furniture and Maine Cottage, as well as rugs and furnishings from Company C in Hingham and artwork by Provincetown painter John Dowd, it also boasts antiques from the homeowners’ past, including the spice cabinet in the dining area and a copper bucket which was a gift Jennie had given to her mother for her 50th birthday, and which now holds magazines.
Jennie’s father’s shaving mirror rests on top of his antique chest of drawers in the master bedroom. A bed in another bedroom once belonged to Jennie’s great-grandmother, while the toy chest was Doug’s as a child. A doll that belonged to Doug’s great-grandmother sits in a nook on the top floor landing, while his grandmother’s rocking horse awaits those future grandchildren in the lower level family room.
This is the secret to this home’s happiness. Rather than grieve what is past, bemoan that children are grown, and postpone joy for some future date, the house embraces it all—past, present and future—and does so with light-heartedness, candy-store colors and humorous accents, all while paying homage to the Cape’s past and present, and the location’s eternal beauty.
A resident of Barnstable village, Laurel Kornhiser is a former CAPE COD HOME editor and a frequent contributor. She is also an English professor at Quincy College.