A husband and wife team creates a beachfront home that takes your breath away
News of a ramshackle beach cottage, clinging to a cliff for dear life, and newly listed on the real estate market, ignited a spark within Brianna and Brian Seppala. A spark that fueled a yearlong commitment to create a very special home perched on the edge of the Eastham coast. The beachside community of Silver Spring is a close-knit group of mid-century seasonal cottages that are nestled in the dunes adjacent to Cooks Brook Beach in North Eastham. Most of the homes are seasonal structures that haven’t seen much modernization, since they were constructed in the last century, but the few that have ventured into the 21st century still acknowledge the windswept wildness inherent to Outer Cape enclaves such as Silver Spring.
Such is the case with 15 West Road. As Brianna—who spent every summer of her life at her grandparents’ summer place, a stone skip away—tells it, the former rabbit hunting camp was owned by a less-than-friendly and uncooperative neighbor, and upon her death the property was placed on the market. A long history of denying Silver Spring association members easement across the owner’s section of dune and beach (due to a rare low median tide deeded right) resulted in frontage that never received the benefit of cooperative improvement and reinforcement, creating a precariously perched proposition. “Brian and I were the only ones that believed in the future of this property; everyone else thought for sure it was going into the ocean, so no one else really made any offers,” Seppala recalls. A relatively short and painless process through the often-restrictive zoning and planning boards paved the way for the husband and wife team to create a new home for this one-in-a-million site.
Before the nuts and bolts of building a home on such a waterfront lot were able to commence, the dune had to be reinforced and fortified. A rampart rebar system was implemented into the core of the grade, as well as a revetment of boulders and then finally planting the topsoil with erosion-preventing beach grass. According to Brianna, the dune must be “nourished” each year with sand and additional plantings to ensure an uncompromised future of the site. Once the ground was stable beneath their feet, the couple’s creativity was unleashed.
Brianna deftly assumed the design and finish elements of the project, while Brian, a self-employed contractor, used his 24 years of experience to craft a remarkably solid home that boasts high quality and attention to detail at every turn. Approaching the house from the sandy lane, a common feature along the Outer Cape coast, you are first struck by the inclusion of a garage, an Outer Cape luxury that is not as common as the sandy lanes. Up several massive granite steps that should successfully resist the continual drifting of sand, the home greets visitors with a sturdy wooden front door that is punctuated by a brass starfish doorknocker. Walking through the door is a bit dizzying as Cape Cod Bay, and seemingly the edge of the world, stretches out in front of you as far as the eye can see. Drinking in the views across to Great Island to the north, and the entire inner arm of the Cape to the south and the hills of Plymouth to the west, it is easy to see why the Seppalas were determined to build a home on this spot. An open kitchen, dining and living area competes for attention, as the view is fully accessible from oversized sliding doors and windows on three of the four walls that envelope the room. But Brianna was successful in complementing the changing colors and moods of the ocean outside by exercising inspired choices in her interior finishes and accessories. Achieving coastal correctness with the utilization of white painted shiplap paneling on the walls and ceiling throughout the main floor, she kept to a palette of blues, greens and grays drawn from the shifting tides outside. An efficient, yet luxurious kitchen showcases a massive island with a chunky leathered granite top and high-end appliances, including an Italian Verona range set in the corner to make the most of the layout and backed by marble tile in a herringbone pattern. Brianna’s careful curating of unique and remarkable design accessories is apparent throughout the house, but perhaps most striking is her choice of aluminum pendants evocative of a swirling school of fish, handcrafted by Wellfleet metal artist Steve Swain.
The cozy living area features a low-profile gas fireplace set into a contrasting graphite gray wall that grounds the space. The main floor also offers an office that converts to an extra bedroom, styled like a ship’s stateroom with two porthole windows. “It is everyone’s favorite room when we have guests,” says Brianna. Just off of the living area, patio doors open to a pergola-shaded outdoor living room, flanked by an oversized outdoor kitchen, all perched at the top of the dune for a space that connects the home to the beach and vice versa. “We use this space whenever we can, any excuse to spend more time outside,” says Brianna, “We even enjoyed most of Thanksgiving Day out here.”
Limited by a fairly tight footprint, 720 square feet, the home finds most of its transition within its various living spaces in a vertical layout. Downstairs has been turned over to the kids’ bunkroom, shared with an exuberantly decorated lower level living room with plenty of space for social activities like games, television, or net surfing on various devices. The upper and lower levels are accessed by a center stairway that uses cherry and mahogany treads on the different floors in an effort to ground the space—again showcasing the Seppalas’ deliberate choices evident in every square inch of this home.
As you arrive on the third floor, the same vista that greeted you at the front door elicits a gasp again, but perhaps more deeply. At this height, the ocean below truly seems to emanate from under the house as though you are at sea. A sitting area at the top of the stairs separates the two bedrooms and seems to be the perfect place to simply sit … and sit. A third floor balcony stretches from this alcove at the center of the house to the adjacent guest suite. Spacious and calming in gray-green hues taken straight from the ocean, the guest suite with a light filled, spa-like full bath would appear to have been overlooked as the natural choice for a master.
That is, until you enter the master. With endless views from a corner wall of windows, there is truly no better place to greet the day as you open your eyes each morning. While not as large as the guest suite, the master suite satisfies the need for storage and space with a walk-through closet that leads into the master bath. And not just any master bath, but one that boasts a unique fieldstone wall in the luxurious glass shower. The rough and natural choice of fieldstone for the wall that accommodates the steam shower jets and a waterfall showerhead is juxtaposed by honed, gray marble rectangular tiles, stacked the length of the longest wall of the walk-in shower—a wall that includes the shower controls and a second shower head, this one offering a rain shower effect. The design triumvirate is completed by a custom-scribed, mahogany-decking insert that provides flooring, and drains as effectively as a cockpit in any high-end sailboat. Twin sinks are punctuated by silver-leafed, round mirrors that are a modern take on a classic, Federal-style, convex mirror, but in this setting, they mimic portholes in a luxury ocean liner. Each of the baths showcases a level of luxury that is usually only found in a world-class spa. Carter Fettig of the Fettig Tile family not only contributed the tiling talents his family is known for on the Outer Cape but also assisted with much of the finish carpentry. As in all of the baths, the vanities were custom made by Brian Seppala and provide open shelving for a clean, clutter-free environment.
Moving through the three levels, it is easy to imagine the slap of bare feet on the stairs and the flash of brightly colored beach towels as family members race down the dune. Watching the sun’s rays dance across the bay and finally set on the other side of the world every day from the endless places to perch found around every corner and on every level, it is hard to imagine how you could tear yourself away, and that is the only identifiable downside to this home.
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to claim to have put heart and soul into their projects. For the Seppalas, that is certainly the case, and their success involved a lot of thought, a little faith, a significant amount of sweat equity, and a tremendous amount of vision to create this home on the edge.