Cape Crusader

It took a village for a retired Boston couple to make their dream retreat a reality. A mix of Greek Revival and bungalow styles, with dramatic indoor and outdoor spaces created from a grouping of pavilions, form a welcoming Cape Cod home.

It took a village for a retired Boston couple to make their dream retreat a reality. The house is a mix of Greek Revival and bungalow styles, with dramatic indoor and outdoor spaces created from a grouping of pavilions that, together, form a welcoming Cape Cod home.

“The client had specific needs,” says architect John Tittmann of Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects in Boston. The couple wanted a courtyard for family gatherings and barbecues, views to the north of Cape Cod Bay and Provincetown in the distance, sun from the south, and a house large enough to accommodate their many grandchildren—all on an irregularly shaped plot of land.

“To suit these needs, the home became a village of different-sized buildings connected to form one home,” Tittmann says.

What looks like the front door of the house—a one-story shingled facade with six-over-six windows and a portico framed in crisp white columns—actually opens into a sunny grass courtyard wrapped on two sides by a colonnade. At the end of the colonnade, a tower with pale yellow flat-board siding is topped with red-stained cedar shingles, and at the foot of this tower is the real front door to the main house. The effect is of a miniature Cape town with its own central green.

The home’s design marries the look of the traditional shingled bungalow with the clean, upright lines of classical architecture. “The owners were attracted to the formality of Greek Revival, but they also wanted something indigenous to the Cape landscape,” says Tittmann. Subtle Greek Revival elements include window casings that taper as they rise, and the use of pineapples as a sign of welcome. The roof beams that line the colonnade to the front door are decorated with pineapples. But in his quest to redefine the style, Tittmann turned the motif upside-down. “We were looking for a bracket to support the inside of the beam,” he says. “We didn’t want to use a regular bracket—we wanted to do a whimsical twist on the old symbol of hospitality.”

The twist on tradition continues inside the home, where smooth cherry floors are inlaid with a compass design pointing in the four directions: north, south, east and west. “They wanted guests to know exactly where they were,” says Tittmann.

While traditional Cape- and Greek Revival-style homes tend to have smaller, closed-off, boxy rooms, the homeowners wanted the opposite effect in the main house. “They wanted a family house, a place to come together in one space,” says Tittmann. “So we came up with a plan that allowed for an informal and open layout.” The firm worked with contractor Tracy Pratt, owner of Pratt Construction in Marstons Mills, and Steven Siegel, structural engineer and president of Siegel Associates in Newton Center.

Peter Niemitz of Boston’s Niemitz Design Group is responsible for the interior. Though he’s better known as a restaurant designer—most recently for designing Eastern Standard Kitchen and Drinks at the Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square—he’s a friend of the homeowners. “The owners’ input wasn’t a laundry list of requirements,” says Niemitz. “It was more about making sure it was clean and simple, and all about relaxing and enjoying the view.”

White tongue-and-groove planking acts as wainscoting in the living and dining rooms, giving an air of summer-time every day of the year. A shallow shelf runs around the perimeter of the living room, making a handy place to set shells, seaglass and toy sailboats. A double-sided Rumford gas fireplace—perfect for foggy Cape days—separates the living room and sunroom.

The home’s furnishings are casual and modern. Down-filled couches and chairs in pale yellow and blue make the living room a comfortable place to flop down and talk; Niemitz added personal touches complementing the home’s seaside location, such as two bottle-green glass lamps. There are a few vintage touches, including white-glazed porcelain Chinese garden stools used as small side tables. Lloyd Loom chairs are pulled up around the dining table, beneath the soaring vaulted ceiling. Above the table, an Indian glass pendant has been wired as a chandelier.

Niemitz established a palette of soft pastels to create a warm and relaxed environment: ivory-white paint for the trim, creamy parchment-yellow in the main living room, pale hydrangea-lavender in the master bedroom and classic cabbage-rose chintz fabric on the sofa and lounge chairs in the sunroom. “Ideally you want the interior to express sensibilities of the owner,” says Niemitz. “You don’t want to create a background that they aren’t comfortable with.”

The owners are particularly proud of the oil painting above the fireplace in the living room. Painted by Cape Cod artist Geoffrey Smith, it shows all 15 of the owners’ grandchildren, playing on the home’s private beach. “The sensibility of the house has the same sensibility as the painting,” says Tittmann. “It’s a light-filled family house. I don’t know how planned the connection is—it’s serendipitous. But that’s why there are windows on both sides.”

The best seat in the main house is on the second floor. The central staircase, surrounded by flush boards placed strategically apart to help absorb the playful commotion from grandchildren, leads up to a barrel-vaulted ceiling. At the very top of the stairs, a 12-foot-long window seat in front of an arched window overlooks the bay.

Nearby, the master suite has hardwood floors painted light green, and white furniture stenciled with hydrangeas. There’s a tiny deck from this room that provides a private view of the bay. The view is also present in the master bathroom, where a porcelain tub with chrome claw feet sits in front of wide windows, says Tittmann, who designed the master bathroom vanity.

“The back-to-back marble-covered sink cabinets share some of the same flavor as the kitchen cabinetry,” he says, “historical, but not too serious, white-painted, personalized, without being pretentious or ostentatious.”

Modern elements are tucked discreetly throughout the house, including a three-story elevator that resides behind a wooden door. “The owners are in their 70s,” says Tittmann. “When you’re in your 70s, you can easily imagine being in your 90s. They’re thinking in terms of flexibility and the future. You really wouldn’t know it’s an elevator; it’s meant to be invisible.” Meanwhile, in the basement, an enormous flat-screen television and comfy seating are ready and waiting to entertain the grandchildren after a day at the beach.

In the kitchen, the family enjoys a Sub-Zero refrigerator and Thermador oven with a stainless-steel hood over the island range. The kitchen cabinets were designed by Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects. “We wanted to make them look like a simple country kitchen,” says Tittmann. “They were not meant to look high-tech. They’re meant to be painted cabinets. And they hold a lot of storage for a big family. There’s a lot of room. Purposely, it’s quite a simple kitchen.”

Authentic to life on the Cape, the owners opted to maintain as much of the natural landscape as possible; native grasses, indigenous plants and flowering shrubs can be found throughout the beach-front property.

“The courtyard and the immediate area were to be a little more cultivated and all the rest was left natural,” says Niemitz. The house was positioned behind the dune, to preserve the native plantings that anchor the sand. They enlisted the help of landscape architect Robert A. Keene of Corcoran Jennison Companies in Boston.

A seven-sided screened porch extends from the left side of the home, providing front-row seats for watching the sunset. “We wanted the porch to be another pavilion of the home,” says Tittmann. “There isn’t one side that matches the house exactly.”

And while new construction on the Cape often causes the neighbors to wait on pins and needles, hoping the house will fit in, this new home not only exceeded the owners’ high expectations, but it was met with rave reviews in the neighborhood. One neighbor even presented the happy couple with a photo album documenting the construction progress of the house.

“We heard from many of the neighbors,” says Tittmann, “that this is their favorite house in the neighborhood.”