The Magic Touch

After 14 years of renting on Cape Cod, a family finds their dream vacation property in a familiar place.


The cheerful living area welcomes the outside in with ocean-blue Lee Jofa pillows and a natural-hued Holly Hunt sofa. (Photograph by Eric Striffler)

With tiny rooms, low ceilings, and perpetually peeling paint, the creaky 19th-century Orleans rental wasn’t exactly a luxe getaway, but it was just what one New York family was looking for back in the 1990s. Surrounded by several secluded acres—a rarity on Cape Cod—the cottage was the perfect retreat. So perfect, in fact, that the couple and their two daughters returned every summer for the next 14 years to the “Magic Farm,” as they affectionately called it. When they learned that the owner was putting the property up for sale, they jumped at the opportunity to purchase their summertime digs.

Once the property was officially theirs, the couple decided it was time to build a more-spacious home to accommodate their large extended family. But they “didn’t want anything grand,” says Sharon DaSilva, senior designer at the Chatham-based firm Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders. So in homage to the home’s history, DaSilva designed a new structure that married iconic New England farmhouse architecture with shingle-style elements throughout, creating a gracious entryway and wide hallways that give the 4,271-square-foot space nice flow.

The homeowners wanted something equally unfussy when it came to the interior design. “The family has always lived in historic homes, which typically have fairly tight, small rooms,” says the project manager, New York–based interior designer Kyle Timothy Blood. “They wanted a large, open living area to host friends and family, but they also wanted it to feel cozy.” Armed with those marching orders, Blood and DaSilva set about adding comfortable, livable touches to the home, including an informal wraparound porch with cedar-clad walls; easy-to-clean porcelain floors in the mudroom, most bathrooms, and the pool house; and stools and chairs upholstered in outdoor fabrics for the kitchen.

Blood’s understated yet sophisticated earth-tone palette was inspired by a slab of Ocean Blue travertine that he found for the fireplace surround at Artistic Tile, in New York. “It had all the colors I wanted to see in the design,” he says. His next discovery was a handwoven rug in various shades of natural wool—the ideal complement to the fireplace surround.


Clockwise from left: the dining room, outfitted with a sleek Christian Liaigre for Holly Hunt table and chairs, opens up to the living area; a painting by Joerg Dressler hangs above an antique bobbin chair; a tiny Buddha statue graces the fireplace mantel. (Photographs by Eric Striffler)

One of the couple’s most interesting requests was a Moroccan-themed master bathroom. Unfamiliar with the aesthetic, Blood says he immediately ordered 15 books on Amazon about Moroccan design. After much research, the designer unveiled a stunning interpretation of classic Casablanca chic: Four areas within the master bath—tub, shower, water closet, and vanity—are differentiated by barely discernible variations in the tile patterns. Lattice panels on certain doors, meanwhile, were carved by hand in Morocco in a style called mosharabi, which lets in light while creating a sense of privacy. The walls and floor of the master bath were finished with zellige tile, geometrical terra-cotta-and-enamel mosaics set into plaster.

The elaborate bathroom design made coming up with a concept for the master bedroom somewhat of a challenge. “It had to aesthetically bridge the gap between the beaches of Cape Cod and Morocco,” Blood says. To accomplish this, he incorporated more-understated North African elements into the space, including medallion-patterned drapery, a geometric cowhide rug, an ikat-upholstered headboard, and nightstands with stamped metal fronts.

Blood and DaSilva also found ways to honor the character of the 19th-century house the family had rented for so many years. The custom millwork above the mantel, for example, echoes the original cottage’s fireplace. And a tower that includes a screened porch on the first floor and an upstairs sitting area was inspired by a quirky lighthouse-shaped structure added on to the cottage in the 1960s.

To preserve the site’s rural feel, the landscaping was kept simple: planting beds are strategically placed for privacy, and the grass goes right up to the front porch. The yard is surrounded by trees on all sides, including a proud century-old maple near the kitchen windows. Removed from the bustle of the beach, the place is unexpected and serene: a magic farm indeed.


Photograph by Eric Striffler

The centerpiece of the light, bright kitchen is a soothing backsplash from Artistic Tile.


Photographs by Eric Striffler

From left, the Lucite tables in the master-bedroom sitting area are by White Webb; wave-motif tiles make a splash in one of the bathrooms.


Photograph by Eric Striffler

The Moroccan-inspired master suite showcases an Oly bed and custom Jed Johnson Home nightstands.


Photograph by Eric Striffler

Ornate tilework surrounds the deep Kohler tub.


Photographs by Eric Striffler

The showstopping master bath is the home’s pièce de résistance, with vibrant tiles and panels crafted by hand in the mosharabi style from the New York–based company Mosaic House.


Photograph by Eric Striffler

The first-floor guest bedroom features pale-gray drapery by Lee Jofa and all-weather sheers by Perennials.


Photograph by Eric Striffler

The wood-paneled library is home to the only television on the first floor.


Photograph by Eric Striffler

The exterior of the home is classic New England.

Architect Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders
Interior Designer
Kyle Timothy Home


Where to find décor inspired by this story.


“Aspire” glazed-porcelain sculpture, $880, Janus et Cie.


Gold clam shell, $195, Liz Caan Interiors.


Jonathan Browning “Chapelle” sconce, $3,143, Webster & Company.


“Arabia” tile, $223 per square foot, Le Mosaïste.


GP & J Baker “Connemara Dresden” fabric, $178 per yard, Lee Jofa.


Sea-urchin sculpture, $1,000, Hudson.


Urchin shells, $70 for six, Kristin Paton Home.