Cool and Sustainable on the Outer Cape
April 21, 2023
A Boston-area couple finds sanctuary in their off-the-beaten-path home on the Outer Cape.
Text by Paula M. Bodah Photography by David Mitchell
The house left something to be desired, but the land, a three-acre-plus strip on an Outer Cape bluff overlooking the ocean, was exactly what the couple had been seeking. “We were looking for something fairly remote,” the wife says. “We wanted to be out in nature.”
Designers Cheryl and Jeffrey Katz, builder Chris Dio of Cape Associates, and the homeowners all agreed the run-down house wasn’t worth saving. Its foundation was sound, however, and became the base for the new home, a two-story dwelling hinting at the local vernacular with cedar shingles and white trim but possessing a more modern sensibility with black-framed shutterless windows and a standing-seam metal roof. A stand-alone garage and a two-story guesthouse that connects to the main house by a glass-enclosed bridge complete the property.
The guesthouse, intended for the couple’s grown children and their future families, maximizes ocean views by putting the living quarters upstairs and the bedrooms downstairs. The passageway leads from a library/study in the main house to the guest home’s sitting room, a spacious, high-ceilinged living area the Katzes filled with furniture in earthy tones with a hint of rusticity.
“It was the clients’ idea to do an upside-down house so that the upstairs sitting room would be accessible to them when their kids aren’t there,” Cheryl Katz explains. “When the kids are there, they can close the doors in the breezeway to keep the two houses separate.”
Project manager Dio constructed a super-efficient home by adding an extra layer of Zip-R insulation installed on the outside, under the white-cedar shingles. “For the next fifty years, the energy use in this house will be minimal,” he says.
The unassuming entrance of the main house, a farmhouse-style door painted a cheerful blue, opens to an atrium that brings an abundance of natural light to the stairway to the second floor and the passageway to the guest quarters.
A left turn leads to the dining and living rooms; the latter opens in turn to the kitchen, creating an L-shaped floor plan with a casual, effortless flow.
The Katzes outfitted the space with luxe but easygoing furniture in a neutral palette. “Our clients didn’t want a stereotypical beach house with white sofas,” Jeffrey Katz says. “They wanted it to be light, but not of that ilk.”
A custom L-shaped sectional sofa of brushed linen in a warm café-au-lait hue from McLaughlin upholsterer sits on a highly textured crewel rug from Steven King. A trio of small round-topped drink tables stand in for a coffee table. And making a grand statement is a floor-to-ceiling fireplace wall of board-formed concrete with built-in wood storage under the hearth.
The dining room is simply furnished with midcentury Afra and Tobia Scarpa chairs surrounding a table with a sturdy wood top on a bronze base. A painting by Wolf Kahn, one of the husband’s favorite artists, hangs above an antique sideboard. “They wanted everything to be comfortable, but not precious,” Cheryl says. “It’s relatively spare, but still warm.”
Meanwhile, landscape designer Nat Taylor supplemented the land’s natural grasses and shrubs with a host of native plantings, including groundcovers, grasses, trees, and perennials, all chosen to attract pollinators and withstand the weather. “My goal was to mimic what was all around the house,” he says, “and to create a lot of movement and habitat.”
On their slender spit of land off the beaten path, the homeowners revel in nature and solitude. “It’s so quiet out there,” says the wife. “It’s really special.”