In an Outer Cape home designed by Hutker Architects, nature and novelty prevail.
Truro is a town of contrasts. Its land is ruggedly wild, yet it is a cultural enclave, with visual, performing and written arts all represented. One of its coasts is pounded by the powerful Atlantic, while the other is lapped by the calm waters of Cape Cod Bay. It is the historic site of the Pilgrim’s first steps in the New World, and yet it boasts some of the most contemporary architecture on Cape Cod. In the Shearwater neighborhood, atop Blueberry Hill sits a home designed by Charles Orr of Hutker Architects that embodies these contrasts. It has elements both rustic and refined. Its cedar-clad exterior is weathering to match its surroundings, while inside, art and antiques arrest time. Like the best Cape Cod homes, it respects, echoes and enhances its place in the landscape.
When the property owners realized the house that previously sat on the site was not a good candidate for renovation, they asked that its replacement have an upside-down configuration in order to take in the landscape. The living areas, kitchen and master suite were to be upstairs, with two bedrooms and a sitting area downstairs. Generally Orr and his associates do not encourage this configuration: “We struggle with the disconnect between the kitchen and living areas from the environment,” he says. When it became clear that this was what the clients wanted, he continues, “The critical room became the transition from the living spaces upstairs to the outside downstairs. We had to make it feel like you’re not going though bedrooms to get to the living space. We also wanted a really fun experience.”
That critical room became the multi-elemental foyer, with its bluestone floor, an interior wall made of stone laid in like tile, and another made of cedar. Adding simple refinement is the William Lewis-designed spherical chandelier; adding drama is the staircase. “It took a lot of coordination with the structural engineer,” Orr says of the cantilevered design with its floating treads bracketed to the stone wall: “I was sweating bullets. I couldn’t wait to get on the treads and jump up and down to test them.” He is happy to announce that the staircase is “rock solid.” The stair treads that rise and sweep like piano keys are made of durable, textured Parallam® PSL Beams, the board spacing echoing that of the second-story deck.
Also made of Parallam is the catwalk that connects two of the home’s pods. To respect the prominence of the hilltop site and to humanize the scope of the house, Orr was drawn to the idea of discrete components early on: “You could make a massive–looking house all under one roof, but it would look monstrous on the hill. It seemed to line up to make a three-hipped structure, like three little houses linked together.” One hip encloses the garage with the master suite above, linked via the L-shaped catwalk to the other two pods. The stairway, foyer and dining room occupy one of the two flat-roofed spaces between pods. The second structure, oriented toward the pool, encloses the upstairs family and downstairs sitting rooms, and the third houses the living room and kitchen with two bedrooms below.
The stone and cedar walls that enwrap the foyer are not the only exterior elements that surface inside. Barn-style doors divide the lower level children’s wing from the foyer and the upstairs dining area from the family room. This concept is repeated in an etched-glass sliding window-door with similar hardware. Banks of windows both upstairs and down invite views of the brambly hill, marsh, pond and Cape Cod Bay. Even the sky is ushered inside through pyramidal skylights in each hip, the one in the living room fitted with a steel pergola with recessed lights was designed to frame the natural light all the way to the floor.
Truro’s landscape also influenced the home’s palette, with its pale sky blues, its warm cocoas, sandy creams and taupes, and occasional pop of red, as seen in the sofa pillows, the painting of the whale’s tale over the fireplace, even the knobs on the blue range in the kitchen. The home’s interior designer, William Lewis of William and Camille Design, says of this combination, “Red and blue live so beautifully together. The contrasts of the colors make each special.” As he selected colors for the home, Lewis kept his client’s personality in mind: “She is never a girl to go for the typical blue and white beach house accessorized with starfish.”
Lewis has designed three other homes for these clients, and he understood the vision for this project: “Something luxurious but easy, elegant but durable,” he says. To that end, he blurred the interior/exterior boundaries by designing a sofa table topped with a 200-year-old barn board, added rattan furniture to the living room, and had the English-made sofa reupholstered in an indoor–outdoor velvet. “The rattan chairs are refined but not obvious, and though they are outdoor furniture, they are beautifully built. The idea is to be able to look through the chairs out to the water. The sofa,” he continues, “has a luxurious, sleek feeling without being über modern.” This seating shares space with a single Kravet armchair and a chaise to create an arrangement that supports intimate conversations while providing space for entertaining.
Lewis created several of the home’s artful furnishings, including the floating buffet, which he painted with a base coat of bright red, and then layered glazes and paints before eroding it all to give it instant age. This multi-purpose piece provides storage, acts as a divider, and adds both beauty and an Asian flair to the dining area. Complementing it is the Lewis-designed parson’s table, with its asymmetrical, triangular legs. A one-inch tall chandelier from France has LED-lit bubblelike circles, a fixture that attracts attention without interfering with the views. The McGuire dining chairs Lewis selected are simple, lightweight and comfortable, and, he says, “They relate to the Asian cabinet without being overly Asian themselves.” The clients always combine antiques with contemporary furnishings in different proportions, producing a final effect that Lewis says is “distinctly American. It doesn’t feel overly Eurofied. It has an American sensibility.”
Lewis’s design skills are also evident in the kitchen backsplash, a subtle configuration of white marble tiles interspersed with hand-placed gray tiles to create a marblelike drift, as if the whole is one solid piece of marble. Like many of the design elements in this home, the subtler aspects only emerge through frequent viewings.
Hutker Architects designed elements of the kitchen, including the island with its metal supports, chosen, Orr says, “to riff off the hung-rod light fixture in the living room skylight.” They also designed the multi-purpose master bed, with its built-in shelves, lighting, storage space and TV cabinet at the foot of the bed, the whole floating affair lining the passage that leads to the master bath, exercise area and outdoor shower. The bamboo bunks in the children’s bedroom are Hutker-designed as well.
This house emerged from a dynamic collaboration among the clients, Lewis, Orr and his associates Kevin Dauphinais and Erin Levin. Landscape architect Kris Horiuchi, in addition to selecting stones, faced the daunting task of figuring out where to place the pool, with its infinity-style edge, and an outdoor terrace on a sloping site. After extolling Hutker Architects, saying that working with them was one of the best experiences he has had, Lewis says, “They would work on a concept, consult with us, and then they would not just come back with a tweaked version but with a third version beyond our wildest expectations.”
Orr returns the praise and then adds, “The architect’s job is to think of the possibilities, and the client’s job is to make decisions.” In this case, the clients were quite surprised to learn that his firm continues to design, re-evaluate, re-imagine, until the project is done.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that the home they produced has reached homeostasis. Keeping it always alive is Truro itself—its ocean winds, bay breezes, salt-sprayed air and bright sunlight taking the home into their confidence at every turn.
Article published 2014-2015 issue