A meticulous builder and a homeowner with artistic vision polish to perfection an antique gem on Wings Neck.By Janice Randall Rohlf | Photography by Dan Cutrona
Mention Wings Neck to any Cape Codder and they’ll likely have heard of this storied, out-of-the-way neighborhood in Bourne dotted with large waterfront houses secluded in the woods. But for one husband and wife moving back to Massachusetts after several years in Minnesota, Wings Neck was a serendipitous find. They house-hunted from Vermont to Rhode Island with the criteria that their purchase be more than a hundred years old and sit on a large waterfront property. It took a while, but they found what they were looking for on Wings Neck. What they liked most about this diamond in the rough was precisely what would have turned most people off: The house had essentially been untouched since 1906.
For the wife, a former art director who has restored other houses in the past, the rambling Shingle Style house, even with its chain-pull toilets and no end of dusty old books, was a treasure trove of possibilities. Few people have her vision nor the ability to bring to fruition what she pictures in her mind. But one of those few people, Tom Turcketta, just happened to live and work right on Cape Cod.
“The house had a ‘feel’ to it,” says Turcketta, a third-generation builder who specializes in historic restoration. “I wanted to do the project when everyone else wanted to bulldoze it.” From that point on, he and the homeowner were a team on a shared mission. She would come up with the ideas, often a hand-drawn sketch, and he would figure out how to execute them.
“It takes a special type of client [to restore an old house] who has an appreciation for antiques and history,” Turcketta says. “It’s a different mindset.”
This project can be categorized as both a historic restoration and a historic preservation. Turcketta points out the difference between the two: With restorations, things such as flooring can be removed and replaced with new materials that retain the historical details and character. With preservations, the goal is to salvage as much of the original house as possible. Both projects are costly and time-consuming.
Although the Wings Neck house was in remarkably good structural condition given its age, substantial tweaks were needed to personalize the house and make it suitable for the homeowners’ lifestyle. By adding two window-lined 14-foot bump-outs connected by a long gallery to the front, more light streams into the house and the spectacular view of Buzzards Bay all the way to the iconic railroad bridge can be admired. The bump-outs, a rounded deck between them and a four-car garage added 2,000 square feet to the house’s original size of 6,500 square feet. Steel beams opened up the downstairs space and in the upstairs, much of which was used in the past as servants’ quarters, there are now six bedrooms where there once were nine.
The homeowner and Turcketta were both on the same page about salvaging what they could, often reusing parts of the old house elsewhere in the “new” one or on the property. The doors from old cabinets became fronts for new ones, closet poles were fashioned from an old tennis court frame, most of the wood floors were salvaged, and original paned windows now stand in as stunning cabinet fronts.
“I’ve always had an eye for detail,” says Turcketta, who trained as a cabinet/furniture maker. “Working on antique homes is much more appealing to me than building a new home. It’s more of a challenge.”
They filled in with newfound treasures, such as several finds from Maypop Antiques in Sandwich, including a tin whale that hangs over the bar and a wall-panel painting of a Gloucester fisherman that takes center stage in the dining room. A piece of an old carousel sourced from a now-defunct Buzzards Bay shop was repurposed as the base of a mudroom bench, and an 11-foot-by-4.5-foot butcher block slab the homeowner had been saving for years was cut down two feet in length and used as the kitchen island. She looked to Dot & Bo.com, Restoration Hardware and Anthropologie for just the right light fixtures, furnishings and other home décor elements.
The homeowner has gathered and kept all kinds of objects over the years, including extensive collections of Wedgwood with gold from the 1700s and Ridgway Indus pattern China, both displayed in glass-window-front cabinets. She also has cherished transferware and even numerous and varied flower “frogs,” objects that sit at the bottom of a bowl or a vase to hold flower arrangements firmly in place. Plus, there were the books—some 2,000 of them—that came with the house. “I only kept the ones that were signed,” says the homeowner, smiling. She donated the rest, more than 60 boxfuls, to the Falmouth Public Library.
Turcketta, who sometimes even uses antique tools like old hand drills and chisels for detail authenticity, moved built-ins from one location to another, rather than get rid of them, and made new window trim to match the old trim. At the homeowner’s behest, he even relocated a portion of the house to be refashioned into a charming game room in the woods. The word “teardown” is not part of Turcketta’s vocabulary. “I have no interest in wreaking havoc with history,” he says.