Coast Conscious

A Boston-area couple builds a family-focused home with seaside flair.

By Jennifer Sperry | Photography by Richard Mandelkorn

They weren’t expecting to build a new home, until one day when a friend let them know about an available lot just north of Newton Centre, Massachusetts. The lot’s existing home had been badly damaged in a fire, but the property itself held a great deal of potential: good square footage and close proximity to the couple’s respective work places in Boston. It was an ideally situated blank slate.

“We were living in a small 1930s center-entrance Colonial and were well on our way to outgrowing it with two kids. Then, when we started the new project, we found out we were expecting our third child,” says the wife of the serendipitous timing. “The decision to buy was a little impromptu, but the location seemed perfect and the prospect of building a house struck us as an exciting idea.”

A trio of archways leads into the more formal front-of-house living spaces.

Jan Gleysteen, principal of Jan Gleysteen Architects Inc., was already on the couple’s radar; they were longtime fans of his unmistakable homes in the Wellesley-Weston area. Presented with the prospect of a “Gleysteen” of their very own, the couple began assembling magazine clippings and online inspiration, mostly culled from homes on the Cape and Islands.

Their affinity for coastal architecture inspired Gleysteen to develop a stately yet approachable Shingle Style gambrel. “The exterior of this house would really love to be along the ocean,” says the architect, who forewent mullions on the double-hung windows’ lower sashes in yet another classic nod to seaside living. “This turns them into picture windows for ultimate sightlines,” he explains.

Inside, traditional architecture, including highly detailed millwork and built-ins, coexists harmoniously with a more contemporary open-concept layout. Instead of a formal living room, the owners opted for an elegant yet work-friendly library. Instead of a splashy, double-height front entry, they requested a more intimate front hall, which Gleysteen enriched with archways, an intricate balustrade and a welcome cast of natural light from windows above.

The heart of the new home is the kitchen: “I start designing all of our homes around the kitchen; we take the room very seriously,” says the architect. “This one is like a strategic command center: it’s purposefully central and you can see almost everything happening on the first floor.”

For the family room, Coughlin played with patterns like the Cowtan & Tout fabric on the club chairs and ottoman, while maintaining a light and fresh vibe.

Radiating off the kitchen are a host of family-friendly spaces, including the breakfast room, whose banquette, upholstered in waterproof leather vinyl, is a favorite spot for the kids and their friends; an adjoining covered porch; the family room, with an arched picture window (a Gleysteen trademark feature) overlooking the back garden; and a brand-new homework room. Even the mudroom puts family first: its allotment of cubbies accommodates each family member, plus there’s one extra for guests (and an even arrangement).

Interior designer Kate Coughlin helped achieve a light, airy interior with a predominance of blue—the wife’s favorite color. In some cases, like the striking Osborne & Little wall covering in the powder room, she pushed the owners’ comfort zones a little, but in all cases she created visual interest via pattern and texture while keeping the interior inviting and kid-friendly.

Collaborating with Gleysteen added another layer of consideration for Coughlin: “When there are so many beautiful molding details, you can really simplify everything else. Jan incorporated a lot of curves, so I kept my lines clean, creating a nice balance,” she says.

Whether the task at hand is dinner, schoolwork or just enjoying a summer evening, the family now has all the space it needs, in a home that suits its style.

Dark mahogany atop the island, bell jar pendant lights, woven shades and a tile mosaic backsplash warm the all-white kitchen, with custom cabinets by Pioneer Construction.

Coughlin’s bolder use of blue, including in the textured Phillip Jeffries wallpaper and Stark carpet, defines the first-floor library.

Instead of a grand double-height entry, Gleysteen designed a cozier version but still brought plenty of natural light into the space via the stairwell.

One of the family’s favorite gathering spots is the covered back porch, where wicker furniture surrounds a fieldstone fireplace.

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