Coaxed to try a new, less traditional approach, a Harwich homeowner is delighted with the results.

  • Pretty and functional, the kitchen design pleases both the husband, an avid cook, and the wife, who is more concerned about aesthetics.

By Mary Grauerholz • Photography by Dan Cutrona

Design & Build: Encore Construction

Jan and Marc Aldrich’s new riverside house in West Harwich has a quiet elegance that speaks volumes. Tucked back from the winding road amid tall pines, the home blends into the setting with subtle, spectacular success.

It is everything the Aldrich family wanted it to be: sleek yet comfortable, with not a hint of pretention. “We wanted to keep it very serene and peaceful,” Jan Aldrich says. “I wanted people to walk in the front door and see the water, then go ‘wow.’” For now, the home on the Herring River is a summer refuge for the couple and their two sons, Kyle, 20, and Cameron, 17. But the Aldrichs plan to retire here, so it was vitally important that the house reflect who they are and what they love most: the natural setting, access to the water and the Cape community.

“We love it,” Aldrich says with a smile. A big key to the success, she adds, was Susan Gerlach, a designer for Encore Construction in Dennisport who steered the design of the entire house project, “from outside to inside,” as Gerlach explains, adding that the architectural plans were drawn up by Gordon Clark of Northside Design Associates.

Aldrich depended on Gerlach to nudge her into new territory. “I tend to be conservative,” she says. “I’d say to Susan, ‘I love it. Do you love it?’” So the two women would kibitz over tables of color charts, agreeing wholeheartedly on the big issues: interior walls treated with one soft shade, sheets of unencumbered glass on the river side of the house, and easygoing nautical touches throughout. “We wanted it to be relaxing and coastal, to feel like a house where you could take your shoes off and relax,” Gerlach says.

When it came to the contemporary details—such as the rectangular doorknobs for the interior doors, fashioned from chrome and set with a crystal rosette—Gerlach knew Aldrich well enough to present the pieces along with a persistent request that they at least try it.

Two of the most eye-catching details, guided by Gerlach, are in the first-floor entryway, which opens to the second floor in sweeping fashion. An artful chrome and glass chandelier hangs over the stairway from the second-story ceiling. Under it, tying in beautifully, is a sleek chrome-tubing stair railing that mimics a boat rail. “You can add these contemporary touches to something traditional without going over the top,” Gerlach says.

“At first, I wanted a very traditional spindle-and-block design crafted from wood,” Aldrich recalls. “Susan (Gerlach) said, ‘are you sure?’” That was all it took for Aldrich to leave her comfort zone. “We had come so far with the rest of the house,” Aldrich says. Both women remember the moment they told Dale Nikula, the owner of Encore, about the staircase railing. He said, as Aldrich recalls with a laugh, “you want me to do what?”

In the open family area, the gray-taupe custom paint used throughout the interior—the shade changing depending on sun and clouds—creates a soft ambience. With a river in view and stunning white architectural trim adding a holistic flow, Gerlach wisely kept the interior simple. One side of the space holds the kitchen area, with open shelving around the stainless steel stove, adding a homey, visual touch. Aldrich says the kitchen suits her husband to a tee. “Marc is a huge cook,” she says. Gerlach used small touches judiciously, including a trio of crystal-clear orbs over the island and playful barstools in chrome. “It’s a Cape house,” Gerlach says. “We wanted something less formal, but also a little bling.”

The family area includes a spacious seating arrangement where the focus is the fireplace, its veneer of split-faced mosaic stone, complemented with a white mantel embellished with a hand-carved starfish by Richard Pelletier of Bass River Carpentry. The transitional-mission style and built-in cabinetry, outfitted with small boat cleats for drawer pulls, is a perfect blend of modern and traditional. A starfish rug, placed on the wide red-oak floors stained in a driftwood hue, adds an appealing note. Here and there are bursts of citron for color – in cushions on the gray-green sofa and a small ceramic statue on the mantel. In choosing the rug and other details, Aldrich was assisted by Mary Lou Jackson and Christine Walsh of Cici and Lu Interiors, located in the Metro West area.

The nearby powder room is a statement piece, defined by an urban modern print with flowers in putty gray. “Wallpaper has made a comeback,” Gerlach notes. “It’s a great way to have some fun.”

All four bedroom suites have unique touches: walk-in shower floors of crushed glass or ceramic with a woven texture for style; custom built-in bureaus for simplicity; and occasional boundary-pushing touches, such as mirrors set in angular art frames over each sink in the master bath. Again, Aldrich gives Gerlach the credit: “I would never have done that on my own.”

Aldrich, a fashion consultant for CAbi clothing, and her husband, an executive in a technology company, see their new home as a place to recover and rejuvenate. “This is his sanctuary,” she says. For Aldrich, the house —and the way it represents the warm collaboration she and Gerlach shared—has been a wondrous experience. “Every time I come here,” she says, “I pinch myself.”