Elevation Innovation

When building one’s own home, an architectural pedigree helps.

By Lisa Cavanaugh | Photography by Brian vanden Brink

It is a unique situation to be both client and service provider, but for Aaron Polhemus, president and CEO of Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders (PSD), sitting in the “client seat” at his own firm as he and his wife prepared to construct a new house in Chatham turned out to be a great experience. “Along with my partners, I decided that the intention would be to approach our home like any other project,” Polhemus says. So the entire team went through the same comprehensive process his integrated architecture and construction firm offers every client. “I was able to appreciate the experience and see how effective our integrated process really is.”

The living room, dining room and kitchen are open to each other to some extent and borrow light from each other.

A personal design connection with a home isn’t new for Polhemus. His architect father, Peter, is the founder of PSD, and he designed the family home that Polhemus and his brother lived in when they were teenagers. “Growing up with an architect father does affect one’s views of architectural detailing and how important the execution of those details can be,” Polhemus says. He started working in the field on the construction side and, after transitioning back to the Cape post-college, got involved in the firm in a supervisory capacity, eventually taking on the leadership role of president and CEO of the organization. “I’ve always been very interested in the integration of architecture and construction and how that works from a business perspective,” he says.

So for the home he would share with his own young family, Polhemus appreciated the intellectual, artistic and craft-oriented approach of the PSD team, led by Design Principal John R. DaSilva. The efficient time frame and carefully honed construction process were also pluses. For his house, PSD served as the architect, builder, landscape designer and interior designer.

The location he and his wife chose presented interesting challenges, especially in terms of topography. The in-town location on a corner lot had land that sloped both to the side and front, so they took advantage of the site by designing a lower-level drive-under garage built into the hill while presenting a town-specific facade toward the front main street.

In the simplified classical foyer, a circular tray ceiling with a round light creates a formal center without feeling too grand. The built-in bench with storage makes good use of the space and the textiles soften the formality.

“We wanted the house to feel consistent with the look of the neighborhood,” Polhemus says. “The Cape’s villages all have different architectural environments, so you want to be respectful of that.” He adds that his across-the-street neighbor, whose family has owned property there for over 100 years, was very supportive and happy about the way they built the house. “It was really important to us that people would embrace it.”

He and his wife also wanted the house to be light and bright and to feel open enough for their growing family. The corner position allowed for abundant windows and the home was designed around available natural light. The living room, dining room and kitchen are open to each other, making both light transfer and social interaction easy, but still allowing for definition of separate areas.

“We love the house,“ says Polhemus. “The effective use of space works incredibly well for our family. It’s compact and no space goes unused, but it still feels light and fresh and there is plenty of room for visitors.”

Finding advantages in distinctive and challenging sites is something Polhemus Savery DaSilva does with clients on a regular basis. “It’s one of the things unique to our firm.” Polhemus says. “When we finished our own house, my wife said, ‘Wow, it’s exactly what we hoped it would be.’ “ He pauses and, with a smile, adds, “Which is, of course, always the goal with a client.”

Classic Kitchens & Interiors designed and installed the kitchen.

The staircase stretches all three stories, from a lower level where there is an entertainment room, exercise room and bathroom through the main level to the top floor of bedrooms.

The breakfast nook faces east for great morning light, and the bay window also has south and north exposures.

The dining room has an east-facing window while the doors and windows opposite the table face south.

The family room has a direct connection to the back yard. The private in-town yard is enclosed by trees and shrubs and is just big enough for a dining and sitting terrace, grilling, and a grassy play area for the owner’s family.

A work space tucks into a well-lit corner of the den. A bright and welcoming entry hall beyond French doors includes a bench seat with storage below.

The bathroom was designed by Polhemus Savery DaSilva to be a calm, relaxing space, well balanced between cool and warm colors and materials.

Interior living spaces open to a south facing terrace. A hat-shaped roof gives the house a bungalow character here, in contrast to the traditional gambrel-roofed half Cape at the public entry façade.

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