Preserving the Language of a historic home in a 21st-century context.
By Lenore Cullen Barnes • Photography by Elizabeth Hathon Photography
Set atop Falmouth Heights with views of Nantucket Sound, the Tolman House is included in the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s list of historically significant buildings. While renting the house for several summer vacations, the Walsh family had no idea just how significant it would become to their own personal history. When the home, already imbued with happy family memories, came on the market just as Meg and Mike Walsh began house-hunting in the fall of 2013, it seemed like more than serendipity.
While they loved the historical ambience, the home’s layout reflected its 1899 origins in a less positive way, with small closed-off rooms that didn’t suit their large family. They wanted to open up the interiors so the entire clan could gather together after days spent enjoying the beach, golfing and fishing.
“We wanted a place that was welcoming and inviting,” says Meg. “We also wanted a space large enough that our family and friends could gather comfortably, but then have some removed spots where one could go for some quiet and privacy.”
Good fortune prevailed again when the couple met Beatrice Bunker of Beatrice A. Bunker Architecture. “Beatrice gave us all that we wanted and so much more,” Meg says. “Working with her was such a pleasure. She really listened to everything we were saying and even when we were vague, she was able to understand what we wanted. Beatrice gave us a modern space that still has that older-home warmth and charm.”
After a time-consuming but successful permitting process, Bunker teamed with Kevin McLaughlin, owner of McLaughlin & Son, Inc., for the construction of the project, beginning by demolishing what Bunker termed a “slap-on addition” and deteriorated detached garage. The new addition includes the main entry, a second staircase, a TV room, full bath and kitchen on the first floor. The second floor has five bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a powder room, laundry room and study.
Paramount to Bunker was maintaining the “language of the historic home” and creating a seamless blending of the old and new structures. “It’s important to me and my customer that the new addition looks like it’s always been there, maintaining a sense of harmony and balance and continuing to fit nicely into the dense fabric of the neighborhood,” says Bunker.
She achieved this by preserving whatever period details she could, including the original heart pine flooring. Salvaged pieces were woven in with new pieces of reclaimed heart pine in the living room and den floors. The dining room, formerly the side portion of a wraparound porch, retains its original floors, which were simply refinished. From the den, an exterior French door leading into the dining room maintains the sense of stepping outdoors to dine. New larger windows were installed to maximize the light and water views in what is one of the family’s favorite spots to gather.
The spacious living room, now open to the kitchen, was formerly two rooms. Bunker removed two walls and a non-functioning fireplace to create an airier atmosphere. Now, the room comfortably accommodates the entire family, but is separated into two sitting areas for more intimate gatherings.
Adjacent to the living room is a cozy den, partitioned off by new decorative columns and half-walls that “stylistically reflect the language of the original building and seamlessly lead you to the original staircase,” Bunker notes.
The kitchen flawlessly marries the historical feel of the home with 21st-century conveniences. Maple Dura Supreme cabinetry from Main Street at Botello’s features Arcadia-style doors in a pearl finish with a slate accent. Gray, black and blue variations in the Caesarstone countertops carry out the ocean-inspired color scheme.
“Mrs. Walsh had a clear vision of what she wanted—a clean-lined, simple look, nothing too formal,” says George Tobey of Botello’s. “The tile backsplash in a deeper blue adds a nice focal point against the neutral grays without being too overwhelming and ties together the old-world feel.” A custom island made from knotty alder with a weathered finish and furniture-style bun feet evokes the look of driftwood. Kevin McLaughlin crafted the top from unstained refurbished walnut.
What began as a vacation rental is now the Walsh summer home for generations to come. “We love the beach, but what we’re most excited about is that this is where everyone wants to be,” says Meg.