Luck of the Irish

A custom-built home on Cape Cod captures the essence of the owner’s childhood surroundings in Ireland.


By Janice Randall Rohlf • Photography by Dan Cutrona
Build: Nordy’s Construction
Appliances: KAM

With her roots in Ireland’s County Down, Maggie Browne describes Crossgar, where she grew up, as “a small country village surrounded by farmland.” Even though she and her husband, Tony, raised their own family in New Jersey and spent a lot of summer vacation time in the Hamptons, it was on a visit to Cape Cod that Maggie says she “felt instantly at home.”  In particular, the rolling-hills-meet-sea topography of the Sesuit Neck area of South Dennis resonated with her, recalling childhood memories of Ireland. “I thought, I could live here in a heartbeat,” she says.

Designed by Gordon Clark of Northside Design Associates and built by Nordy’s Construction, the Shingle Style home fits the character of the neighborhood.

Designed by Gordon Clark of Northside Design Associates and built by Nordy’s Construction, the Shingle Style home fits the character of the neighborhood.

Completed this spring, the Brownes’ brand-new home sits a stone’s throw from the sprawling fields of the Fennel estate, high on a nearby bluff. The 3,000-square-foot Shingle Style home on a quarter of an acre was built by David “Nordy” Nordberg of Nordy’s Construction, Inc. While they don’t yet live here year-round, the Brownes’ ultimate goal is just that. Designed by Gordon Clark of Northside Design Associates, the project is a stunning example of a successful collaboration among all parties involved and especially between the builder and the homeowners. “Nordy and Emily [Wendel] were phenomenal in every aspect. Nothing I asked was not done,” says Browne. “They made it fun and exciting.”

Custom details, a hallmark of Nordy’s Construction, abound in the four-bedroom, four-bathroom home. In the stairway alone, custom railing by Randy Souza of Harwich, high board and batten wainscoting, and a pair of oval windows turn what could have been an ordinary passageway between first and second floors into a master study in detail that is characteristic of the home in its entirety.

 Randy Souza of Harwich custom-crafted the stair rail.

Randy Souza of Harwich custom-crafted the stair rail.

This ingenuity culminates at the second-floor landing, which Emily Wendel cleverly designed and Greg Booth expertly built as an enclosed space and is now a cozy library/loft area. The transom window treatment, floor to ceiling built-in shelves and custom-designed cushioned window seat turn what is often wasted square footage into an inviting spot to watch TV, read a book or admire the view at sunset. Built-in bench seats are extra deep, with custom, overstuffed cushions and storage underneath.

As the interior designer on the project, Marina Case was instrumental in interpreting the homeowners’ desires. “Maggie wanted to emulate her Irish heritage with updated American flavor—fresh, young, nautical,” says Case, owner and principal designer of The Red Shutters in Warwick, New York. Case, who had worked previously with the Brownes, describes the Dennis home’s interiors as “light and restrained, but still traditional.” White bead board ceilings designed by Nordy’s, walls painted using Tallow by Farrow and Ball and white oak floors provided a crisp palette for Case to complement with both new and old furnishings, giving the home a comfortable, eclectic feeling.

Flooded with natural light from many windows, the great room includes a farmhouse dining table handcrafted from reclaimed wood by Bob Benson of Chatham’s Cape Cod Colonial Tables. The traditional-style table, surrounded by handcrafted Windsor chairs, brings a homey warmth to the room, as does an antique hutch Browne shipped over from Ireland.

The kitchen was designed to be very clean looking, with only hints of sandy colors.

The kitchen was designed to be very clean looking, with only hints of sandy colors.

At the other end of the great room is a kitchen with white cabinetry and Imperial Danby white marble backsplash and surround. A Jet Mist black marble top on the island grounds the light airiness of the kitchen, a note echoed by the Absolute Black marble fireplace surround in the first-floor sitting area. All the marble is honed, its soft patina playing up casual overtones. In between the traditional dining area and the contemporary kitchen, the sitting area with tufted, reupholstered antique chairs, a white-slipcovered couch and a metal-framed coffee table ties the two together, melding old and new.

In the upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms, irregular space configurations reflect the gambrel shape and gables of the exterior rooflines. Nordy’s responded by seamlessly incorporating challenging spaces into the overall design. For example, the ceiling in the master bath has opposing cathedrals, which gives the room not only extra height but also character. With its board and batten walls, custom cabinetry, double full-glass mirrors, soaking tub and glassed-in shower, the master bath is luxurious yet unpretentious. Meticulous tilework combining diagonal and horizontal placement by R.C. Civetti of Marstons Mills is an additional highlight.

Decorated by Case, bedrooms and bathrooms offer a pleasing mix of familiar yet fresh features, as in the bold-colored and large-patterned Thibaut and Serena & Lily wall coverings, and the Bungalow 5 furnishings that offer classic styling with a modern sensibility.

Even though there is a million-dollar view of Cape Cod Bay from the deck off of the master suite, Maggie Browne says that seeing the water is not what impresses her most about the house. “I love the balance between light and space and warmth,” she says. “We’re still pinching ourselves; we can’t believe it’s really ours.”

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