Now that buildable waterfront lots are almost unheard of on Cape Cod, the new trend is to buy a property and raze the existing house in order to build a dream home. But not all homeowners are interested in erasing the bit of history an existing structure provides. Even though it can be labor intensive and sometimes cost more in the long run, renovating an older home can be immensely satisfying as this homeowner discovered after hiring E.J. Jaxtimer Builder, Inc. to completely renovate both the house and property he bought on a private island facing Cotuit Bay.
Photography by Dan Cutrona
Construction: E.J. Jaxtimer
“It was not a candidate for a tear down because it was so well constructed and had nice lines,” E.J. Jaxtimer says. “Cape Cod needs more people taking the time and energy to take an older home and update it. When they do, they have a beautiful finished product.”
Retaining a sense of history
The homeowner originally planned to buy another watch property, but as he was looking at comparable properties to check prices, this gem came on the market.
“We came over to see it and we just fell in love,” he says. “It has 4.62 acres and it’s really an estate, not just a house. But what we fell in love with was the view.”
The original house was built in 1925 and was mostly battleship gray with small windows, making the interior of the house very dark. The homeowner wanted to take maximum advantage of the incredible views so he hired Jaxtimer to add large windows facing the water wherever possible. He also wanted to remove the fireplace and wall dividing the kitchen and dining room so the kitchen, which is on the front side of the house, would share the views.
Once the work was started, the project grew in scope because the homeowner decided to make it a ‘green’ house, which meant gutting all the exterior walls and adding new insulation. He also put 36 photovoltaic solar panels on the back roof of the house that provide enough energy that his electric bill was only $8 last month. Two thermal panels on the front provide 100 percent of the hot water for the nearly 6,000-square-foot house.
The finished home is a seamless blend of old and new that preserved the best features of the house, while also making it thoroughly modern. The rustic beams in the coffered ceiling in the “Bay Room” are painted white to add an illusion of height, but the same style of ceiling is given a slightly different twist in the dining room, where the beams have been faux painted to look like vintage wood to match the antique table made by West Barnstable Tables.
Both the living room and dining room have retained the original wood tongue and groove paneling painted a soft cream, and the sunroom off the living room and the kitchen adjoining the dining room feature bead board in keeping with the feel of an old house. The only room that was untouched was the small butler’s pantry where the glass-fronted cabinets were the inspiration for the matching cabinetry in the kitchen.
Creating quiet spaces upstairs
On the second floor, a long hallway with ceilings that follow the cathedral peaks in the roofline provides drama and visual interest. The master suite is set apart to the left of the staircase, where two bedrooms were combined to create a bedroom, walk-in dressing room/closet and a master bath with a large glass enclosed shower and his and her sinks. In the master bedroom, architect Gordon Clark of Northside Design Associates used the eves of the roofline to create the backdrop for the bed with a shuttered circular window as the visual focal point.
On the backside of the house two bedrooms that share a bath in between overlook the water. The front bedroom is more private with calming vistas of the newly landscaped yard and woods. At the end of the hallway, a portion of the former sixth bedroom has been converted into a small but incredibly efficient office that offers the homeowner a bird’s eye view of his dock, boat and Cotuit Bay.
For the exterior of the house, the homeowner chose to keep the original antique cut-shingles and brightened them up with a coat of creamy butter-colored paint that contrasts nicely with the new green shutters.
“I am thrilled by the ambiance of the place and the fact that every room on the first floor and second floor all have large windows that overlook the bay and the many boats,” the homeowner says. “We don’t even have to turn on lights during the day because there is so much natural light coming into the house.”