Photography by Dan Cutrona
Design & Build: Hutker Architects
Buildable lots on Green Pond Harbor are impossible to come by. Quiet and tranquil, the small East Falmouth harbor is a throwback to a simpler era. Those who are lucky enough to live here, along with the marina’s boat owners, are an affable and modest bunch: grateful folks who appreciate the spot immensely. So when an idyllic, highly coveted harbor front parcel came up for sale, the current owners jumped at the opportunity to purchase it.
It would be the homeowners’ third property in the neighborhood: their other two houses are located side-by-side, next door. The couple, who lives year-round in New York City, uses one house as a summer residence; the second one is a retreat for their grown children and grandchildren. The third site appealed to the homeowners, who are avid sailors and have long moored a boat in the harbor, for its deepwater dock access, which neither of their other homes has. They also desired a structure that would offer an additional recreation area: “a playhouse, really, for both kids and adults,” says the homeowner.
To create a building that would complement their two existing houses, the couple relied on the firm that had designed them, Hutker Architects based in Falmouth, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
“The homeowners wanted to add a pool to the property, a place that would serve as a destination from the main houses. They also wanted space to house a caretaker who could maintain the property during the off-season,” says principal architect Charles Orr. “They looked to cheap replica watches us to design a structure that would serve as a glorified pool house with additional separate living quarters.”
Since the structure was intended to serve dual purposes, Orr, who worked on the design with Kevin Dauphinais and Erin Levin, decided that it made sense to slice the building in two parts. The left side encompasses an outdoor infinity pool and terrace, a gym and a garage on the ground floor. Upstairs is a bedroom suite with a living area and kitchenette. The right side contains a spacious great room with a full kitchen, living and dining area. The upper level contains an office suite with a Murphy bed as well as a roof deck with an amazing panorama of the harbor. On the exterior, the two sides are linked by a pergola. Inside, the entities are connected by a bridge. As one approaches the house, the bridge uniting the two volumes focuses the view of the harbor.
The structure encompasses just over 3,000 square-feet, and it was important to the homeowners that it didn’t appear too big, both in height and stature. “Splitting the house—having two smaller volumes, rather than one larger one—helps to minimize the overall scale,” says Dauphinais.
The right side of the house, where the family spends a great deal of lazy summer days, was designed to capitalize on the astounding view of the harbor and Vineyard Sound beyond. The great room propels out toward the water and floor-to- ceiling windows and doors are located on three sides, an affect that makes the area feel utterly encased in glass. When the doors and windows are open, the boundaries between inside and out are virtually indiscernible. An outdoor terrace with a fire pit and hot tub is sited a few steps down from the room, a strategic decision, says Orr, made so there can be activity outside without inhibiting the view from indoors.
The interior exudes the aesthetic of a casual beach cottage. “It’s the type of place where you are expected to have sand on your feet, where young kids are constantly running around,” says Orr. In the great room, a wood burning fieldstone fireplace serves as a focal point. Walls are sheathed in wood, painted white and ceilings echo the affect with exposed wood beams. To achieve a weathered patina, wide-plank oak floors were stained a bluish-grey. Kitchen cabinets, designed by the architects and built by Pocasset-based Shaw Woodworking, have the look of bead board paneling, and are complemented by dark soapstone counters. The homeowners wanted the spectacular setting and the architecture’s fine craftsmanship to be the dominant decorative elements, so additional flourishes were kept to a minimum. However, the interior is enlivened with a few artistic touches including custom art glass interior windows crafted by Cape Cod artist Bonnie Maresh, large black and white maritime photographs and a handmade mirror crafted out of driftwood.
Since the structure, which is built five feet above grade due to flood plain regulations, isn’t a typical residence, it doesn’t have a traditional approach with a front door and driveway. Rather, the approach is from the other two houses and a footpath connects the properties. To emphasize the pedestrian nature of the property, grass covers the ground in front of the garage. (The three houses share one central driveway.) On the lawn an elaborate wood swing set with all the options—chutes, ladders, swings galore—is every child’s dream. “It gets a lot of use by the grandkids,” says the homeowner with a chuckle. A true playhouse, indeed.