A stately manor looking out over Stage Harbor provides an added dimension to the extravagant architectural design—one of the most stunning private collections of local artwork aroundBy Laurel Kornhieser | Photographs by Brian Vanden Brink
In artist Jim Holland’s depiction, Stage Harbor Light and its keeper’s house sit on the spit of land a little bit left of center. The scene is spare, minimal, serene. The painting hangs in the second floor master sitting room of a Chatham house where windows encompass the forty-eight foot tower intermittently among its many seascapes.
Hanging in an upstairs bedroom, a painting by Robert Cardinal proposes a different angle and captures a different mood: the lighthouse is off to the right, caught in the rosy glow of waning light. The sky is bathed in violet, the surrounding waters saturated in indigo. Yet another, larger version of the same scene, again by Cardinal, hangs above the family room fireplace. In this one, the water is more cobalt, and the sky, Chatham gray.
That this simple lighthouse should manifest in several versions throughout this home is appropriate. Like the landmark beacon, the home, too, presents a different façade, depending on the viewer’s perspective. Entered from the street, it is an antique Cape, circa late eighteenth, early nineteenth century. Crossing under the bridge that connects this portion of the house to the garage, the viewer confronts a formal circular courtyard, lorded over by a proud Georgian, with symmetrical lines, four squared, stout chimneys, and twelve-pane, shuttered windows.
If one were to scout the house from Harding’s Beach, where the lighthouse stands, one would see seaside shingle style finished in contemporary sensibility. Broad glass plates, most without dividers, face long porches framed by curvaceous cut-outs. On this side, a central bay of tiered windows interrupts the Georgian hip roof.
All styles merge in a U-shaped home that offers armed embrace to whoever enters its compound and exposes its outer curve to the placid Mitchell River on one side, Stage Harbor on another, and to charming Chatham village inland. The design answers the homeowners’ desire to have their new Georgian and preserve the original Cape that was on the property too. Originally, John DaSilva of Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects of Chatham produced two potential configurations for the site, and the logistically more challenging design won out. It involved turning the Cape ninety degrees and making it into a wing and one means of entry into the house. “The Cape faces the approach. You don’t even see the new house beyond it,” he says.
DaSilva calls the home’s design “eclectic,” a word that describes both its exterior and its interior. While so many homes overlooking the water are outfitted in nautical fabrics and furnishings, this home pays tribute to the owners’ wide interests. An upstairs hall displays framed posters of theater performances, museum exhibitions, and other events they have attended while traveling the world. Contemporary Native American pottery clusters line shelves in the living room, family room, and library. Antique toys lighten the morning mood of the breakfast nook with their disarming whimsy. Folk furniture and prints by Provincetown artist Peter Hunt are joined by works of fellow Cape Codder Ralph Cahoon in further keeping the house from taking itself too seriously. These varied pieces are so at home in this place designed with them in mind that DaSilva says: “Three months after the homeowners moved in, the house felt like they had been in it forever.”
The homeowners are not afraid of mixing and matching styles. While the antique Cape has been refurbished in a manner befitting its vintage—wainscoting, rich oriental carpets, toile wallpaper, colonial pineapple motifs—the Georgian portion pays homage not only to its own era, but also to the early twentieth century Arts and Crafts movement, (notably in the library tower) and to contemporary interpretations of traditional elements. Creating a sense of unity is the predominant palette. Yellows and blues alternate in their influence, sometimes striking a perfect balance, as in the family room, where daffodil yellows, crisp whites, and robin’s egg blues make for an energized mix.
In the kitchen, the blues deepen in the wallpaper, while the yellows become a bit creamier in the cabinetry. With its ample work surfaces spread across three islands, there is definitely room for too many cooks in this welcoming kitchen. The master suite continues the theme with variation, the bedroom and bath walls a more buttery yellow with blue serving as a quiet accent. This emphasis is reversed in the master sitting room, where bolder blues mingle with the waters of the harbor just outside its windows.
One room that represents a departure from this color scheme is the intimate living room, whose sophisticated air is derived from the buttermilk cream of the wallpaper and sea-foam green of the damask sofas. An arresting Turkish twist ottoman, vibrant folk doll sculpture, and a bevy of red poppies in a painting above the fireplace prevent the atmosphere from becoming too sedate. As in the family room and throughout the house, architectural flourishes add to the interest of the room. Painted woodwork, sculpted in mannerist detail, surrounds the Carrera marble fireplace face. In the family room, flattened abstracted leaves top decorative columns that define the room’s interior boundary, and there are finials on the mantel. DaSilva calls such flourishes “playful,” pointing to the waved soffit in the upper deck of the library as another example of an architectural detail “done for fun.”
While the homeowners have married elements from the past and present, far and wide, in this their year-round home, they have also given ample space to local artists.The North Gallery, one of two that span the Georgian portion of the house, showcases works by several Cape painters, including Jim Holland, Nancy Whorf, and Rob Brooks, who capture quintessential Cape scenes in their works, from Holland’s lighthouses to Whorf’s renderings of Provincetown to Brooks’ capture of Truro’s Day’s cottages. In the marble checkerboard foyer and in the living room hang other works by Whorf, and then there are those moody lighthouse scenes by Robert Cardinal.
This interplay of periods, styles, colors, and objets d’art—both local and global—is perfectly appropriate for a house overlooking Stage Harbor, so called as it was a staging area for ships in days past. DaSilva made sure that the most dramatic visual access to that harbor, the central bay of the backside of the U, resonated with that history. “The windows and the shallow curve are similar to what was found in captains’ quarters,” he says. Even the railing, suggesting a bit of Asian influence, offers a nod to the past: “The ships were outfitted in the harbor for transatlantic journeys, so the owners had worldly tastes and collections,” he says—much like the world travelers who currently inhabit this inspiring spot. Who wouldn’t be transported by an expanse that encompasses the shimmering waters of the Harbor, the sandy beach that supports the stalwart lighthouse, Nantucket Sound, and the open ocean beyond where the horizon is the only limit to perspective?