Playful Design on a Salt Pond

By Laurel Kornhiser • Photography by Brian Vanden Brink

Dynamic—that is the word that best describes the Polhemus Savery DaSilva (PSD)-designed home overlooking a salt pond in Chatham. Though we may think of architecture and structures as stable, this home has a fluidity about it, by design.  The gable end of the front façade rises like a perfectly formed wave, or as John DaSilva, the home’s principal architect and designer, describes it, like “welcoming arms.”

And that is the thing about this façade. It can be read in more than one way. “The shape of the house, with its curving roof and big pregnant brackets to contain it is pretty playful,” DaSilva says.  “It’s intended to be open to interpretation. That makes it more fun and more likely to resonate with a variety of people.” As with all things expanded through imagination, these playful resonances “may or may not be there,” DaSilva says.  “It depends on how you see it.” The homeowners, a couple from Connecticut who are nearing retirement, were open to suggestions, including the curved roof: “It was not something they specifically asked for, but it was something they liked when we proposed it,” DaSilva recalls.

Another dynamic and whimsical element is the weathervane spinning in the wind atop the pitched roof.  It depicts a golfer. He is not upright, hand poised atop his club, standing in a satisfied position.  Rather, he is cracking his club over his knee in frustration, a feeling familiar to most golfers.  Jerry Durr, PSD’s architectural project manager for the house, posed for the custom-made weathervane. A metal worker then traced his digital silhouette onto copper.  The weathervane not only nods to the homeowner’s interest, but also to the 18-hole golf course just uphill from the home.  A green for one of the holes is, in fact, within eyeshot of the house. If a golfer fails to send his ball over the surrounding marsh, and it instead plops in the briny water, DaSilva jokes, “He can turn around and look at the weathervane with the golfer breaking his club over his knee and do the same.”

The golf course and the salt marsh add to the dynamic setting of the home, but the star attraction is the salt pond and Pleasant Bay into which the marsh feeds.  The scene from the home’s waterside is ever changing, from the shifting colors of the water and sky to the many boats coming from and going to the open ocean. When PSD’s clients bought the property, a house, guesthouse and office occupied the land, but the original house was a bit too close to that water: “It was literally right on the beach. It was rather precarious,” DaSilva says, adding, “It must have flooded frequently.”

For the main home to take full advantage of its protected views, DaSilva created a design full of surprises.  The home expands from one-and-a-half stories on the street side to two stories facing the water.  This configuration, DaSilva explains, “keeps the scale down in the front and allows for a less imposing, more horizontal house.” Of the four second-story bedrooms, three enjoy water views, while the fourth overlooks the golf course.

In addition to its setting and its front façade, the home derives energy from the interplay of traditional and contemporary aspects.  The second-story windows are bordered by shutters, a design the homeowners preferred. “They wanted a more traditional look, as opposed to the modern feeling of ganged windows,” DaSilva says.  The master bedroom and the guest bedroom at the opposite end of the house gain added light and expanded vistas from tall arched windows that rise into dormers and from banked windows on the less public sides of the rooms. Smaller windows and portholes act as exterior accents and as openings for shafts of light.

From the water, the property slopes up to the golf course.  When the original structures were taken down and the new house was built higher up the hill, the coastal bank was restored.  Luckily for the homeowners, the dock and panoramic views were grandfathered. This was not the case for the property next door, which the couple purchased during the construction of their new home.  Conservation restrictions prohibited clearing that lot to open up to the views, so the existing house, now renovated by PSD as a guest house, nestles in the trees.

In a nod to the colors of Chatham itself, with its dignified white neoclassical sea captains’ homes, sapphire blue ocean, brilliant blue summer skies, foggy blue-gray mists, and sandy beaches, Susanne Lichten Csongor, founder of SLC Interiors of Cotuit and Hamilton, Mass., outfitted the home in crisp whites, creams and tans, with accents in a spectrum of blues: from the slate blue of the kitchen island to the nautical blue of the living room ottomans—the navy blue in the master bedroom’s window treatments to the hydrangea and cornflower blues in the guest rooms. “The blue tones were inspired not only by the coastal setting, but they also happen to be our client’s favorite color,” Csongor says. The home’s open floor plan, she continues, “makes entertaining and large family gatherings a breeze—as well as providing a sense of airiness throughout.” By using a neutral and blue palette, she says, “we were able to create a unified space that helps to achieve the casual openness our clients were after.”

Just as there are a variety of spaces for relaxing inside, including a built-in window seat on the landing of the staircase, so are there several discrete areas for gathering outside. The fieldstone fireplace inside is matched outside—the centerpiece of a perfect spot for opening a bottle of wine from the wine cellar and reminiscing on a cool fall evening.  When summer is in full swing, the partially screened-in waterside porch and a broad terrace provide prime viewing of passing watercraft and waterfowl.  A petite balcony above the office offers an intimate spot for sipping cocktails, while watching returning sails against the backdrop of the setting sun.

Though this house is designed for seaside ease today, it nods to the past with its shingle style and classic revival elements. But from under its broad gable eyebrow, it seems to be winking at the future.