Architect Doreve Nicholaeff Designs Distinctive Coastal Homes



Photo by Eric Roth

Doreve Nicholaeff embraces “bold.” Whether she’s ramping up a home’s geometry with curves or straight lines or reawakening stalwart New England traditions with modern tenets, she abstracts from the past to create the new.

“I do tend to make bold moves,” admits Nicholaeff, whose signature homes dot some of Cape Cod’s most prestigious neighborhoods, including Osterville, where Nicholaeff Architecture + Design is headquartered.

“When working within a certain vernacular, I believe in studying and understanding the existing architecture, and then pushing beyond it,” she adds. Local materials and methods of exacting craftsmanship complement this process.

Whether designing a shingled Cape Cod beauty or a crisp, contemporary Rhode Island retreat, Nicholaeff conceives of each residence as a three-dimensional whole, taking into account not just interior elements but the continuous interaction of structure and landscape.

“When I approach a project, I think about the composition of the home within the land and their geometry,” explains the architect. “I am very passionate about how the pieces fit together and how they relate spatially. Each room and landscape is intended to evoke a special emotion. To me, that’s the epitome of architecture: feeling good in your surroundings.”

Before launching her own firm in 1986, Nicholaeff studied architecture at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and continued her education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she earned a Master of Architecture degree in Advanced Studies.

Specializing in architectural history, theory and criticism, Nicholaeff found herself drawn to practicing her subject matter rather than merely studying it.

Working for a series of prestigious firms in Boston and Los Angeles gained her valuable experience in both planning and commercial projects.

Establishing her own firm and focusing on residential design has given her the opportunity to work very closely with clients. Nicholaeff loves the process of working with her clients from inception to completion. “There is such a joy in creating a design solution,” she says.

This talented architect has transformed some of the coast’s more enviable properties into summer retreats. The completed residences, ranging in location from New England to Florida and abroad, speak for themselves, fulfilling their owners’ lifestyles while impressing
 from every angle.

Her distinctive stamp is apparent in a recently completed estate in Harwich, Mass., overlooking Wychmere Harbor. The project called for the design of a new main home, guest home and pool house.

While the prioritization of tradition was warranted – not only to accommodate the owners’ tastes but also the neighborhood’s aesthetic – Nicholaeff pushed for cleaner, simpler design elements when possible. “The exterior is traditional, but the interior is much more modern and open than expected,” she says.

In conceptualizing the 4,000-square-foot main home, she decided on a courtyard-style layout, with two symmetrical wings reaching towards the harbor in an angled formation. This geometry assures maximized water views but also intricately connects the interior living spaces with the outdoor landscape beyond.

At the base of the angles is the kitchen. “The owners wanted the kitchen to be central; everything radiates from it. It’s literally the heart of the house,” says Nicholaeff.

The cupola-topped, two-story space receives natural light from above and opens to the dining room on one side and the family room on the other.

Centered on the angles, the pool stretches back towards the property’s rear, away from the busy road. Just as the main home embraces harbor views, the pool house similarly embraces the pool while creating privacy to the rear.

The perfect hangout spot, the pool house contains an open-air lounge area, complete with stone fireplace, and two covered wings for a hammock and dining table.

It also provides shelter for grilling and a bathroom for a post-swim shower. Meanwhile, the pool’s terrace connects to an adjacent tennis court.

Equally enticing indoors and out, the estate fulfills its traditional destiny without sacrificing architectural intrigue. Classic with a modern twist, it looks good and feels even better.

For more information, visit nicholaeff.com.

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