Award-winning firm delights in designing spaces that blur the line between indoors and outdoors


A home designed by Nicholaeff Architecture + Design is an exquisite balance of fine design. With her experience, instinct, and artful eye, Doreve Nicholaeff AIA, the firm’s principal, hones this delicate balance whether the architecture has the heft of the traditional or is delightfully modern. Her firm’s work has brought a constellation of awards, the most recent the inclusion in Ocean Home’s Top 50 Coastal Architects 2022, for the fifth year.

Nicholaeff, who is based in Osterville, Mass., on Cape Cod, designs homes throughout the East Coast, from Maine to Florida. Each residence is imbued with a unique ambience that separates it from all others; the effect is incredibly freeing.

Nicholaeff revels in letting her imagination and skills flow freely when she steps into a project. A native of South Africa, she grew up seeing homes that embraced the natural world and invited casual movement between the indoors and the world outside.

Visualizing a subtle separation between the interior and exterior worlds brings her creativity alive. She has found the joy of embracing a soft fusion of the two environments. Oceanfront homes hold great appeal for Nicholaeff, since they allow her to celebrate the special relationship formed by the land, sea, and the always-fascinating skies above.

When a design is influenced so greatly by the ocean and sky, there is a natural focus on light. “You really have to think about the orientation,” Nicholaeff says. “If the view is north-facing, we catch and funnel as much sunlight as we can. In one north-facing home on Cape Cod, we pulled light from the south with clerestory windows and roof lights toward the north.”

Another oceanfront home designed by Nicholaeff Architecture + Design is oriented to bring ocean views to many rooms, including the primary bath and an artist’s studio. On the main floor of the house is a dramatic circular space with an island that serves as a prep area for drinks. This was a special request of the homeowner. “He wanted a bar where everyone would have a view of the water. It’s fun and engaging,” Nicholaeff says.

Last year, Nicholaeff and her staff designed a pool house and a treehouse – both have automatic screens opening completely to the outside. Again, there is the beauty of the soft line between nature and living quarters. The existing main house is very traditional, and the couple wanted “a family space that would be organic and part of the land and trees, even on a rainy day.”

While the pool house and tree house are structures with their own purpose, they very much have their own special identity. “It’s one of my favorite projects,” Nicholaeff says, with its serene setting and a cantilever deck that hovers over land.

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