On the Osterville, Massachusetts, waterfront, surrounded by dunes and wetlands, stands Windswept, a new-construction summer residence whose sinuous Shingle-style design is a subtle salute to its seaside setting.

Gaze at the bell-shaped curve of its rooftop and what do you see? Is it a whale? A seagull? A manta ray? A wave? An ocean current?

John DaSilva, FAIA, didn’t have a particular nautical image in mind when he designed the house, and he really loves the idea that its true beauty lies in the eye of each beholder.

“Multiple readings enrich the architecture,” says DaSilva, design principal of Cape Cod–based Polhemus Savery DaSilva (PSD), a fully integrated architecture and construction firm. “Different readings can come from different people.”

Windswept, which gets its name from the beautiful ocean breezes that whisper seductively in its ears, was designed and built for a couple who have a profound love for traditional architecture.

“They requested a new house to replace the marginally functional non-historic house that had been on their property,” says DaSilva, adding that an existing guesthouse was retained and slightly renovated. “They also sought a somewhat formal character to contain a lifetime of collections of traditional furniture, artwork and antiques—but a formality mitigated by the need to also be a comfortable beach house for family togetherness and fun.”

Windswept, whose dramatic bell-shaped curved roof is clad with red cedar shingles and whose sidewalls are covered in Alaskan yellow cedar, references the neighborhood’s architecture and that of classic 19th- and early 20th-century New England seaside resorts.

“The neighborhood has some of the best Shingle-style houses on the Cape, so we took inspiration from them,” DaSilva says. “The style is relatively loose and malleable, so you can express shapes and geometry and images rather freely because the house is wrapped in a membrane of wood shingles, which unifies disparate elements.”

He points to the hand-crafted “playful eyebrows” at the porch openings, where the shingles pull away from the wall, curving in vertical and horizontal planes. “It’s an anthropomorphic detail with dynamic character,” he says.

Playing with scale to minimize perception of the size of the 5,191-square-foot house and “humanize it,” PSD selected larger shingles to create greater spacing between them and added oversize windows and muntins. 

“The form we have made is its own,” DaSilva says. “The proportions and the way we used the shingle style aren’t a copy of any other house. Its unique to the client and the location.”

The front, whose entrance is framed by a trio of grand arches and a door that’s a bit off center to offer views of the grand staircase, which is curved like a seashell, and the bay beyond, has fewer windows than the back, which faces the water.

“This house is in a dance between the formal and the informal,” he says. “The location of the front door is not strong enough to throw off the symmetrical balance, but it does weaken the formality.”

A two-story octagonal tower houses the breakfast room and library. It is connected to a one-story wing containing the family room and screened-in porch, each of which is defined by a soaring ceiling.

The wing’s undulating roof line suggests a nautical theme that’s open to interpretation. “Is it a boat or a sea creature?” DaSilva asks. “It’s evocative; it creates character.”

To satisfy the owners’ request for detail and tradition, DaSilva designed simplified classical pilasters, arches, ceilings and crown and dentil moldings that are in sync with the residence’s semi-casual look.

“I’m the molding queen,” the homeowner says. “I told him that the more he put in the happier I’d be.”

DaSilva more than obliged.

The living room, for instance, has a coffered ceiling and three archways that echo those at the front entrance, and the dining room and breakfast room are centered around dramatic handkerchief domes. 

“The domes pop up in the center but also hang down at the perimeter,” he says, adding that they were chosen because “they add character in spaces where there was limited ability to go higher.”

The classic architectural details, the homeowner says, “give the house charm and character.”

The house is sited so that all the major rooms have direct water views. The wing containing the family room and screened-in porch was angled to exploit the scenery. 

The “classic but comfortable spaces are ideal for entertaining,” the homeowner says, adding that “we love sharing our house with friends and family.”

When asked about her favorite parts of the house, she lists every room. “There are special things about all of them, which I know is unusual,” she says.

Indeed, the owners love the house so much that they keep delaying their departure for their winter home in South Carolina. “We are at Windswept in the spring and the summer and right through Thanksgiving,” the homeowner says.

“This is such a special house that will remain timeless,” says Aaron Polhemus, owner and CEO of PSD. “It is always enjoyable to see a project through our entire process—starting with permitting, then architectural design, landscape design, and overall construction. Completing a house and having the homeowners love it and their time there is the ultimate goal.” 

For more information, visit psdab.com