Shingle Style architecture began to establish its graceful notes along New England’s coastal boulevards in the 19th century, when the notion that grand houses needed heavy ornamentation was cast aside.
Composed as beautifully as a symphony, the style’s casual but elegant looks became de rigueur for wealthy city-dwellers who escaped to these sumptuous “cottages” in the summertime.
While many architects today replicate traditional Shingle Style in new houses, John R. DaSilva decided to tweak the iconic vernacular when he designed a beautiful seaside home in Chatham, Mass., on Cape Cod.
Encouraged by the homeowners, DaSilva – a principal of Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders, based in nearby East Harwich – embraced the chance to get playful.
“It’s meant to be a contemporary Shingle Style,” DaSilva says of the new home, named Windy Brae. The quirky touches, he says, are very much in keeping with the style’s original intention. “There’s a lot of Shingle Style built today, but most is strict replication,” he adds. “This is really contrary to the spirit of Shingle Style to begin with, which is very eclectic.”
Today Windy Brae has all the beauty of the architectural style, peppered with present-day details. Front porch columns, marked with vertical grooves, are blown up in scale and flattened to meet the same plane as the front of the house.
A fanlight above the front door, abstracted and oversized, looks almost as if cut from paper, while a screened-in porch with a contemporary “grotto” extends from one end.
These creative aspects, combined with Shingle Style’s traditional dormers, overhangs and gambrel, lend the home a subtle, whimsical charm while allowing it to fit in with the neighboring houses.
“The house is a Shingle Style for today,” DaSilva says. “Traditional Shingle Style builds up pieces. Windy Brae’s form is more subtractive than additive.”
It helped greatly that the homeowners were heartily on board with the concept, and that the woman of the house is an artist with a keen eye and excellent design sense.
“The owners said right from the start that they’re interested in things that are quirky and unique, within limits,” DaSilva says. “The wife is very aesthetically inclined, artistic and perceptive. She was very much involved in the design of the house, as much a collaborator as a client.”
Windy Brae, named after a coastal cottage in Bermuda where the couple often vacationed with their three daughters, is a natural fit with its classic oceanfront setting.
The landscape, designed by Hawk Design Landscape Architecture and Land Planning, located in Bourne, Mass., is framed with classic white hydrangeas and several strategically placed trees. Chatham Harbor, within view, is a major source of pleasure for the homeowners.
“We love watching the activity on the harbor during the day, the working fishing boats as well as recreational sailboats,” says the husband. “And then at night the ocean calms, the activity stills, the moon rises and we only hear the waves beyond the sand bars.”
When the couple’s daughters, now grown, visit, the family enjoys spending afternoons by the pool, tucked in a low point in the home’s rear.
The owners requested that as many rooms as possible have a water view, which led DaSilva to a rectangular footprint for the bluff-top site, running parallel to the waterfront.
The sensitive landscape decreed careful attention to environmental concerns. “Like any waterfront site on Cape Cod, there were environmental challenges from the start,” he says. “By law and good practice, you have to treat the site lightly.”
Polhemus Savery DaSilva, founded in 1996 by architect Peter Polhemus and Cape Cod builder Leonard Savery (now retired), has deep roots in classic seaside design.
DaSilva joined the firm shortly after its formation and became design principal in 2000. Aaron Polhemus, the company’s president and chief operating officer and the son of Peter Polhemus, led the construction of Windy Brae.
The firm has designed and built a variety of projects, receiving a bundle of awards and national recognition from the American Institute of Architects and the Design Build Institute of America, among other organizations. Recent commendations include three 2015 Chatham Preservation Awards and a 2014 Bulfinch Award from the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art.
Windy Brae’s easy, elegant tone carries seamlessly into its interior, with a pleasing balance of horizontal and vertical elements built at scales ranging from small to large.
The home’s gently curving exterior lines, including those on the ends of the exterior columns, are carried inside to columns and arches, such as the opening between the dining and living rooms.
Tall windows open the home to sunshine and spectacular views, including the outer beach and Atlantic Ocean. The open grotto, with table and chairs, offers a special place for shaded relaxation.
Measuring just over 5,000 square feet, Windy Brae’s two floors are divided by function, with living spaces downstairs and bedrooms upstairs.
Curving architectural details, which boost the interior’s casual feel, are juxtaposed with sharp vertical lines, such as those in the white enameled walls that frame the stone surrounds of the home’s four fireplaces.
The kitchen, designed by Classic Kitchens & Interiors in Hyannis, Mass., has the same graceful lines, including a soffit with a soft curve on one end, positioned above the round breakfast table.
Throughout the interior, muted tones of white and taupe are accented by burnished quarter-sawn oak floors and classic, clean-lined furniture, including upholstered pieces from Darby Road Home in Waltham, Mass.
For DaSilva and his colleagues, Shingle Style is a special subject, expressed in DaSilva’s books, Shingled Houses in the Summer Sun and Architecture of the Cape Cod Summer. It also has a special place in architectural history, as the first style developed in America and not a European import.
“I love it because it is a complex architecture that accommodates rather than excludes,” DaSilva says. “It allows invention that might be quirky, playful and interesting. Shingle Style is so flexible. It’s really about mannerism, not strict rules.”
For more information, visit psdab.com.
Image Credits: Photos by Brian Vanden Brink.