A Massachusetts couple levels an old eyesore to build anew on a dream plot of waterfront land. 

Sarah and Ian Hart were determined to live by the ocean. But when they found a spectacular waterfront lot perched atop a 72-foot bluff in Marblehead, MA, it had an obvious flaw: the house that had stood there since the 1950s.

“We fell for a beautiful piece of land and knew that this was the spot,” says Sarah. “But the house was uninspiring, in need of repair, and it was moldy. Then, we found out that it was also non-conforming because it was too close to the property line. This meant that any potential renovations would trigger municipal permitting issues.”

The solution was clear: Tear down the house and build a structure that would conform to zoning regulations. This also provided the couple with the opportunity to indulge in their personal preferences. “Ian left the major design decisions to me. I knew I wanted a Shingle-style house, and I wanted it to be light and airy,” says Sarah. “Originally, I am from Vermont, and I am enamored of that state’s native stone, so this was also a chance to incorporate a lot of stone work.”

To realize their goals, the Harts turned to Paul Muldoon of the Beverly, MA-based architectural firm Siemasko+Verbridge, who responded with a design rooted in the area’s coastal traditions while also meeting an active young family’s various needs. The result is a 10,000-square-foot residence that is clearly a Shingle-style house, but with a light-filled interior unknown at the turn of the 20th century, when the house style was a favorite of New England’s waterfront homeowners.

Siemasko + Verbridge, Marblehead, Massachusetts, Ocean front home

The home’s kitchen is airy and filled with light

“We wanted to capture the views that are all around,” Sarah explains. “We got that, along with architectural interest in each room.” This includes an entry and main rooms that boast richly coffered ceilings, a barrel-vaulted garden room that leads from the garage to the kitchen, and a large cook’s kitchen that flows into the dining room and the living room beyond. The great expanse of space became possible through the use of steel beams in the ceiling.

Just off the front entry foyer is a small library richly paneled in cherry. “That room, to all of our surprise, has become the favorite space for every family member,” Sarah says. “The woodwork grows richer every day; it is simply a wonderful room in winter. The kids do their homework by the fire, and it’s my husband’s favorite place to read.”

The house design incorporates a diamond motif, which appears in the form of windows that flank chimneys and fill eaves, as well as in ornamental shingle patterns and adjoining triangular elements in the ceiling coffers. The master bedroom features a dramatic corner in which the ceiling rises up two stories. The roof atop the rambling two-story house is slate, the most historically correct material for the Shingle style. “It is also a great idea when you consider the storms that tear in off the Atlantic,” the homeowner explains. “We have seen roofs flying off houses.”

Muldoon designed a home whose liberal use of stone is a special delight to Sarah. “When the builder told me they had sourced the stone for the chimneys, the fireplace walls, the patios, and the mudroom floor, it was a special delight to learn that it came from the town next to where I grew up in Vermont,” she says.