It wasn't until a friend of mine was getting married at the storied Wequassett Resort that I ever set foot in Cape Cod (despite having spent my college years nearby in Boston). Years later, when my family was trying to decide on a summer vacation spot after moving back east, we decided to give the Cape a try. We were pleased to find beautiful sand beaches, slightly cooler weather and an abundance of lobster rolls. (What more could a girl ask for?!) Our first successful summer has resulted in mutiple return trips and an enduring fondness for the area which is why today's featured locale as one of my favorite places is Cape Cod.
Image by Royal Barry Wills.
Anchoring the local architecture is the house style that takes its name directly from the area: the Cape Cod. This style began in the mid-17th century and many of the key elements of this style were designed in response to the local stormy seaside environment and climate:
- Steep roofs help shed rain and snow
- Originally, the centrally-located oversized chimney linked to fireplaces within each room to provide warmth throughout the house. Modern versions now place the chimney to the gabled end of the home
- Low ceilings and low profile of the overall home minimize the impact of the sea winds
- Shutters provide protection against storms (but are now largely aesthetic)
- Gabled dormers in more recent incarnations add light and utility to upper attic spaces
In addition, aesthetic choices lean towards simplicity and symmetry:
- Cedar shingle siding is left untreated to evolve over time from the natural tan color to a faded and weathered silver-grey
- Exteriors of the homes have minimal ornamentation and, often, wide white trim (though those hoouses with colorful trim and a color-coordinated front door can make for some fun exceptions)
- The front door was typically centrally located with two multi-paned double hung windows on either side. Slightly changing up the window placement results in the three-quarter- and half-Cape variants
- Dormers are symmetrically placed
- Colors used in interior decor are typically evocative of the surrounding environment (sea, sun and sand)
One of my favorite houses in our adopted neighborhood. I love the crisp, not-too-grand exterior and the abundance of hydrangeas in blue, white and deep purple.
The Cape Cod style experienced a revival in 1930s-1950s thanks to Royal Barry Wills who adapted the interior floor plan to reflect modern life.
These “Cape” homes were not simply period reproductions, but carefully reworked designs that responded to people’s desires for amenities like bathrooms, modern kitchens and attached garages. Their charm and popularity resulted from the seamless blend of old and new details, their straightforward construction and, above all, their livability.
Wills retained the general character of the original dwelling, which had a small entrance hall and a staircase that pressed up to a large dominant central chimney. At the same time he completely re-planned the living spaces, providing a good-sized living room, a dining room that opened onto a large porch, and an efficient service wing.
While I continue to covet the many beautiful examples of the local architecture (oh how I adore those weathered-grey shingles), I have officially become smitten by the sense of history, community and exuberant use of color. Here are a few of my shots from our recent trips.
Oh, and for the record, New York isn't the only place with a nexus of the universe...