Toward the tip of Cape Cod, many architects, writers and artists found serene and sublime sites they felt were best served by mid-century modern designs. This house was originally built in 1953, has an architectural pedigree that traces back to Cranbrook Academy during the Saarinen era and even included a surplus WWII barracks. When architect Mark Hammer
encountered it, he saw that it needed some rejuvenation, some renovation, some reconsideration and some reassembling.
The resulting house is a carefully considered collage of spaces that respond to the context of the site and take advantage of the spectacular surroundings, as well as providing the residents with insulated winter quarters so that they can enjoy the house year round without wasting excess energy. More: 20 Spectacular Beach Houses
| Browse beach-house photosWhat kind of shape this house was in when you first encountered it. Which part is the addition? Did you completely gut the entire house?
The house was in good shape but was reaching the end of its original life cycle as it was fifty years old. To construct the addition, we took down the oldest portion which was a WW2 barracks and renovated the 1953 wing. The 1953 wing was originally free standing but was later connected with a kitchen. What are the surroundings like? Obviously you've taken great advantage of them with all of those windows.
The house is located in the Cape Cod National Seashore and sits on a knoll above two kettle ponds. The ocean is a short walk through the woods. There are very few houses nearby and the location is very peaceful.I know a lot of the modern houses down toward the tip of Cape Cod were built by architects, artists and writers. Do you know the history of who had this house built? Do you know who the architect was?
The original architect for the butterfly wing addition to the barracks was Henry Hebbeln (1915-1962). Hebbeln built many notable homes and his work was featured in House and Home
, Architectural Record
and other publications. He studied at Cranbrook Academy with Eero Saarinen and worked for Alvar Aalto in Finland and William Lescaze in New York before starting his practice.What were your clients' needs with this house?
The original house was uninsulated and therefore only usable in the summer. The addition provides them with a year-round country retreat. With the door to the 1953 wing closed, the addition was designed to be a fully functioning home with an eat-in kitchen and a small "living room". They entertain a great deal and the house is used frequently by house guests and their children who are in their forties. The home office on the top level provides a work space with amazing views of the ponds. The deck expands the outdoor entertaining space.I'm going to pre-empt some of the comments I know we'll get about the safety of that amazing woodstove - does the outside of it get really hot? Is it safe for children?
Like any stove the Fireorb does get hot. There is a raised circular custom made concrete hearth which provides a good border and reference. I have never heard of any problems. By the way it also rotates to face either the dining room or living room. How did you approach the plan of the house - can you tell us a bit about the private vs. very open communal spaces? How did you take advantage of the surroundings with the new addition and the outdoor spaces?
The new wing was designed to provide a new master bedroom, master bath, sitting room and office. It is the private portion of the house but is zoned with pocket doors to allow visitors to access the roof terrace or the master bath without entering the bedroom. The previous master bedroom became the primary guest bedroom and an additional bedroom is located across a small indoor courtyard.
In addition to the roof terrace there is a deck along the west and north side of the house and an outdoor dining room under the pergola just outside the kitchen. The pergola is an extension of the sunshade which keeps the house cooler in the hot summer months. Natural ventilation is also provided by awning windows tucked under roof overhangs which capture prevailing breezes even in inclement weather.Please tell us a bit about the material choices you made - how they relate to the original house and the surroundings. I am particularly taken by those gorgeous wood ceilings. What kind of wood is that?
The ceilings are fir laminated decking, it is also the structural roof decking. There are four inches of rigid insulation on top of the decking. It keeps the roof profile thin and allowed us to match the old roof thickness. The floors in the addition are fir to match the original. The kitchen and bath floors are Italian ceramic tile. Was there any particular precedent that was in the back of your mind when you were designing this house?
Our practice is about designing buildings that are appropriate to their context and environment. This was an opportunity to preserve and breathe new life into a mid century modern treasure as well as to design an addition that relates and compliments the original home in a way that creates a wonderful architectural assemblage. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If you'd like, please tell us a bit about yourself and your career path and/or what inspires you in your career.
After graduation, I came to Cambridge, MA to work at The Architects Collaborative. Although TAC was now a big firm and I was working on large commercial projects and schools, I was really inspired by the firms original residential projects such as Six Moon Hill, a residential development in Lexington designed by the original partners as a neighborhood for themselves.I'm going to have to look that project up, it sounds fascinating. Readers, if you are interested in learning more about how to learn more about and support the preservation effort for the mid-century homes on Cape Cod, be sure to check out The Cape Cod Modern House Trust. They provide house tours and lectures about the architectural legacy of Cape Cod's modern treasures. Thank you to Mark Hammer for sharing this wonderful home with us!