Some things are worth the wait. For one Ipswich couple, who had always envisioned living on the water’s edge, seeking out just the right property required equal parts patience and perseverance. Living with their two children near town, they kept an eye on available seaside properties via online searches and hopeful drive-bys. Years passed, and a few possibilities arose, but nothing solidified.
Eventually, after 15 years of searching, lightning struck. “I was in the office one day and noticed a piece of land in Ipswich that we hadn’t seen before,” recalls the husband. “Once we drove there, we knew immediately that it was perfect for us.”
Like most parcels in the seaside community, their desired lot was small and narrow but as compensation afforded a high vantage point with views galore. The owners turned to local architect and family friend Art Dioli, principal at Olson Lewis Architects in Manchester, to develop a new, year-round home in place of the property’s existing small Cape.
“We had worked on projects together before, and the owners really appreciate good design and were intimately involved in all of the decision-making,” says Dioli of his clients. “Their willingness to make the effort, listen to ideas, and take the time to evaluate the best opportunities made the whole process very collaborative and enjoyable.”
Juggling the owners’ wish list, including a two-car garage, with the lot’s limitations and town building codes was no small feat. Dioli’s resulting layout, an efficient ell that stretches both toward and along the water’s edge, accommodates required setbacks from the property boundaries and septic as well as a 25-foot height restriction. Eight gables minimize the roofline while enabling surprisingly high ceilings on the second floor, and a wraparound porch expands the home’s living area without inhibiting neighbors’ sightlines.
The Shingle-style exterior, punctuated by a custom fir front door, exemplifies classic seaside architecture. Realizing that the exterior materials would take a beating from the elements, the owners worked with Dioli and contractor Anderson Contracting Services to prioritize durability. The wraparound porch’s ipe decking fits the bill and is also eco-friendly (the certified wood is responsibly farmed and harvested). On the porch’s water side, solid tempered glass railings, chosen instead of a traditional balustrade, optimize comfort by blocking out wind but not views.
Another of the owners’ wishes was for open-concept living, and Dioli delivered with a seamless flow of kitchen to dining room to living area. “Although the ceiling height is consistent throughout, varying treatments differentiate the spaces,” says the architect. “The dining room’s coffers are more formal yet also diminish the ceiling’s height, creating intimacy. The kitchen is marked by one large beadboard-lined coffer centered over the island, and the living room’s simpler treatment of crown molding tricks the eye into seeing a taller space.”
Interior designer Ken Dietz, owner of Boston-based Dietz & Associates, and his assistant Jennifer Virden approached the interior with one simple mantra: Allow the views to stand forward. “We didn’t want the furnishings or color choices to detract from the surrounding landscape,” says Dietz. Many of the colors echo tones from outside, including the dove-gray hickory floors, silvery-blue painted dining room walls and kitchen ceiling paint, and the kitchen banquette’s faux leather fabric.
Overall, the interior nods to tradition but not without the occasional, intriguing contemporary twist, including a photorealist oil painting of mason jars by Ken Orton in the dining room, Philippe Starck for Kartell ghost chairs in the kitchen, and floating shelves and sleek lighting fixtures in the bathrooms. Natural wood—a favorite material choice of the owners—appears in various guises, from the butcher block kitchen island top to the dining room’s fir bar, custom built by Ipswich Cabinetry, which also crafted the bathrooms’ floating vanities.
“To keep all of the millwork from appearing too traditional, which is difficult to do without painting it white,” comments Dietz, “we decided to float the vanities. It kept the house feeling light and airy.”
Forgoing masses of cabinetry to make way for view-embracing windows in the kitchen, Dioli re-upped the owners’ storage options with a nearby pantry. Outfitted in the same Jet Mist granite counters and Ann Sacks tile (“At 1 inch by 6 inches, it’s an updated version of a standard subway tile,” says Dietz) as the kitchen, the pantry welcomes everything from root vegetables to dry goods, arranged inside cabinets or on open shelving.
Two of the owners’ favorite haunts are the sunroom, which was initially destined to be a screened porch but was ultimately enclosed for year-round use, and their bedroom’s private balcony, a picturesque spot for morning coffee. “It faces southeast, takes advantage of the morning sun, and is protected from the wind by the gable massing for the master bathroom,” says Dioli.
For the home’s walk-out ground level, the architect carved out enough room for an office, wine cellar, gathering space, and a bathroom and sauna at-the-ready for anyone returning from kayaking, boating, or beaching. An outdoor shower, complete with a bonus door leading directly into the interior bathroom, further blends the line between outdoor and indoor living.
After the owners waited so long for this next chapter in their lives, it’s only fitting that the finished home fulfills their needs now but can also conform to their needs later (they reserved enough room for an elevator, if one is ever warranted). Outdoor entertaining, after-work kayaking, weekend boating, and year-round ocean views are their new reality. “We pinch ourselves every day. It’s just amazing,” they agree.
Olson Lewis Architects
17 Elm St., Manchester-by-the-sea, 978-526-4386
Dietz & Associates
27 Adelaide St. Boston, 617-983-2549