They must have looked at 40 houses before they saw this one,” says Rob MacNeille, principal architect of the Essex design-build firm Carpenter & MacNeille. He recalls how Nicolay and Natalia Bogachev, originally from Moscow but now at home in Luxembourg, hunted for a pied-à-terre when their children began attending boarding school in Massachusetts.
“They looked all along the coast, north and south of Boston,” MacNeille says. “They knew they wanted to be on the water, but beyond that, had no preconceptions. When they saw Selkirk, they fell in love. He adds in a wry tone, “Of all the houses they toured, they fell in love with the one in the worst shape.”
Perched on a granite ledge beside the Annisquam Lighthouse at the edge of Ipswich Bay, Selkirk is a poetically perfect example of late 19th-century New England Arts and Crafts architecture. When the Bogachevs first saw it in 2003, the house was in near-original condition—the best and the worst thing about it, according to MacNeille. “The good thing was that no one had ever messed with a very beautiful, unusual house,” he says.
“Everything about the design shouts 1890s to me,” MacNeille explains. “It has the steeply pitched roofs, multiple gables, exposed rafter tails, and irregular massing of the best Shingle-style and Arts and Crafts vacation homes of the time. Annisquam was as fashionable then as now, but we don’t know much about the house’s origins, except that it was a summer home most likely built around 1895.” But there was bad news: “The bad thing was that the house needed everything,” MacNeille says.
While Selkirk still boasted lovely architectural details like the graceful finial and drop pendant decorating the arch over the front door, the old summer place was drafty and cold, with a barely winterized basement and a hodgepodge of leaky replacement windows. The main rooms were camp-like, with unplastered studs and rafters, painted a utilitarian, unvarying white.
MacNeille says, “We left the original footprint alone and added what was needed. Besides winterization and system modernization, we made provisions for cars, home offices, and guests. Also, we corrected the one flaw: Like many houses a hundred years ago, Selkirk did not take full advantage of a spectacular site.”
MacNeille’s design, which added nearly 3,000 square feet, replaced a two-story porch with an attached garage that angles away from the house. An apartment houses guests below the car level; above, an office with gorgeous views provides work space for Nicolay. A semicircular terrace opens from the living room to the ocean view, providing the easy access to the water that had been missing.
Carpenter & MacNeille’s headquarters, located in a historic barn that once housed the generator and trolley cars of the Cape Ann Line, include a fully equipped and staffed woodshop, where Selkirk’s new windows were built. Their design was based on the single remaining original: a pair of tall four-over-10 lights topped with four-light transoms to the right of the front door. “For us, this was a delightful project because we could do everything,” MacNeille says.
The interior design, also executed by Carpenter & MacNeille, features faithful reproductions of traditional English and New England furniture. The dining room demonstrates the subtle sophistication of the decor with a ceiling painted a paler shade of the neutral wall color. Large new windows set into the redesigned dormer wall in the master bedroom ensure that nothing competes with the view.
MacNeille says, “Since the house had never been finished beyond the level of studs and rafters, rebuilding the interior was mostly a matter of [adding] rather than taking away. The new bedroom wall was one of the few structural changes we had to make.”
The Bogachevs’ affection for their American perch turned it from pied-à-terre to favored getaway. Now in college, the younger Bogachevs use the house as a weekend retreat; their parents for work and family leisure time.
But Selkirk is free of the Russian or Eastern European influences one might expect the homeowners to bring with them to the North Shore. “The furniture and art were purchased specifically for this house,” MacNeille explains. “The Bogachevs wanted a genuinely American house; that was part of what they loved about Selkirk in the first place. Their interior and exterior design goal was to make the house look as it might have originally.”
Along with their architect and builder, the homeowners succeeded brilliantly. Selkirk looks like a picture-perfect piece of history, albeit one with all the comforts of the 21st century.