Its name says it all. Perched on the rocky edge of Eastern Point in Gloucester, the home aptly named “Due South” is a practiced study in Shingle-style architecture with glimpses of Victorian nuance. As the inlaid compass rose reveals in the front entry, the home’s ocean side faces directly south and enjoys a 180-degree swath of unadulterated Atlantic goodness.
But the property wasn’t always so glorious. When the owners purchased the lot in 2014, the land was punctuated by a boxy 1980s development home completely lacking in character and not properly outfitted for year-round living. “It was incongruous to the neighborhood and setting,” admits architect Mathew Cummings, principal of Ipswich-based Cummings Architects and conductor of the structure’s eventual and dramatic transformation.
During the very first meeting with his clients, the architect started sketching ideas for a new iteration right off the bat. “He placed tracing paper over a picture of what existed and started drawing intently,” remembers the husband. “He was like an artist; he had an immediate vision, and the house, barring some tweaks along the way, looks pretty much like what he put down on paper that day.”
Cummings maintained the original structure’s footprint and high roofline, superimposing a new Shingle-style exterior over its gutted bare bones. Making the façade asymmetrical allowed for “wonderful diversity,” he adds. Each layer of architectural detail, from the horizontal banding and wave-patterned shingles to the gable’s panels and the front portico, serves the same purposes: breaking down the home’s scale, maintaining proportion, and adding visual interest.
“Shingle-style homes are an exercise in proportion and detail, which is fun. You add and subtract until everything is harmonious, until the eye travels easily across it,” contends Cummings, who had the builder, Clark Associates create a mock-up of the trim boards, millwork, and other key architectural features to ensure that each decision worked in the real world.
“We took great care to make the house perfect, the way someone would have made it 100 years ago,” the architect summarizes.
Yet another tenet of Shingle-style design is employing colors derived from nature, which led to Due South’s striking silver-blue hue. According to Cummings, “We reviewed all of the natural tones in the area and were inspired by the site’s background of sky and ocean beyond.”
With their two daughters grown and no longer living at home (though they visit often with their friends and love it here, notes the wife), the owners focused on their own lifestyle needs during the design’s fine-tuning. Connecting the interior to the views, forgoing a formal dining room for an open-concept main living area, and reserving enough wall space for their art were all prime considerations.
“Most of our time is spent in the open kitchen area. We entertain a lot, and everyone congregates around the island,” note the owners, who worked closely with Cummings Architects designer Chloë Rideout to choose paint colors, fixtures, and lighting. Another favorite hangout spot is the great room, where marine paintings mingle with a formal granite fireplace, its material choice a nod to Gloucester’s granite landscape. The painting over the fireplace was commissioned specially to show the Boston wharf where the husband’s Italian grandfather used to unload fish. Right next door is the piano room, built specifically for the husband’s Bosendorfer grand; the room doubles as a study for working at home.
The wife’s domain is the kitchen, where classic materials—oyster-colored cabinets, white granite countertops, and handmade subway tiles—make for ageless style. A bank of lower cabinets, complete with bar sink and wine fridge and sited on the water-side wall, allows for quick access to drinks and food from the deck. Outdoor living considerations also resulted in an orderly, nautically themed mudroom and powder room off the garage in the finished basement, where owners and guests alike can refresh from the backyard.
The couple’s oil paintings, many by famous Cape Ann artists, adorn every room and hallway, from the second-floor master suite to the finished basement. Cummings included picture molding in the millwork scheme for their proper hanging on wires; Rideout mapped out lighting for each one.
“Our goal at every turn was to create a home with timeless detail that would never go out of style,” sums up Cummings, who succeeded in view maximization as well: Every room, besides one bathroom, interacts with the ocean expanse.
In practice, the house exceeds the couple’s expectations in every way, and the fact that they nearly didn’t buy it is now a distant memory. “At the beginning, we thought we would find a beach house to enjoy on weekends,” relates the husband. “But then it dawned on us that we could build a year-round home, on the sea but commutable to Boston, and roll everything into one. Now it’s like we’re on vacation every day.”