Fortunately for little bare feet, there are few toe-stubbing thresholds dividing inside from out in the Lovato family's breezy Cape Cod summer house. Patrice and Walter's four children pad happily across gently worn interior chestnut floors to a sun-warmed plank porch and the cool grassy lawn beyond.
This seamless connection lures the Lovatos from their San Francisco home to the Massachusetts cape for most of the summer, with Walter flying back and forth for his work. They're not alone, however. Walter is Italian, and much of his family lives in Europe. So, come summer, his parents fly from Italy and a brother from Paris. Nephews, cousins, some with nannies in tow, also make the trek from Europe to the Cape for a holiday in the sun.
"This is a happy extended family," says Maureen Footer, Patrice's sister and the interior designer who helped the family renovate. "They are an old-fashioned, easygoing family that embraces a sort of la dolce vita or que sera sera vein in the summer."
The Lovatos bought the historic house in large part because it sits midway between California and Europe, simplifying family gatherings. However, the original 1817 house, while charming, could not comfortably accommodate the six Lovatos and their extended family and friends.
Patrice says she and Walter loved the Cape, the old house, and the property, which was once part of an old cranberry farm. But in order to make the house workable, they needed to increase the number of bedrooms and square footage considerably. The challenge was how to do that without spoiling the historic and rural qualities of the property. No one wanted to tack a mansion onto the back of an 1817 farmhouse.
Because Footer lives in New York City and the Lovatos in San Francisco, Patrice asked for her sister's help. The designer started by introducing Patrice and Walter to Massachusetts architect Reed A. Morrison. "He has a great understanding of vernacular Cape Cod architecture and also modern design," Footer says.
He brought both aesthetics to the project, proposing the Lovatos renovate the existing old house and expand on its history with a barnlike addition. "The thought was, if you add a barn onto a house, it can be any size and look appropriate, and the existing residence would retain its small-house feel," Morrison says. The town's historic commission agreed, and the two-level lofted structure added about 2,665 square feet of living space that blends gracefully with the New England landscape.
The barn inspiration continues inside, as well. An open floor plan has the great room, kitchen, and dining room sharing a 32x65-foot space. A metal staircase leads to a loft, with a playroom and guest bedrooms. Wood plank ceilings accented by white-painted trusses peak at 25 feet. Skylights and large windows and doors facing all four exposures flood the interiors with light. "It is an open, expansive, barefoot kind of architecture," Footer says.
She and the contractor handpicked salvaged chestnut for floors, which adds warmth and connects the new addition to the house's past. "You can see the old nail holes; nothing was filled. It adds a lot of character," Footer says. "From the start, we wanted a sense that the house was part of a continuum--that it reflects the past but also embraces modern lifestyles simultaneously."
The kitchen is appropriately centered in the addition, with views to the porch, dining room, and great room. "This is an Italian family cooking, so the kitchen was central to that experience," Footer says. A massive 10x4-foot island is topped with a solid slab of two-inch-thick Calcutta Gold marble, providing visual weight. The island cabinets are fastened with chunky nickel latches that resemble those on vintage refrigerators. "Patrice was adamant about finding those," Footer says. "They're so tactile and have this sense of the 1920s that really appealed to her." Footer designed ribbed-glass light fixtures that hang on a nickel bar above the island. "The spheres are Murano glass, which ties back to the family's Italian heritage," she explains.
The old house was carefully renovated, right down to the foundation. Original floors were refinished and plaster ceilings were removed to expose the rough-hewn floor joists. "I love old houses," Patrice says. "Retaining the old house and as many old elements as we could was very important to us."
Footer tapped classic New England designs when furnishing rooms in the old house but often added fresh twists. Wing chairs by the fireplace in the keeping room are covered in a zippy green-and-white fabric that gives an updated look to a traditional flame-stitch design. Behind the settee are sea urchin-inspired lamps that share lighting duties with historical candle-style sconces.
Antiques that are reminders of the Lovatos' trips to Europe are spotted throughout the house, including metal shelves from an Amsterdam library and a dining table from a Paris flea market.
"That was part of the spirit of the house," Footer says. "They wanted to infuse it with their personalities, with Americana, with Europe, and with summer, yet not overpopulate it with stuff. In the end, the balance really came out wonderfully."
Photography: Werner Straube
Produced by Stacy Kunstel
Architect: Reed A. Morrison, Reed Morrison Architect, 113 Pond St., Osterville, MA 02655; 508/428-8379, reedmorrisonarchitect.com. Interior designer: Maureen Footer, Maureen Footer Design, 30 E. 95th St., Suite 7C, New York, NY 10128; 212/207-3400, maureenfooterdesign.com.
Builder: C.H. Newton Builders, 919 Main St., Osterville, MA 02655; 508/428-5528.