A family summer home gets a fresh attitude by blending old with new
For a full decade, Lance and Tracy Isham discussed renovating their classic, shingled cottage on Cape Cod that has been in Tracy’s family since the 1940s. Why the foot-dragging? "For years," says Tracy, "I didn’t have the heart to make changes. It still felt like my mother’s house. It was vitally important to retain the feeling of home for the whole family."
Nonetheless, their extended family and post-retirement lifestyle (the two use the place as home base) demanded the structure’s overhaul. The goal was a seamless renovation, blending old with new to conjure up a fresh attitude for year-round living without marring the summerhouse spirit.
Seen here is the sunroom, perfect for morning coffee and naptime for Lucy
("We call her Lucky Lucy," says Tracy).
Architect: Douglas E. Dick, LDA Architects, 222 Third St., #0222, Cambridge, MA 02142; 617/621-1455, lda-architects.com.
Interior design: Michael Cox and Mary Foley, Foley & Cox Interiors Inc., 5 E. 20th St., New York, NY 10003; 212/529-5800.
Contractor: Craig Ashworth, EB Norris & Son Inc., 138 Osterville W. Barnstable Rd., Osterville, MA 02632; 508/428-1165.
Photography: Bruce Buck
Produced by Jenny Bradley
The sunroom furnishings were left casual, but updated with hard-wearing Sunbrella outdoor fabric. The blues of the room mirror the colors of Nantucket Sound.
The project started as an update of the main living areas, plus a two-story bump-out to one side of the house that would accommodate a master bedroom and sunroom/library/office. Then, when structural issues were uncovered, it snowballed into a complete renovation. "In the end," laughs Lance, "it was in essence a teardown—we just did it on the inside."
The living room layout remained the same, but larger, more energy-efficient windows replaced their drafty predecessors—adding a real comfort factor for Lance. "It’s nice to be able to read the Sunday paper there without having it flapping in the breeze," he jokes.
In fact, the flow of the living room stayed more the same than anyone originally intended. "It was funny," says interior designer Michael Cox. "We probably drew up 10 different furniture arrangements for the living room, but we ended up using the exact same arrangement the family had long enjoyed."
"We developed an interior concept that would maintain the home’s history and continue to reflect the personality of the family," says designer Cox. "For example, the footprint of the dining room did not change, but additional ceiling height was captured during the renovation, and new wood floors were installed. The raffia-covered walls had been redecorated over the years with white paint. We took them back to the original concept by choosing an updated, natural raffia-weave wall covering."
The family’s antique dining table was retained; the side chairs were reupholstered in summery stripes. The host chairs were custom-made to provide extra seating.
This triptych is the inspiration for the sun, water, and sky palette in the dining room.
The kitchen once had all the charm of the set of The Honeymooners, laughs Lance. Old green linoleum has been replaced by walnut floors accented by marble counters.
The newly added library gives Lance a quiet place to work, and its shelves give Tracy space for cherished collections, including a a shadowbox by Anthony Antine called A Gentleman’s Club.
Black lacquered walls set off the crisp white woodwork in the Ishams’ family room. Horizontal stripes add a fresh twist to draperies.
Upstairs, a warren of five small rooms became three amply sized bedrooms thanks to the addition of the second-floor master suite. Ironically, this new space is now one of Tracy’s very favorite spots in the house. "I love my bedroom," she says. "My children think there is a real chance I could become a shut-in. In the summer, it feels like being in a tree house when you look out over the tops of the trees. In the winter, there are great views of the water."
The deck—the stage for many parties, including Lance’s annual neighborhood barbecue—and the pool were built by Tracy’s parents.
Clearly, Jim and Tracy are sold on the new look and livability of their renovated home. But the true test came a couple of Thanksgivings ago, when the entire clan converged to see and stay. "I was so nervous about my stepfather's reaction. He joined our family when I was young and loved the house, too," says Tracy. "But he came and pronounced that he loved everything we did. The heart of the place is still here, but it's now a more substantial home."