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Cape Cod Houses: Shingle-Style

Cape Cod Houses: Shingle-Style
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SLIDE SHOW: Cape Cod Houses

This is a story about summer and light. About inner and outer beauty and how a house reflects them both, on its own and in relation to the landscape around it. It’s about the yearning we feel here in New England when our brief but glorious season is finally upon us, and the bittersweet knowledge that it passes so quickly.

Where does our story take place?

Somewhere near water, with an ocean view handy, tucked into a secluded cove or perched on a knoll overlooking breaking waves. All right, let’s be partially specific: anywhere inside the boundary that encompasses Cape Cod, its watery silhouette as distinctive as Italy’s crumpled stiletto.

Here you can almost feel the pressure to relax. Instead, it’s easier to simply succumb to the vast expanses of light shimmering off water, the seductive breezes, and the rolling sound of stones and sand wearing down to nothing. Classic. Yes, today we’re chasing the classic Cape Cod summer, along with its amiable, Shingle-style abode.

But delivered with a twist. These are not the predictable houses we’ve come to love and expect.

“I always wanted to be an architect. As a kid I was fascinated with building sites. I’d bring home scraps and make stuff,” says John DaSilva, one of three partners at Polhemus Savery DaSilva, a Cape Cod-based design/build firm that’s been around since 1996, specializing in “Shingle-style” houses in coastal New England.

Which means what, exactly? You know it the moment you see it, a style synonymous with summer. “To me, the most pleasing Shingle-style houses look almost like balloons wrapped in shingles,” says DaSilva.

Dating back to the 1870s, the style is an eclectic jumble of French medieval, English country, and a bit of Japanese, all held together by shingle wrappers. “In the late 1940s, the great architectural historian (and Yale professor) Vincent Scully coined the phrase ‘Shingle style.’ He described an architecture that is very much an inspiration for us,” explains DaSilva. “It was the first truly new architectural invention on these shores.” But that was then, and this is now. “We’re not literal historicists,” he hastens to add. “We ‘recall’ the past, we don’t literally re-create it.”

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