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The Making of a Modern Organic Beachside Retreat

An organic, modern oceanfront retreat in New England with a California flair

It isn’t every day that a Cape Cod home on the ocean becomes available, says Lindsay Bentis, founder and principal of Thread by Lindsay Bentis. Such homes, with their sandy heirloom settings, remain in families for generations. After looking for such a property for years, and making memories with her family further inland, a longtime client of Bentis (her first, in fact) and Owner/Project Executive Steven Overstreet of S.J. Overstreet Construction Co., Inc. finally had the opportunity to purchase a home on the shores of the Atlantic. Patience had delivered paradise.

The location was exactly what they had been looking for: a narrow stretch of land crowned by golden coastal vistas, which, hails Bentis, “are the most spectacular views of any house I’ve ever seen on the Cape.”

Oceanview from private deck of a modern Cape Cod beach home

Initially, the intention was to renovate the 1980s era post and beam structure, reuniting the team from the client’s suburban renovation 10 years prior, which included Bentis and Overstreet, as well as Principal Kent Duckham of Duckham Architecture & Interiors, Paul Reidt, president of Kochman Reidt + Haigh Cabinetmakers, and Founder and Principal Stephanie Hubbard of SiteCreative Landscape Architecture. Once they began, however, they found that the original structure resisted their collective vision. Its framework didn’t lend itself to the sea of possibilities or celebrate the site’s sublime views, so they began anew. 

Modern organic living room with beach views on Cape Cod

A 28-foot multi-sliding Marvin door with an automated screen makes up most of the 30-foot ocean-facing wall.

What emerged was a beach home without compromise, a transcendent, wholly authentic property in which the landscape and built environment not only peacefully coexist; they bring out the best in one another. Typically professionals come in sequentially, explains Reidt, yet this project unfolded as a true collaboration in which expertise unique to each field came in at the ground floor and was granted the freedom to shine. “The outcome,” says Reidt, “is a fully integrated work of art.” Overstreet concurs, praising the synergy of the organic, one-of-a-kind project and a process that moved like a “design/build.”

Organic beachside Cape Cod home with a California flair

The construction team used the footprint of the original foundation on the side of the home that faces the ocean, "as they weren't looking to impede any of the setbacks or get closer to the bluff," explains Overstreet. They did, however, extend the foundation further toward towards the street.

Bentis, who grew up near the beaches of Malibu, was encouraged to channel the inside/outside living opportunities of homes in LA. “You can make that kind of West Coast house on the East Coast,” the client told her. Duckham, who is known for his traditional seaside architecture, embraced the stylistic departure and the aesthetic that Bentis and the client had honed over the years. Utilizing much of the existing footprint, he pursued a design that ebbs and flows within the indoor and outdoor realms, using generous amounts of glass, deep overhangs and porches both populated and private.

Master bedroom of an organic beach house designed by Lindsay Bentis of Thread by Lindsay Bentis

Bentis went “soft and serene” in the master bedroom, which has the feel of a cruise ship. Automated shades shut out the peerless views with the touch of a button.

Inside, the refreshing, clean-lined living spaces read like a deep exhale, but their striking simplicity hides the rigors demanded of the builder. The home’s parade of windows and doors required a mammoth amount of steel and structural wood beams, and created little space in the exterior walls for a highly technical infrastructure.

Light-filled stair hall with skylight constructed by S.J. Overstreet Construction Co., Inc.

The ridge skylight by Wasco was implemented early in the design. It bathes the kitchen in sunlight and was sized to match the width and length of the stairwell. An art installation by Carolina Sardi was conceived expressly for the site. Bentis and Sardi collaborated on the formation of its metal disks to make the array appear natural and give it a certain freedom, "almost like an accident." Bentis painted the black and white art that hangs across the way.

As for the finish work, the modernist details—plaster reveals, no trim, and intersections and courses of the tile—required tremendous skill and effort from a construction standpoint. “It’s a gorgeous house, and it looks simple,” says Overstreet, “but even as a builder you don’t appreciate how difficult it’s going to be until you start doing it.”

Wetroom bathroom design for a modern oceanfront Cape home built by S.J. Overstreet Construction Co., Inc.

The master bath, by all accounts, is a masterstroke. It was designed as a wet room, with floating vanities, wall-mounted faucets and a soft mix of marble and tile by Heath Ceramics.

Bentis warded off any chill modern design can bring with a palette pulled from nature, and an honesty to every selection. In lieu of bold hues that might disrupt the views, she focused instead on textures, materials and forms. Every surface has “a patina and a sort of worn quality,” she says, and artistry. The character-rich Tay wood, which is used lavishly throughout the home, has “a weathered yet beautifully refined” look to its proprietary, silver-gray finish, says Reidt, while the first-floor feature wall is lined with hand glazed Moroccan tile with color variances “that bleed and run like a watercolor,” says Bentis. 

Modern kitchen for a beachfront property with cabinetry by Kochman Reidt + Haigh Cabinetmakers, construction by S.J. Overstreet

KR+H opted for white cabinetry in the kitchen to allow the Ann Sacks tile of the island and feature wall to prevail. The surfaces in this home, says Reidt, "turn it into something exquisite."

Soft finishes and furnishings were shown a level of care Bentis would give her own home. She sourced buttery leathers that get better with time, reupholstered vintage finds with plush yet durable fabrics, designed bespoke pieces with Loki Custom Furniture and even painted artwork to hang on the walls. “Nothing is harsh or perfect,” maintains Bentis. But the effect is.

The modern living room and stair of a Cape home on the ocean designed by Duckham Architecture & Interiors

Duckham designed the stair to be an experience, and for homeowners to arrive in the room with the view. The recessed niche of the living room was a must from the inception. “Everyone loves a big, open floor plan,” says Bentis, “but it’s nice to have a space to curl up within them.”

Stephanie Hubbard of SiteCreative also cultivated a “natural and serendipitous” sensibility for the landscape architecture, extending an elemental, holistic beauty to the terrain, terraces, stone and structures. “We feel strongly about the materiality of everything connecting,” reveals Hubbard, “so the feel of the architecture and interiors is brought into the landscape.”

Screened pergola within a coastal meadow designed by SiteCreative landscape architecture and constructed by Schumacher Companies

Hubbard designed a pergola with sun shades as a destination within the front yard. It is sheltered from the wind, and clad in the yellow cedar of the architecture.

Again, the organic is prized. SiteCreative developed a planting plan that feels like an extension of the shoreline’s existing environment, with new native plantings and curated coastal meadows that look as if they took root long ago. Their installation was no easy task; landscape contractor Schumacher Companies had to factor in the timing of seed, plugs and larger plant materials, as well as preserve and safeguard mature trees. The effect was well worth the effort, as the “relaxed” plantings soften the linear stone, hardscape and boardwalks that stray from the surf to crisscross the site.

Organic beachside terrace with fireplace, designed by SiteCreative landscape architects

This woodburning granite fireplace and star of an outdoor terrace was a joint effort by Hubbard, Duckham and Overstreet. Every stone, after being detailed by the architect and landscape architect, numbered by Freshwater Stone out of Maine, and installed onsite by crane, piece by piece.

Open-air settings were conceived as a series of outdoor rooms with different functions and uses for each time of day. Residents can bask in full sun, views or in the flames of an outdoor fireplace, grill within a wind-sheltered outdoor kitchen or relax in a shaded, screened pergola surrounded by an inland meadow. Such experiential moments honor the site, which is, after all, why it all began.

The Team:
Architecture: Duckham Architecture & Interiors
Construction: S.J. Overstreet Construction Co., Inc.
Interior Design: Thread by Lindsay Bentis
Millwork and Cabinetry: Kochman Reidt + Haigh Cabinetmakers
Landscape Architecture: SiteCreative Landscape Architecture
Landscape Construction: Schumacher Companies
Windows and Doors: Marvin
Photography: Nat Rea

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