Cape-Inspired Design Trends with Staying Power
Some design trends come and go quickly. Then there are styles that are introduced, and most of us can’t imagine layouts any other way (think kitchen islands and mudrooms). We talked to Kathy DeMeyer, Owner/General Manager of Encore Construction about time-honored home elements that she and her team see work well in project after project here on the Cape and islands.
Encore Construction Company 103 Main St, Dennis Port (508) 760-6900; encoreco.com
Open Spaces & Casual Dining
Formal dining rooms serve a great purpose, but most homes that are built today need another more casual option for meals. Breakfast nooks and farm tables off the kitchen have become high-use areas in many local homes. “Every homeowner I meet wants that openness around the kitchen because they don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen when they are hosting,” says DeMeyer. “The kitchen is the main gathering place. No matter how nice the dining room and great room are, kitchens are where people gravitate.”
In a Hyannis Port renovation, homeowners Kurt and Linda Hulteen worked with Encore, and they agreed about open space. Their 1960s home was closed off with separate rooms, and they decided to open up all of the walls, losing the formal dining room altogether. They added a sitting area right off of the kitchen. “We love to have people over and it’s just so much easier and more enjoyable when the cooking and getting everything together can coincide with the visiting,” says Linda. “I’m not locked away in the kitchen, which is great.”
For the space to really sing, the table and its lighting should be showstoppers. In the Hulteens’ house, the table was from their old home in Alaska and it’s a beautiful live-edge maple. “We spent a long time seeking out this table, and we bought it in Alaska, and it’s ten years old, so when we moved we were determined to bring it with us,” says Linda.
Cape Codders and Islanders can only enjoy sitting outside for so many months, which is why locals find ways to get out in the fresh air whenever possible. Screened-in porches protect loungers from pesky insects, but also offer a place to curl up in when the weather turns. “Very few people are building houses today and not building a screened in porch,” says DeMeyer.
The Hulteens added one to the back of their house and it has a view of their backyard. “I have always wanted a screened-in porch,” says Linda. “The one Encore built for us is fresh-looking and clean. We also put a big ceiling fan out there, and that has been great on hot summer nights and days. We use it all of the time, and we’ve even had dinner parties out there.”
For those who didn’t think about their backyards as personal sanctuaries before 2020 that has probably changed by now. The pandemic has shifted mindsets, and many homeowners put more attention (and more money) into their backyards in the past few years. The most important thing to think about when dreaming up your outside space is asking yourself how you want to use it. For the Hulteens, that meant installing a roof deck on top of the garage and a putting green. “Having a putting green is like having a mini golf facility in the backyard, and it’s really fun when people come to visit. It encourages competition and conversation,” says Kurt Hulteen.
We, of course, couldn’t write this list without mentioning kitchen islands. A sturdy design trend for over 15 years now, DeMeyer says it can be a starting point for those who aren’t sure what they want in a kitchen, but they know they need an island. “An island is inviting—it says that you are welcome in my kitchen to guests, and it’s a rarity that we do a kitchen that doesn’t have an island,” says DeMeyer. “Sometimes we have to take a wall down to get the homeowners the island that they want.”
Islands not only offer necessary seating and additional storage options, but homeowners have been using islands as an opportunity to brighten their kitchen spaces with color. “People are really mixing it up, and in 50-60 percent of kitchens we do, the islands are a different color than the rest of the kitchen. I’ve seen blues and greens, there are so many options, and when you walk into the room it’s really beautiful and adds a nice pop of color.”
More than a place to hang your hat, mudrooms have elbowed their way into the square footage of homes—and for good reason! “There’s nothing worse than coming directly into the house and not knowing where to put things. Stuff can pile up, especially if you have kids,” says DeMeyer.
Mudrooms allow for additional storage opportunities for the outerwear and footwear required for the many New England seasons. They are also the home’s greeting space, so homeowners have made a point to make these transitional spaces a welcoming place to take your boots off. “If we are doing a remodel, and the homeowners don’t have a mudroom, chances are we are going to create space for a mudroom. It’s always high on the priority list.”
The importance of a good first impression can’t be understated when it comes to homes. “Curb appeal is really of great importance,” says DeMeyer. Encore works with homeowners to define their entry ways, so they get a warm welcome when they arrive home. For one project on Allen Harbor, the home had to be raised two feet to escape the flood zone. Instead of an exposed foundation, DeMeyer guided the homeowners to stonework, which gave some additional character to the front of the house. Another interesting addition are the gutter downspouts on either side of the entry. “These are called rain drains, and they are really cool, they look like droplets but function like gutters,” says DeMeyer.
Renovations and new builds require vision and patience on the homeowners part; they also require a lot of decision making. Encore Construction helps make the process easy by either accompanying clients or providing them with guides at local stores, such as KAM Appliances in Hyannis and Supply New England in Orleans and Yarmouth.
“The decisions that homeowners have to make can be so overwhelming, so we make sure someone on our staff—typically our in-house designer—goes with them to make selections,” says DeMeyer. “We also have a dedicated person at KAM and Supply New England, who knows the project details and can work with them.”
Beyond whether homeowners like the look of tile or bath fixtures, they also need all of the pieces that go inside the wall for installation. “Those are things that most of the time, you don’t care what they look like, but you need them and the person at the shop makes sure that all of those items are ordered.”
The Hulteens said having the guidance of Encore’s team was critical when shopping for tile, plumbing, countertops, and cabinets. “It was so much fun and it was so helpful to have the designer with us,” says Linda. “Kurt and I make decisions really quickly. We know what we like and what we don’t like, and what made the process easier was having someone there to tell us what would work and what might not work in our space.”