Father and daughter infuse their Cape Cod cottage with cozy coastal appeal
The historic house in West Harwich had belonged to his parents in the 1950s, and now holds sentimental value to the family.
Jim Falla had plans. His daughter had other plans.
He had run his law practice out of a white-cedar-shingled cottage in West Harwich for 30-plus years, and when he retired in 2003, he wanted to sell. Joanne, the youngest of his three daughters, was adamant that it should remain in the family. Jim had purchased the house in 1972, two decades after it was owned by his father, Alvah Falla. “My parents bought the house in 1954, renovated it, and sold it,” he explains. “The history was important to her.”
In 2016, the family overhauled the circa 1789 cottage, gutting it and adding a proper foundation as well as insulation, air conditioning, and other amenities. Jim, who is something of a Renaissance man, did the architectural design, and his daughter Jackie designed the interiors. “Carpentry had always been my hobby, so I had free rein for the construction,” Jim says. “I tried to take a back seat for the décor.”
Father and daughter were conscientious about preserving the building’s character. “The soul disappears if you tear it down and try to replicate it,” Jim says. Even with the updates, the 1,624-square-foot home is still very much a cottage, thanks in part to original hand-hewn beams.
After prolonged discussion, they also retained the original fireplace. Jackie had argued for removing it to create an open floor plan, but Jim wanted it to stay. The compromise was to widen the opening between rooms. “The house flows nicely for living and entertaining,” Jackie says. “It feels very communal.”
Over the course of seven months, Jackie curated a mix of new and vintage furnishings for a look she calls “cozy coastal.” She says, “I wanted it to be just on the edge of coastal but not feel too summery.” Pale gray walls and white millwork show off the beams and new hemlock floorboards, and white upholstery provides a crispness that doesn’t overwhelm the small spaces. Hints of powder blue lend a beachy feel.
Black accessories, fixtures, and finishes were an important part of the formula. “Every room needs something black for definition,” Jackie says. In the kitchen, which occupies a 1970s addition, that was a point of contention. Jim initially opposed dark paint on the new large window frame and muntins. “I told him it’s what draws people’s gaze out to the trees,” Jackie says. “And that color is my department.”
Ensuring that Jim could age in place comfortably was a top priority. Six feet added to the back of the house gave him a larger bedroom. Sliders open onto a deck for easy access to fresh air and the outdoor shower. “My father prefers to shower alfresco with the birds and his coffee,” Jackie says. She also accommodated his request for Key West-style furnishings, a nod to his fascination with Ernest Hemingway.
By contrast, the adjacent first-floor guest suite reads New England nautical. “It’s mostly used in summertime,” Jackie points out. “Guests want to feel like they’re on the Cape.”
The bedroom Jackie decorated for her older sister, Mary Beth, picks up on the guest room’s poppy-red hue. The vibe, however, is chic Francophile, with a feature that comes in handy when the house feels full. Jackie transformed the walk-in closet into a womb-like navy blue escape pod that she describes as a “retreat within a retreat.”
For her own bedroom, Jackie went traditional with an infusion of pretty. Shell-pink walls are the backdrop for her childhood bed, bought at Eldred’s auction house in Dennis when she was 6. Jackie and Jim painted the floors in the upstairs bedrooms rather than install new wood, a decision motivated partly by cost, partly by nostalgia. “Painted floors feel cozy,” Jackie says. “They remind people that this is an antique home full of history.”
Father and daughter cherish the time they spent collaborating on the project as well as the transformative outcome. “When you live in a place for a while, you stop noticing how time takes its toll,” Jim says. “Fortunately, we didn’t call in a bulldozer.”
Architectural Design: James M. Falla
Contractor: Eastward Companies, eastwardco.com
Interior Design: Jacqueline A. Falla