Balancing Act

A seamless addition blends old and new.

By Lenore Cullen Barnes | Photography by Dan Cutrona
Architect: A3 Architects, Inc.
Build: The Valle Group, Inc

They almost missed it. The homeowners were en route to look at another property, just passing through a Falmouth neighborhood near Oyster Pond, when they spotted a “For Sale” sign. The classic, understated Cape style and attached barn spoke directly to their vision of a Cape Cod home.

The couple and their son and daughter already had longtime ties to coastal Massachusetts. While growing up, the husband spent summers in Pocasset and the wife in Scituate. With their own children, they enjoyed summers at their cottage in Pocasset for 15 years. As the kids got older and circumstances evolved, the family felt they’d outgrown their cottage and were seeking a more substantial house, large enough to be “home base” for the family.

French doors open from the dining area to the backyard, while a new staircase with several windows acts as a light well for the space.


“My wife and I both knew we wanted to be by the ocean and we wanted a tie to the Cape,” says the husband. “We’re not ready to retire, but when we do, it will be to this house. For now, while our son is in college in Massachusetts and our daughter in high school in New York, the Cape is where we gather.”

The home that caught their eyes—and hearts—has its origins in the 1930s. The house portion had been renovated, but not the barn.

Connected to an outdoor wash station, the multi-functional first-floor bath also acts as a mudroom for beachgoers.

“We bought the house in part because we loved the barn,” the husband says. “We thought we’d renovate it. It had a horse stall; someone told us the horse was used for delivering milk. There was a lot of character there.”

Despite the couple’s hopes to restore the barn, it proved unfeasible, mainly because of the unjustifiable cost. They turned to Alison Alessi of A3 Architects, Inc. for a solution. “We asked Alison to keep the design of the original house,” the husband recalls. “We didn’t want to rip it down and build something new. We wanted something big enough to be our family home, but we didn’t want to lose that Cape style. The new design keeps that old Cape Cod aspect, but with a lot more light.”


Alessi and lead architect Meghan Lyman set to work designing an addition that would provide the expanded living space the family needed, while marrying it to the style that attracted the homeowners in the first place. “We kept the barn scheme in a very different vocabulary,” Alessi explains.

Keeping the original house intact, Alessi and Lyman collaborated with The Valle Group to remove the existing kitchen and barn and construct the new addition, containing a kitchen, dining and living rooms, and a second-floor master suite. The new space increases the overall size of the home from 2,150 square feet to 3,200 square feet.


The “vocabulary” of the barn-style addition features a light-drenched open living space with a cathedral ceiling and walls of windows. “Our goal was to balance the existing small Cape with expansive spaces, to balance the old and the new, and make it look like it all belongs together,” explains Alessi. “The contrast of the new high ceilings to the low ceilings in the old part of the house makes it all the more dramatic.”

In the kitchen the walls and woodwork were kept light, along with the beadboard cathedral ceiling and white beams. “We were able to squeeze in a pantry, which allowed for fewer cabinets and more windows,” Alessi explains. Light gray cabinets and a charcoal-hued island add a punch of color as a counterpoint to the kitchen’s light and airy ambience.


French doors open from the dining area to the backyard. With an open railing and several windows, the stairway to the master bedroom functions as a large light well. Opposite the stairs on the first floor is a bathroom with ample, cleverly designed storage that does double-duty as a mudroom. Connected to an outdoor wash station, it enables beachgoers to rinse off before going inside to change.

Upstairs, the master bedroom and bath continue the airy feel, while adhering to the original character of the home. “We tried to keep the roofline low, about five feet, to maintain that scale and proportion,”says Alessi. “We wanted to avoid the ‘barn’ space being taller than the original home.” Barn-style doors between the master bath and bedroom reference the original structure, as does the sloping shiplap ceiling.


The homeowners say the addition “is just what we envisioned.” “We had 20 people for dinner on Christmas Eve,” says the husband, “and it didn’t feel crowded. Alison and Meghan were great. They listened and got the message up front. Their creativity and project management were impressive, and they were on budget and on time. They also brought me to a new place in terms of building green. I didn’t know any of this, and they educated us and integrated green solutions wherever they could.”

Alessi enjoyed the synergistic approach to the project. “They were really a delightful family with a great sense of humor,” says Alessi. “A lot of the work was done from a distance, so they trusted us. I like collaborating with builders and owners. Other sets of eyes and ideas hopefully make for a better project, and in this case, they did.”

New Factory Bell Pendant kitchen lighting with a nickel finish and smoked glass shade was sourced online from

Wall tile in kitchen is glazed 3” by 6” subway tile in Whisper White, by MS International, and was sourced through Carpet Barn Carpet One in Falmouth.

Artifacts® kitchen faucet by Kohler, in polished chrome, was purchased at Ferguson Enterprises in Franklin, Mass.


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