Same Old Neighborhood, Brand New House

A couple purchases a home just up the street from where they’d met as teenagers; seven years later they decide to rebuild.

By Lenore Cullen Barnes | Photography by Dan Cutrona

Some beach days are better than others.  The day Charlie and Eileen Trombetta met as teenagers on Mayflower Beach was a life-changer.  Half a century later, they’re still enjoying the beach, from their recently renovated home in Dennis just around the corner from the house Charlie’s father bought in the 1950s.

The Trombettas had owned and enjoyed their one-story cottage for seven years when the need for more space to accommodate their growing extended family prompted a renovation.  They thought about raising the roof to add a second floor.

“The house was built in the 1940s,” said Charlie.  “It was a cute little cottage with a porch in front and an attic.  But the footings weren’t plumb and the electrical and plumbing systems were old and deteriorating.  When I asked for an estimate from REEF Builders, they recommended we tear the house down and start from scratch.”

Matt Teague, owner of REEF Builders, a custom home design-build, renovation and restoration firm based out of West Dennis, said it wasn’t difficult to come to the conclusion that new construction was the preferred way to go after completing an analysis of the home.  He knew the outdated electrical and plumbing systems, and a less than solid foundation, would be costly and labor intensive to update.

“Our primary concern was that it would look like it had always been there,” said Charlie.  “We wanted it to fit into the neighborhood.  And it does – but inside it’s all hardwood floors and granite counters and stainless appliances.”

He and Eileen couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

“It turned out to be one of the easiest things I’ve ever done,” he said.  “We got everything we wanted.  Working with (REEF) was incredible.  They walk you through the process and listen to what you say. They are great with people and intuitive about taking your thoughts and putting them on paper, then executing them.  They have a great team and their sub-contractors were very professional and easy to work with.”

During a meeting early in the process, the Trombettas sat down with John Haggerty, REEF’s design specialist, and talked about their vision for the home.  “John just sat there and sketched while we were talking,” said Charlie.  “He reminded me of a guy who does charcoal sketches at a carnival.  Then he showed us what he’d drawn; it was like he was in my head.”

The new home retains the aesthetic of the 1940s cottage while integrating present-day efficiency and comfort.  The focus of the open floor plan is the two-story living room with southern exposure to the backyard.  The rear wall features glass French doors, flanked by windows and topped by transom windows, flooding the space with light and views of nature.

Other updates include a master bedroom and bath on the first floor, two bedrooms and a full bath upstairs with a loft for additional sleeping space located at the top of the stairs. The front porch became a three-season porch with mahogany floors, and a deck off the back of the house is a favorite spot for relaxing and barbecuing.

Teague noted that the current version of the house maintains a “very similar presentation to the street,” adding: “It has the identical footprint on the front, but is a little bit taller and has thirty percent larger floor area.”

Despite what Teague acknowledges were some “fairly challenging permit issues,” the team was able to draw on its experience with building restrictions on the Cape and mine its innovative talent.  “We were able to give (the Trombettas) what they wanted through a mixture of a lot of creativity and mathematical calculations,” said Teague.

The firm prides itself on turning “drawbacks into opportunities.” In this case, the restriction against a full second floor resulted in the back third of the house becoming an airy light-filled vaulted ceilinged room.

“Anyone can build,” said Teague.  “Doing the whole project from cradle to grave is what makes us successful.  We’ve used some of our subcontractors for 20-plus years.  Our process is so comprehensive; 99 percent of the decisions are made before we start building, from the color of the front door to the type of faucets in the upstairs bath.  Because we invest the time beforehand, we’re able to complete the job quickly and efficiently.”

In fact, REEF completed the Trombettas’ home two months earlier than projected.

This made not only Charlie and Eileen happy, but their four children and seven grandchildren were pretty excited as well.  Now they return from a day of clamming and fishing to a cottage as charming as always, but more comfortable than ever.

And the Trombettas’ positive experience with REEF has produced a spillover effect; two more neighbors have teamed up with REEF to renovate their cottages. Commenting on this, Teague said, “Our value is our reputation and our people and our performance are our credibility.”

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