Outdoor Living: Creating Spaces in Nature

By Vivian Siempos Haidas | Photography by Kyle J. Caldwell, Randall Perry and Charles Mayer

As New Englanders, it’s not uncommon for us to count down the days until summer and to cherish every day of warm weather. Time spent outside on Cape Cod is precious and summer months are fleeting. In order to take full advantage, people are moving their living spaces outside. It’s not necessarily a new concept, but these homeowners have gone a step further by adding kitchens, dining rooms and even living rooms. This trend is transforming backyards into entertainment spaces where nature is in full view.


Photography by Randall Perry

The owners of a historic cottage in Chatham, originally built as a general store in 1870, hired Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders (PSD) to restore the home to its original charm. They also wanted to increase the living space with thoughtful additions, including a spacious and private outdoor living area.

The outdoor space can be accessed through the French doors of the dining room, which open to an expansive fieldstone patio. Steps within the retaining wall lead down to the outdoor kitchen and dining area. The outdoor kitchen is housed within a pavilion, sheltering it from inclement weather, while lattice panels open for entertaining. The attractive cupola creates natural ventilation for the kitchen. The pergola extending off the pavilion creates a smooth transition from the kitchen to dining area. Since the outdoor space is right off the indoor dining room, it allows for both indoor and outdoor entertaining.

“The cottage is in a historic district, so the work that we added is respectful of the historic context but also has its own more contemporary character,” says John DaSilva, design principal at PSD. “It’s not just a historical re-creation. The pergola, for instance, is a little bit whimsical and the columns are created from a more modernist point of view.”

It is a charming and secluded space that is perfect for a private gathering and vast enough, despite the small footprint, to have a large party.

Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects-Builders, East Harwich, 508-945-4500
Mary LeBlanc Landscape Design, Cotuit, 508-428-1274


Photography by Kyle J. Caldwell

Vojin and Diana Vujosevic, owners of Pain D’Avignon in Hyannis, bought their home in 2002 and completely renovated it. The interior is mostly modern with some traditional elements, but step outside and you are transported into another world. The colors of the outdoor space are earthy and warm. The openness of the space, covered with a pergola built by Vojin with help from a friend, offers an expansive view of Follins Pond.

“We have been boating all our lives and we wanted that feel,” says Vojin. The couple entertains a lot, but even when they are not entertaining, they essentially live outdoors in the warmer months. It is where they hang out as a family and where they eat all their meals. The deck houses an outdoor living room, a hot tub and a dining area with a cement fireplace, which also serves as a cooking surface. The fireplace, flown in from Germany, weighs approximately 1,000 pounds and is made of reinforced concrete.

The pergola conceals a retractable screen, which protects against the sun’s glare in the morning and insects at night. Since it’s retractable, the Vujosevics are able to enjoy the beauty of their surroundings without obstruction during the daylight hours.

A few steps down and along an oyster shell walkway is the outdoor kitchen. Designed and built by Vojin, the kitchen features a granite work surface, a sink, built-in grill and cabinets for storage. Its Caribbean-style shutters remain open most of the summer unless there is inclement weather. Their outdoor space is functional and comfortable and exudes the impeccable style of Vojin and Diana.


Photography by Kyle J. Caldwell

Philip and Bonnie Rosenthall’s home in North Chatham is their summer haven. The Rosenthalls purchased the home in 2013. It was built in 1840 as a Greek revival. It had been extensively renovated by the previous owners but little thought or energy was put into the outdoor living space or landscape.

Bonnie grew up summering on the Cape. Her grandfather drove down to North Chatham from Cambridge in 1916 and bought property at the top of Cotchpinicut Road. Her parents built their summer retreat on Minister’s Point in the early 1960s, so it was only a matter of time before Bonnie found the right spot for her family.

When the Rosenthalls decided to rehabilitate the outside of their house, they kept the natural landscape of the Cape and the local craftsmen in mind. With the help of Nickerson Tree and Landscape of Chatham as well as Wilkinson Ecological Design in Orleans, they were able to clean up the lawn, trees and garden and invest in indigenous plants. “Native plant material has been incorporated in the landscape to support the biodiversity of the neighborhood,” says Bonnie. “The bird life enjoys a plethora of beneficial berries and seeds and it has become a haven for ourselves and the wildlife we share it with.” Bonnie also raises bees, which benefit from the indigenous plants.

“Our goal has been to expand and improve the outdoor space,” says Bonnie. To that end, the couple has created a space that rivals many indoor living and dining rooms. The focal point is the stone fireplace. The stone wall framing the fireplace extends to the grill and offers a perch as well as a workspace. Guests can mingle while cooking and dining or lounge by the hearth on the cushioned furniture.

The Rosenthalls relied on Paul McCarthy at Zibrat & McCarthy Designs and LLP of Chatham, McNamara Bros., Inc. of Harwich, who created all the stonework with materials from Stonewood Products. Stello Construction of Chatham oversaw the entire project. And last, but certainly not least, Wesley Plank of Harwich made the hypertufa (a material that looks like cement but is much lighter and porous) planting boxes and the seashell clock adorning their mantel.

Zibrat & McCarthy Designs, LLP, Chatham, 508-945-9424
Wilkinson Ecological Design, Orleans, 508-255-1113
Stello Construction, South Chatham, 508-432-2218
Nickerson Tree and Landscape, Chatham, 508-945-1755
McNamara Bros., Inc., Harwich, 508-430-2020


Photography by Charles Mayer

The beautiful bath house and adjoining pool pavilion on Martha’s Vineyard were designed and built completely separate from the main house on the property. In fact, the house and barns were to undergo a significant renovation when the outdoor living space was created, allowing Jill Neubauer of Jill Neubauer Architects Inc. to work with a clean slate and have a completely autonomous space.

“I was given a great deal of architectural style freedom and allowed to do something modern and anchored,” says Neubauer. Her clients asked her to create something that would take the focus away from the unattractive house on the property that would eventually be renovated. In doing so, she created a beautiful, serene design that blends harmoniously with the landscape.

The bath house and pool pavilion are located on a 35-acre equestrian farm. The bath house contains changing rooms, a bathroom and a prep kitchen while the pavilion, open on all sides, contains living and dining spaces and a kitchen for the pool terrace. It is a dreamy space with curtains swaying in the summertime breeze and the infinity pool shimmering in the sunlight. As Neubauer pointed out, although it is an elegant space, it isn’t precious. It’s rugged and meant to weather. The tree columns have bronze lights that will patina, the countertops are Soapstone, and the kitchen faucet is made of cast bronze. Neubauer uses energy-efficient technologies, non-toxic material selections and sustainable products.

Neubauer explains that the nature of the materials and the design are fully integrated. The landscape and structures blend well and feel seamless. The quiet design of the structures lets the site and building work together. It’s a true luxury retreat that gives a sense of being one with the earth.

Jill Neubauer Architects Inc., Falmouth, 508-548-0909
Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects, Cambridge, 617-
Doyle Construction Company, West Tisbury, 508-693-9004


The outdoor shower is an icon of summer living on Cape Cod. It’s not baseball or the beach, but stepping into that open air shower after a day in the sun has to be right up there.

These two showers are very different. One showcases a minimalist approach with practical design and the other is more whimsical and fun, while also being functional.

A shower in West Falmouth was designed by Jill Neubauer Architects. The design is simple yet encompasses everything needed, including a place for towels and a clothesline. It is made of red cedar, which requires no maintenance and will turn gray over time. The flooring is mahogany while the outdoor lights are solid brass from Shiplights of Marblehead. The contractor for the outdoor shower was Village Restoration of West Falmouth.
Neubauer may have said it best: “Clients have such deep, warm feelings of the Cape and outdoor showers really connect people with their landscape.”

An Osterville shower by Polhemus Savery DaSilva is a more intricate design, as the structure serves many purposes. “The ‘wave’ or ‘whale’ shape was our idea in response to the client’s interest in doing something whimsical and playful, something more interesting than a simple shed, but still within the tradition of garden structures,” says John DaSilva. The four bays at the left end shroud air conditioning condensers while the middle four bays house garbage and recycling bins. The right-hand three bays house the shower and dressing area. When someone showers, they can look through the round window, the “eye,” across the yard and see Osterville’s West Bay.

Photo by Randall Perry

Photo by Meredith Hunnibell

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