Little Harbor Residence

Cohasset, MA

Turning this waterside property from the 1950s two-story mid-century-modern kit house it once was into the gambrel-roofed four-and-a-half-story shingle-style home it is today required significant sleight of hand. It also necessitated ingenuity; in-depth understanding of the tight, wooded lot’s inclined topography; and a firm grasp of zoning and conservation rules.

The original house, sunk into a rocky hollow, seemed unsalvageable, but regulations would have prevented rebuilding so close to the shore if it was torn down. Instead, the topography was adjusted to essentially bury the existing residence, turning it into a largely subterranean level, then building anew atop and below it.

Today, the house looks like a twenty-six-foot-tall cottage from the front, but its rear elevation reveals four and a half floors of windows and French doors, a cantilevered wraparound deck, a screened porch, dormers, and elevated balconies offering uninterrupted water views.

Overlooking the harbor and ocean, the open-plan living room, dining room, and kitchen are filled with suggestions of a bygone era. Antique beams, for example, extend down from the ceiling to form a mantel over the home’s original Rumford fireplace. Though almost entirely new, the home looks as if it has always been there.