A Royal Barry Wills Vermont Cape: Timeless Charm and Thoughtful Additions

A Royal Barry Wills Vermont Cape - Custom replicas and vintage reproductions are in the mix. (Image: Carolyn Bates) When it comes to architectural design, blending history with modern living is no easy feat. However,...

A Royal Barry Wills Vermont Cape A Royal Barry Wills Vermont Cape - Custom replicas and vintage reproductions are in the mix. (Image: Carolyn Bates)

When it comes to architectural design, blending history with modern living is no easy feat. However, the office of renowned Colonial Revival architect Royal Barry Wills achieved just that with a charming Vermont Cape. This single-storey Cape received unobtrusive additions that not only added space but also seamlessly connected the house to a beautiful patio and yard.

Thoughtful Enhancements, Exquisite Harmony

Architect Sandra Vitzthum, based in Vermont, skillfully incorporated two separate wings into the Cape without overpowering the original structure. She explains, "Two separate wings were kept secondary by their placement and scale." The rear of the house now features a master suite over a drive-in workshop, while a dining room was added off the side, resulting in an additional 600 square feet of living space.

The modest house has the original perpendicular garage wing, a Wills signature. That’s a 1915 Model T Ford Speedster. The modest house has the original perpendicular garage wing, a Wills signature. That’s a 1915 Model T Ford Speedster. (Image: Carolyn Bates)

"This is an unassuming house, but that was the idea," Vitzthum explains. "Wills was a genius in re-creating the Colonial home for everyday Americans after WWII. He was the East Coast version of Cliff May, who dreamed up the California ranch house."

The firm of Royal Barry Wills designed homes that were both ordered and simple, often furnished with Colonial Revival elements such as Federal mantels, wing chairs, and antiques. Built in 1977, during Richard Wills' tenure as principal architect, this Cape embodies comfort and authenticity. Owner John Meyer, an avid collector of Vermont artwork and restorer of Model T Ford cars, affirms, "It's a comfortable place to live."

A Nostalgic Kitchen and Evocative Design

Wills' revival houses embraced modern amenities like electric kitchens, ductwork, closets, and mid-century bathrooms. Interestingly, as these houses are renovated in the 21st century, the kitchens take on a more nostalgic appeal instead of strictly modern. Vitzthum elaborates, "What's new is that the kitchens become more nostalgic, no longer frankly 'modern'." The kitchen in this Cape, located in the original space, radiates refinement without being showy, perfectly capturing the modest charm of a typical New Englander.

Custom replicas and vintage reproductions are in the mix. Custom replicas and vintage reproductions are in the mix. (Image: Carolyn Bates)

To evoke the ambiance of a traditional Colonial kitchen, Vitzthum strategically used contrasting cabinets around the range and added Delft tiles, specially ordered from Holland, to create a hearth-like atmosphere.

Harmonious Integration of Interior and Exterior

Traditionally, houses designed in the New England revival style had limited connection to their backyard spaces. However, in this Cape, new neo-traditional stonework seamlessly connects the dining room addition to a patio and extends further into the yard. The result is a harmonious integration of indoor and outdoor living, truly capturing the essence of a New England lifestyle.

Graceful Restoration and Personal Touches

When John Meyer purchased the house in 2010, it was in near-original condition, a testament to its well-built structure. Desiring an architecture that resonated with the history and landscape of Vermont, Meyer made careful renovations and restorations to the house, ensuring it maintained its timeless charm.

Cozy nooks are a Wills signature; this window seat is in the new bedroom ell designed by Sandra Vitzthum. Cozy nooks are a Wills signature; this window seat is in the new bedroom ell designed by Sandra Vitzthum. (Image: Carolyn Bates)

Quarter-sawn white oak floors replaced the mishmash of mid-century floorings, including linoleum, hardboard, and carpet. Meyer chose a zero-voc, whey-based finish from Vermont Natural Coatings to preserve the integrity of the floors, which have stood the test of time beautifully.

The interior palette of the house was inspired by the colors in Meyer's previous home, modified to suit the new space. The dining room even features a wallpaper reproduction from his previous residence, creating a seamless transition between the two spaces.

A Glimpse into Royal Barry Wills' Legacy

Royal Barry Wills, a graduate of M.I.T. with a background in the trades, was not only an architect but also an author, educator, and advocate for good design. His expertise in reviving traditional architectural styles like Cape Cod houses, saltboxes, and garrison Colonials earned him a national reputation. Wills was meticulous in his approach, focusing on scale and details, while designing in various idioms, including Tudor, French, and Modern, all with a touch of understated elegance.

Unveiling the Beauty of a Vermont Cape

The Royal Barry Wills Vermont Cape stands as a testament to the timeless charm and thoughtful renovations that honor its history while embracing modern living. From the unassuming facade to the well-designed interiors, every detail tells a story of harmonious integration and personal touches. This Cape captures the essence of New England living, inviting you to step into a world where old meets new, and tradition blends seamlessly with contemporary comfort.

Resources:

  • Architect: Sandra Vitzthum, Montpelier: sandravitzthum.com
  • Kitchen/Interior Design: Robin Steward, Allied ASID, RSdesign, Northfield, VT: rsdesignvt.com
  • Windows/French Doors: Marvin Integrity: marvin.com
  • Vermont Artists: Front Hall "Monhegan Island" - Sandra Mason Dickson from lupinegallerymonhegan.com, LR at mantel - Bessie Drennan (1882-1961), LR at sofa - Wendy Soliday from wendysoliday.com, DR Landscape - Eric Tobin from robertpaulgalleries.com
  • Reproduction Lighting: Rejuvenation from rejuvenation.com
  • Drapery: 'Hurlingham' in Aqua Cowtan & Tout from cowtan.com
  • Glass Table Lamp: Simon Pearce from simonpearce.com
  • Breakfront/Sideboard: Peter Brough from East Calais, VT: broughwoodworking.com
  • Chandelier: Salvaged and restored by Conant Metal & Light, Burlington, VT: conantmetalandlight.com
  • Wallpaper: Custom run in a disc. colorway Brunschwig & Fils from kravet.com
  • Cabinets: Crystal Cabinet Works from crystalcabinets.com
  • Hardware: Horton Brasses from horton-brasses.com
  • Tiles: Custom Delft Tiles (Holland): delfttiles.com
  • Hood: Ventahood from ventahood.com
  • Wallpaper: 'Gasaki' in Red Curry Pierre Frey from pierrefrey.com
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