Multiple Sensitivities—How Morehouse MacDonald Transformed a Cape Tradition
When a Cape restaurant owner has a thriving breakfast and lunch eatery—much loved by discriminating New Yorkers as much by its own East Dennis locals—you can assume business is good. Very good.
So it isn’t surprising when a new investment co-owner comes into the picture with plans for expansion. This was the moment Morehouse MacDonald came into the picture. “Usually as architects we come in to address situations that are failing on some level,” says John MacDonald, AIA, principal, “but in this case, we had to completely reinvent something that was already a big success and improve on that.”
To achieve this goal, the client wished to rebuild this beloved restaurant on the same site—nestled into the salt water marsh but with a novel, larger design that would attract new clientele and retain old patrons. In the old building, everyone wanted a window seat; in the new design, MMA devised a split-level approach to ensure patrons sitting in plush window-side booths didn’t block views of the salt marsh for other diners. The result—everyone gets a fantastic view.
The new Marshside Restaurant also needed to be three times larger, so MMA deftly integrated the new structure—perched on an innovative new pile system—with a comprehensive new site plan for onsite parking and environmentally sensitive landscaping selected by a botanist. MMA carefully chose site stonework, paving materials, and planned all site lighting. The exterior materials were carefully selected to relate to classic Cape Cod architecture yet with commercial durability.
Feeling at Home
Architecturally, patrons enter the new restaurant through an inviting farmhouse-style porch, which leads directly to a hostess area with a two-sided stone fireplace. Patrons can wait for a table by the fire on a cold night or in summer weather take a glass of wine out onto the inviting porch.
To break down the scale of the restaurant, a central cathedral ceiling, infused with natural Douglas Fir trusses and timber posts, establishes spatial order. Meanwhile, lower ceiling areas are precisely supported in vertically grained Douglas Fir rafters. Paneling, booths, and piers are all enveloped in a durable black cherry to harmonize with the dark brown leather cushions. These choices created a soothing natural material palette that is designed to recede and frame the glass facades, offering wide views to the salt marsh beyond.
“To appeal even further to the new dinner crowd,” says John MacDonald, AIA, “we designed a beautifully curved bar in solid black cherry that features a ‘glacial ice’ inspired Back Bar for a more outdoor-inspired concept rather than the typical cosmopolitan design approach to this space.” Deftly concealed uplighting and area spotlights generate an inviting, refined and yet comfortable upscale environment. This design worked to make old patrons feel comfortable in the new restaurant without taking away opportunities for an ambiance that both new and old patrons have come to love.
To learn and see more on this exciting project visit its project page in our Portfolio section.
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