The restoration of a 19th-century Cape Cod estate
Walking into Mary Maloney’s interior design studio Bee’s Knees, in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, you immediately feel at ease. Expect to be greeted with a warm smile and kind handshake before sitting down at a beautifully restored solid oak table. Maloney and Kylie Bodiya (Maloney’s “right-hand gal”) will likely offer you hot tea, and you’ll be so mesmerized by the studio’s charm that no one will blame you when you forget to drink it.
Our visit to the studio to learn about Bee’s Knees’ design services started with a conversation about how Maloney originally got involved in the industry. The conversation is light and pleasant throughout—indeed, it’s hard not to feel like you’re catching up with an old friend after just a few minutes. Our laughter while sharing stories made one thing obvious—Maloney and Bodiya have a unique ability to form meaningful connections with people.
This became even more evident when we began to discuss one of their favorite projects to date—the renovation of a historic waterfront estate with deepwater access to Nantucket Sound. Named “Blue Shutters,” the house dates to the 1800s and is the result of two separate houses being cobbled together. It is also the result of several different parties—homeowners, architects, interior designers, and builders—working together seamlessly.
The history of the estate is fascinating. In the era when this house was built, it was common practice for builders to hammer a coin into the front doorjamb before installing the door when a house was nearing completion. A coin dated 1817 was found under the front door of this house, and a coin dated 1842 was found in the doorsill of the newer part of the house. In 1925, Margaretta Forte had the home flaked (taken apart) and moved to its current location, where it is believed to have been given its current name. Flaking and relocating houses was not uncommon back then, as it was strenuous work to create lumber and then build a house.
Before purchasing Blue Shutters, its current owners had a smaller antique house in the same area. They had moved to the Cape back in 2005 after spending years vacationing there with family. They fell in love with the Cape’s beaches and relaxed atmosphere and knew it was where they wanted to be. Although they loved their first Cape home, they ultimately decided they needed a larger home to accommodate friends and family.
When they toured Blue Shutters, they instantly fell in love with its unique charm and location but knew they would need to make updates. They tackled their first project in 2013 when they added a garage and additional storage space. When they began major renovations in 2015, maintaining the home’s original character and historical accuracy was not only important to them but required, since their home is located in a historic district and any exterior changes would need city approval. Their main plans included expanding the kitchen and dining area, adding a basement, creating more storage, and remodeling their master bath.
Knowing this was a big undertaking, they turned to Maloney and her team at Bee’s Knees for design guidance. “The goal was to create a warm and welcoming space, something relaxed, perfect for their Cape environment,” Maloney explains. For Maloney, this was a particularly enticing project, as her passion is working with older homes. “This house captured my heart the minute I hit the threshold,” she says. “Old homes typically exude warmth and character, from the very beginning. The beauty and artistry of the original craftspeople can be seen throughout, and the stories and history increase the charm factor significantly.” Blue Shutters was no exception, given its compelling history and architectural elements unique to New England.
“[Because] many Cape Cod style homes are built with the exterior design in mind, sometimes the interior is either overlooked or does not carry the same New England detail within,” Bee’s Knees’ Bodiya explains. “The Bees work with trusted craftsmen, tradespeople, architects, and builders to ensure that the charming details are accurate on the exterior, and we specialize in marrying the interior with their vision.”
George and Josh Blakely of Blakely Builders are two of those craftsmen who worked on the Blue Shutters estate. The homeowners selected Blakely Builders because of their extensive experience with historic home renovations. “The biggest challenge when you’re working on an old house is making it look like it hasn’t been added on to,” George says. “If you can tell, then we’ve failed in our mission.” George and Josh, a father-son duo, went to great lengths to maintain the authenticity of the home.
When working on the exterior, they carefully removed the home’s original windows to restore and reuse them. “You don’t see any contemporary windows in the house until you go around back to the kitchen addition,” George explains. His team also used reclaimed antique doors throughout the home, sourcing and refurbishing them. George tries to reuse and recycle as many materials as he can. He and his son were both born and raised on the Cape and are passionate about preserving authentic New England architecture. It’s obvious they are masters of their craft when you see the finished project.
From the moment you step through the front door and into the foyer, the home’s classic New England character envelops you.
When first approaching the home, it’s impossible to ignore the crushed seashell driveway and bright blue front door with matching louvered shutters. Private and serene, the property is breathtaking, with thriving hydrangea bushes and satomi flowers. From the outside, it is the quintessential Cape Cod home.
Maloney and her team used this to their advantage when designing the interior. From the moment you step through the front door and into the foyer, the home’s classic New England character envelops you. Wide-plank pine floors, wood-paneled walls, and an antique dresser welcome you into the home. An iron lantern flush mount from Visual Comfort (one of Maloney’s favorite lighting vendors) hangs above, a nod to the home’s 19th-century origin. The entryway is the perfect blend of old and new, a theme you’ll find throughout the entire home.
The wood flooring inside the home is stunning. The homeowners tried to preserve the original flooring, but in some areas it just wasn’t possible. They worked closely with Blakely to source reclaimed southern yellow pine from old mill buildings to ensure that the new flooring matched the age of the existing preserved flooring. “Throughout the course of the project, we tried to replicate all of the old historic touches as best as possible,” the owner explained.
When you turn into the dining room, you’ll notice the home’s original wood-burning fireplace. Even today, a fireplace remains a source of warmth and comfort in the home, and the homeowners knew they wanted it to be a focal point. They sourced reclaimed wood to build a new mantel over the fireplace, and they also worked with Bee’s Knees to incorporate their own 10-foot-long dining table into the design while still allowing for adequate movement and flow.
Maloney and her team brought in the dining room chairs as well as the artwork, flowers, and statuary. “We focus a good deal of time and attention on all the small details that make a house a home,” she says. “Styling a space is so important.”
Behind the dining room, in the back of the house, you’ll find the homeowners’ favorite space: the kitchen. It is almost entirely new, as the original floor plan ended where the island now sits. It had previously been an L-shaped galley with enough space for one or two people but was impractical for entertaining. Since the homeowners love cooking at home and hosting friends and family, they needed a larger kitchen area with plenty of counter space.
“[Our client] is a classic and timeless kind of gal,” Maloney shared. “She has great taste. Her priorities were lots of natural light, white cabinets with a soft color on the island, and low-maintenance quartz counters.” The final design is bright, beautiful, and functional. There is plenty of cabinet space, but you’ll notice there are no upper cabinets. This was intentional, as it allows for natural light to filter through the first floor.
The reclaimed-timber beams on the ceiling were brought in by Blakely Builders to help retain the home’s original character and charm, and Bee’s Knees sourced the iron lantern pendants and wall lamps to further accentuate the home’s period details. The view from the oversized farmhouse sink overlooks an elevated paver patio, a hammock swinging lazily between two trees, and unobstructed water views.
It was the homeowners’ idea to add the brick in the kitchen. The brick quickly became a favorite design element among their friends and family, as they whitewashed it themselves—adding their stamp to Blue Shutters’ history.
This home is undeniably gorgeous. Yet, when Maloney first described it, she didn’t boast about the charming wingback chairs her team brought in, or the custom sunroom light fixture she helped source. With a genuine smile on her face, she talked about how much she enjoyed working with the homeowners. She discussed how wonderful it was to work with Blakely Builders. She stated flat out that without their collaboration and expertise, the project wouldn’t have been so successful.
Bee’s Knees understands just how vital relationships are to the success of a project like Blue Shutters. The team’s ability to connect not just with the homeowners, but also with Blakely Builders and everyone else involved with the project is reflected in the finished product. This renovation project was an undeniable success, and we feel lucky to play a small part in telling their story.