Fisherman's Shack

A Cape Cod institution becomes a livable, lovable summer getaway

Once connected to a beach in Cape Cod, the little dune shack was used for decades by fisherman and families, who often occupied it all summer long. Over the years, through various storms, it had become only accessible by boat.

More like a hunting cabin in the woods, it was dark and grimy from years of use and smoke from a potbellied stove. Weathered and grey-shingled, the low ceilings resist the sea winds. Seaweed stuffed between layers of paper served as bits of insulation, and mortar made of burned shells filled the chinks around windowsills. Built strictly for fishermen and bird hunters, in recent years the tiny Cape Cod fishing shacks have become coveted as rustic getaways.

That was the challenge: The new owners wanted to turn the two-bedroom and living room fishing shack into a bright and airy destination for family and friends of all ages.

"Everything we did had to work for many age groups and for different weather conditions," said Lisa Adams. "It's right on the ocean, so everything's exposed to the salt air; it all had to be durable and functional."

To maximize sleeping capacity, Adams Design came up with an ingenious design solution.  They lined two walls of the "great" room with several cushions/mattresses that are seating by day, and beds by night. Made of tough indoor/outdoor fabric, they were handmade to look like old-fashioned horsehair mattresses. Stacked three high, they provide ideal seating and at the correct height. More than a dozen throw pillows in different fabrics offered even more flexibility. In one bedroom, bunk beds were ship-like berths. In the other, there was a queen bed for the owners. The once cramped kitchen area became a galleyway, with a simple island between hungry kids and the cook.

"We chose greens and blues as the color scheme," said Lisa Adams. "With spectacular window views of the ocean on three sides, how could you not evoke the sea and the sky?" Interiors were painted a highly reflective white hue and skylights installed to let in more light.

Decks on three sides held tables and chairs, and storage was built into one side of the house.

The first dune shacks were built in the 1800s by the Life Saving Service to house shipwrecked seamen. Over generations, their special qualities have drawn generations to their seclusion and bare-bones lifestyle. Many of the rustic shelters are formally listed on the National Register of Historic Places and occupants have included e.e. cummings, Jackson Pollock, Eugene O'Neill, and Jack Kerouac. The sea and shoreline are slowly reclaiming these unique places.

Adams Design created a simple space that maximizes livability and practicality – a unique vision with purpose.