On Golden Pond

A couple heading toward retirement nestles into a renovated home on the Lagoon in Oak Bluffs.

Tucked back from Barnes Road at the edge of Lagoon Pond, Jim and Pam Buttericks’ house in Oak Bluffs is a year-round delight – whether on a winter morning with a steaming cup of coffee indoors or for a summer sunset with a glass of wine on the deck: “I feel like I’m looking at a Monet painting,” Pam says.

Originally from Boston, Pam’s family began drifting to the Vineyard more than sixty years ago. Her maternal grandparents bought a house on Trinity Park back in the 1940s, then in 1953 her paternal grandparents moved to Oak Bluffs too, and that same year her parents moved year-round to a house on Ocean Park.

“My father wanted to leave the Boston rat race behind, so he became a carpenter,” says Pam, who was a toddler at the time. A few years later, they moved to an 1864 carriage house in the Camp Ground, where her father, Jack Simmons, repaired and replaced the gingerbread trim on many of the neighborhood’s houses.

After high school, Pam left the Island for nursing school and later, while working as a nurse in a New Hampshire hospital, met anesthesiologist Jim Butterick. They married and created their family, bringing two boys each from previous marriages. “The oldest is Matthew with two t’s, then Jonathan, who are both Jim’s,” Pam says. “And my boys are Mark and Mathew with one t. We call those two the bookends.”

The new family visited the Vineyard often and in 1985 bought land in Oak Bluffs to establish their first summer home here, which was a modular. By 1994, they had relocated from New Hampshire to Fall River, where Jim took a job as a hospital administrator. Over the years they moved two more times on-Island, on both occasions buying homes in Oak Bluffs, before finding the house on Lagoon Pond in 1999 – this one was the keeper. By then Jim was consulting with the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, so it became their primary residence. “I’m from Michigan and my family had a home on Lake Michigan,” says Jim, adding that life on the Island was an easy transition for him.

Built in 1983 of raw pine in a chalet style, the Vineyard house was ready for renovation. “I think it was a party house,” Pam says. The home had only been used seasonally and the Buttericks found out why. “There’s a direct northwest exposure,” Jim says. “We would find ice on the inside of the windows.”

They lived there for a year though without making any changes. “We didn’t want to do anything to the house if it worked for us,” Pam says. “Sadly, with broken pipes, need for insulation and more efficient heat, we realized we needed to do work to live here full time.”

The Buttericks hired contractor Dan Perry of Perry Construction in Vineyard Haven who recommended demolition, but Pam and Jim chose to renovate instead. The original house was approved for a four-bedroom septic system and they thought if they tore it down, they might only be approved for three bedrooms. With four adult sons and a growing number of grandchildren, now ages four through seven, that didn’t suit their plans. “We felt that we did what needed to be done – to satisfy code in order to accommodate the new furnace, add a new energy-efficient kitchen, and give the house a shingled, more Vineyard look, all at one time,” Pam says.

She supposes their Barnes Road neighbors who choose to demolish and build much larger houses may be doing what they think is necessary for their lifestyles, but Pam and Jim feel less is better whenever possible. “We had the option of adding a second floor onto the footprint,” Pam says. “We could have seen Falmouth. We chose not to do that; we already know where Falmouth is.”

Dan helped the Buttericks reimagine the existing floor plan. The original living room and dining room became the master suite and the original kitchen became a bathroom. All the windows and doors were replaced as well as the deck and roof; a big screened porch across the back of the house remained.

While the house was under construction in 2000, the Buttericks continued to use it. “We lived in the basement until the windows were gone and then moved in with relatives,” Pam says. “Then in June 2001, we moved back to the basement while the work was finished.”

“I tried to be cost-conscious,” Dan says. “I liked the feeling of that home – it was like a camp – and I saved and cleaned up all the wood that I could.” In the original section of the house, the pine paneling remains on some of the walls and cabinetry. He reused wood from dismantled sections for new trim and closets.

“When we walk in the door, we can immediately smell all the wood that we kept and/or recycled and reused, and we love it,” Pam says. “It smells like a Victorian-era summer cottage year-round.”

A new front door opens into an expansive living space with three separate seating areas, a vaulted ceiling, and a large stone fireplace surrounded by built-in bookcases. “We really just added one room,” she says. But what a room it is. Both sisal and Oriental rugs cover the hardwood floors. Slipcovers that withstand grandchildren’s spills and wicker furniture give the room a relaxed feel even as a baby grand piano is the focal point.

“I was inspired to have a piano by windows in front of the water when I was one of the original Minnesingers in 1967,” Pam says. “We rehearsed at Molly McAlpin’s house on West Chop, where she had back-to-back grand pianos. Ours is not quite that grand.” Pam says she wishes she could play it better, but that Jim plans to take lessons when he retires.

With energy-efficient windows and doors, the Buttericks don’t need to cover them in winter to preserve heat or keep out drafts. “We see ‘reverse’ sunrise, with the sun reflected across the Lagoon, which becomes more dramatic as winter approaches and we lose leaves,” Pam says. “Also the sunsets in the winter over the Lagoon, as we track the sun further and further to the south of the pond, are sensational.”

To the left of the living area is an open kitchen with a breakfast bar and an adjacent, small screened porch. White open shelving and moss-green cabinetry contribute to the cottage feel of the space. To the right is the dining room, where exposed beams in the ceiling help make the transition into the older section of the house.

Off the dining room are an original bedroom and a hallway that leads to the new master suite, where an adjoining study can be closed off to make an extra bedroom when the house fills up with children and grandchildren in the summer. Both the bedroom and study overlook the Lagoon with views through the large, original, screened-in porch. “We love having our bedroom face the Lagoon – we consider that the real front of the house,” Pam says. The narrow master bath accommodates a big claw-foot tub, strategically placed at an angle.

Because the property slopes down toward the water, the two lower-level bedrooms overlook the Lagoon; an adjoining sitting room, a bathroom, and a large storage area complete the basement – the perfect retreat for grandchildren.

The counter tops in the kitchen were chosen with their extended family in mind too. “Granite – for our grandkids’ sake – it’s indestructible. They love to cook with me,” Pam says.

There are lots of personal touches – and Vineyard connections – in this house. When Island artist Steve Mills was a child, Pam was his baby sitter and his paintings are on many of the walls. The raised-shell motif on the fireplace mantle created by Dan is a special design of his. “We love shells,” Pam says. “Our china and silver all have shells.” Attached to the deck is a sign carved by Pam’s father in the gingerbread-trim style with his name and her mother Una’s – and the date their Camp Ground cottage was built.

Near the front door is a copper sailboat weather vane decorated in tiny, white lights. The Buttericks have long enjoyed boating, and since 1987 they’ve owned a twenty-three-foot Wellcraft motorboat. “We do lots of day trips in it, to Nantucket, Falmouth, the Elizabeth Islands; once a year or so we take it all the way around the Vineyard,” Pam says.

At heart they are sailors, having owned a series of increasingly larger sailboats, but had to make some accommodations to dissenting family members. “Our four boys, who were around teenage years, didn’t like sailing. One of them said it was like watching grass grow,” Pam says. “They had much more fun when we switched to power so that they could water-ski, fish, go places.” And since it’s right in front of the house, the boat is always ready to go.

“Our final dream would be to add a simple garage, in order to house our small boat and car, and perhaps walk directly into the house with groceries during bad weather days year-round,” says Pam.

Now Jim is the chief medical officer for Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis and consults on medical staff issues at Falmouth Hospital, both part of Cape Cod Healthcare. And that makes for an interesting commuting life. They own a condominium in Mashpee, where Jim spends four or five nights a week and Pam usually joins him for two.

Somehow they both find time to perform with the Island Community Chorus and their church choir at Edgartown’s Federated Church, even going with the choir in April on a two-week tour to France and Switzerland. This summer Pam performed in the Island Theatre Workshop’s production of An Island of Women, which included some off-Island performances. In September the couple hosted a fundraiser for restoration work on the Federated Church’s 1895 Hook and Hastings organ.

But their focus is on family. “My one regret is that both sets of our parents died before they could share this special home with us,” Pam says. With their children spread out from New England to California, the Buttericks always make time for summer visits. It’s still a party house.