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Category: Building & Design

A Westport Cottage: Space of Calm & Respite

When Liz Farley was seeking solace from the bustle of life and work in the Boston area, she started renting houses in Westport. She grew up visiting Cape Cod, but when her elderly parents sold their home in Osterville, which she had often frequented, she saw that as a sign to identify and embrace another coastal community. “Farmland by the ocean— that is my ideal place,” she says.

Somewhat surprisingly, she didn’t seek out summer rentals, but off-season ones, so as to have a place to get away for weekends. She rented on Westport Point, but while she loved the people, she knew that if she eventually retired there, summertime crowds would make it far busier and reduce her privacy.

Westport cottageHer next rental was further set back from the shore, on Fisherville Lane. She loved it, and she needed it. She had abruptly left her long-time career and now had a new full-time commitment: taking care of her brother, who had been in a bad accident.

Westport cottage

Unfortunately, when she was ready to buy, finding the right property proved elusive. Thankfully, a neighborhood a little further up the Westport River had a home for sale that jumped out at her right away. Cadman’s Neck is a little community that had once been home to a religious camp, where only a dozen or so modest houses or cabins are sprinkled about. This particular house abutted Paradise Hill Farm and Westport River Winery, with the East branch of the Westport River only a stone’s throw away.


It was a small 1,300 square foot Victorian cottage. Never in her wildest dreams did Farley expect to purchase a Victorian cottage in Westport, but she loved it the moment she drove up to it. She bought the house fully furnished.

Westport Cottage

She realized that many pieces in the home—brought back to life with a little Murphy Oil Soap—fit her style perfectly. Those pieces included some artwork, chairs, and the kitchen table, among other things.

She walked into Pam Manchester’s Westport shop and said, “I think I need help. I bought a house and am confused as to how to set it up.” Farley had never worked with a designer before. Even when she renovated her historic Charlestown home, she had only “hired people to reupholster and choose fabrics.” Manchester visited not only Farley’s recently purchased cottage, but her permanent residence as well. And with the boon of quality pieces left in the house, “we had the perfect opportunity to mix old and new,” says Manchester, who was in the antique furniture business before opening Manchester Interiors. She has been advising her ever since, and this year helped Farley choose all new outdoor furniture for the large outdoor patio space.

Westport CottageThey started with a color palette, working off a base of soft beige, which complements the light blue, green, and various wood tones throughout the house. Then they began addressing her needs—adding antique tables in some places, chairs and other furniture in others. “We didn’t see the need to go shopping in a bunch of antique shops,” says Farley. “Many items came from Pam’s store.” On a few occasions, they had some things custom-made. Manchester had Tiverton’s Scott James Furniture make custom beds, nightstands, and a coffee table.

Westport Cottage

Farley liked the artwork on the walls, from etchings of whales to old portraits of people. Above the fireplace is a landscape of Race Point in Provincetown. After a little research, Farley learned that it was coincidentally created by an artist in Charlestown, where it turns out, the previous owners had also lived. There are a lot of nods to nature, in fact. The organic patterns on pillows in the master bedroom are abstract shapes, looking somewhat like sea anemones. A mirror outlined by what looks to be deer antlers mimics the shape of the Victorian windows and is placed purposely in its spot as the roofline would not accommodate a normal rectangular one.

Westport Cottage

One of the final spaces to tackle was the room above the detached garage. They had a great starting point with wonderful ship lap throughout. Farley kept the two twin beds and painted the frames, but because they were narrower than usual twins to fit the space, she had to have mattresses and box springs custom made. A dresser that had been unused in the garage was cleaned and placed right between the beds to vary the color scheme. “COVID has accelerated my interest in being here full-time,” says Farley. “I love the privacy, and it’s my place of calm and respite.”

Written by Scott Lajoie, Photographs by Nat Rhea. To view more of Manchester Interiors’ work, go to

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Bristol Community College’s Cutting Edge Design

The First Zero Net Energy Campus Science Lab in the Northeast

Last December, I toured the John J. Sbrega Health & Science Building on BCC’s Fall River campus with its architect, Jim Moses from Sasaki Associates. Over the past two years, he’s been making weekly trips to check in on the building — I’d been following its progress on Instagram and wanted to see it for myself.

I also wanted the skinny on this remarkable building which has been garnering national awards for its environmental approach. The goal: to design and construct a zero net energy (ZNE) building, or one that generates as much energy as it uses.

Anyone who has seen the solar array adorning the new parking lot at BCC knows that BCC is serious about renewable energy. President Jack Sbrega was a founding signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Change Commitment and BCC’s climate action plan sets a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.  When it came time to design its new health and sciences building, environmental concerns were necessarily part of the planning process.

Moses told me a little about ZNE buildings. Of the 40 or so ZNE buildings in the U.S., more than half are on the West Coast where the climate is milder. In addition to dealing with a harsher New England climate, BCC had to contend with the enhanced energy needs of a science building. Moses says a ZNE academic lab-science building “is without precedent in the Northeast.”

He told me about the hybrid source heat pump, enthalpy wheel heat recovery and the filtration fume hoods, all of which help create a ZNE building which will provide operational savings of $230,000 per year. He’s passionate about all of this (see more here).

Yes, yes, yes. The technology that reduces carbon footprints is terribly important. We all can agree that a Zero Net Energy building is something to celebrate. But here’s why I really went to see the building. What does it look like?

And here’s the really big news: it’s a beautiful design.

The Sbrega Health & Science Building

The Sbrega Health & Science Building (photo by James Moses).

From the outside, glass, steel, and wood combine to create a building that moves the campus beautifully into the 21st century.  The asymmetrical roof lines overhanging the building, the textured brick patterns, and the long colonnade create an elegant building with character that immediately engages your interest. You’ll want to walk all around the building. You’ll want to enter.

Inside, a soaring center atrium unifies the entire building. Staircases on either end appear to be floating. Glass walls create a window into the lab classrooms which reveal the science happening inside. The glass walls also bring a heavy coolness factor as new-fangled blackboards: they double as writing surfaces.

Moses pointed out areas where chairs and couches will entice students to study and lounge between classes. His hope is that students who would never think to take a science class will come to the building simply to hang out. They’ll see what’s happening in the labs and consider taking a class. “We always talk about science on display,” he says. “The idea is to remove the mystery behind science. If you can see it happening, you’ll be curious and think, ‘maybe I should take a class.’ It’s about inviting people into that world.”

“We always talk about science on display,” he says. “The idea is to remove the mystery behind science. If you can see it happening, you’ll be curious and think, ‘maybe I should take a class.’ It’s about inviting people into that world.”

Moses was very mindful of designing this building for the future yet he relished the opportunity to root it firmly in the South Coast’s history. The wood shingles and patterned floor tiles are nods to the history of the Fall River and New Bedford mills and textiles. He showed me some of the photos he used as inspiration to reflect this rich history:

Inside a textile factory

Inside a textile factory (used as inspiration for the Sbrega Buidling)

Inspiration for the Sbrega Building

Patterned textiles (further inspiration for the Sbrega Building)







Perhaps an even bigger nod to the past is the oak tree outside the North end of the building. When I visited in December, I saw it protectively surrounded by a chain link fence next to the construction zone and asked about it. The answer was simple. “We wanted to save it,” Moses said.

Saving the oak tree

Saving the oak tree (photo by James Moses)

There’s something incredibly lovely about their efforts to save that tree. It seems particularly apt for the Sbrega Building — reflecting both its healthy respect for the past and its forward-thinking focus on conserving the environment.

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