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The Architecture of Relationships

The Architecture of Relationships

In the spirit of the New Year and continued professional reflection, today we want to share some perspectives on a particularly significant aspect of our business. One of the important things we have learned over the years is this: architecture may be our profession, but we are really in the relationship-building business.

There are many components to building client relationships and the process can vary project to project. Over time, however, we’ve discovered there are certain cornerstones to relationship building that have helped define our architecture brand.

Patrick and his wife, Marsha, with local builder, Norman Rankow, and his wife at the Patrons’ Party & Auction during Taste of the Vineyard.

Communication is Key

First and foremost is timely communication. We are in a service business, so whether it’s during the interview process (when both the client and firm are assessing the “fit”), or halfway into a significant program, being responsive to our client is paramount. It demonstrates that we value and respect their time and questions, and signifies that we are a conscientious and reliable partner.

“Being accessible is key, and I understand the importance of getting back to people. At the end of each day, I try and return every single email and phone call I’ve received. It’s my responsibility.” – Patrick Ahearn

Be the Good Listener

Patrick sits down with homeowner, friend, and builder, Peter Rosbeck, in his newly finished home in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard.

High-end residential architecture, in particular, is very personal and requires that we genuinely get to know our clients. This means not only recognizing the goals and objectives of their project but also understanding how they live day-to-day. This process involves asking a lot of questions and being the good listener. A skilled listener can successfully translate a client’s ideas into an architecture that works for their life.

This all rings so true. Patrick designed our “city” house just over 20 years ago. In the process he learned a lot about our family, our friends, and how we live. This involved many conversations that drove design decisions. We live with those decisions every day. As a result, while we may not have been in close contact with Patrick through those years, we often felt his presence in our home. So, when we recently decided we wanted to build a new summer home we knew that Patrick would be a perfect choice. Once again we have gone through a wonderful design process with Patrick. But now it feels like we are doing it with an old friend! – Homeowner

Common Bonds

Talking openly about one’s personal space and living needs requires a level of trust and confidence, which we often establish by finding a common bond with our clients. Whether it’s a shared interest (cars, marketing) or history (growing up in New York, living on Martha’s Vineyard), learning about our clients and finding commonality helps develop an important level of trust – which ultimately allows us to design a house that meets and exceeds their private needs.

Patrick with his first client on the Vineyard turned long-time friend on a recent photoshoot.

Research and Prepare

On an architecture tour of Edgartown, Patrick and the homeowner discuss their shared vision when designing the home.

Once we start a client’s project, our goal is to create a collaborative story together. We often refer to this as “scripting the novel of their home.” Creating a home is an emotional, personal journey, and we want to make the process as rewarding and as seamless as possible. To do so, we incorporate our design philosophy – the greater good theory – into the practice.

While we always strive to give our clients the home of their dreams, we also believe the house should fit the scale and enhance the tone of its surrounding community – thereby contributing to the greater good. That means, as the architect, we understand not only the neighborhood aesthetic but also its zoning regulations and historical parameters. Being mindful of the greater good means overly preparing for a project, building consensus with the client (and their neighbors) and ensuring the novel of their home unfolds smoothly.

Patrick and I have been friends now for almost 20 years and he has done several projects for my wife and me. We continue to work with him because he brings a timeless sense of New England style to all of his work. – Homeowner

In residential architecture, it is crucial to cultivate relationships with a strong level of trust and communication. The wonderful bonus in those relationships is that many clients become lifelong friends. We appreciate and take those friendships very seriously – and remain passionate about creating architecture and relationships that reflect and define our brand.

Patrick celebrating the launch of his first book, Timeless, with friends and clients as well as his team.

Career Reflections

Career Reflections

With the New Year – and decade – upon us, we’ve been reflecting professionally on past work with notable personal meaning. There are many projects near and dear to our heart, but some stand out because of the professional lessons they taught us, and for the contributions we believe they made in their communities.

The Columbia Pictures building circa 1956.

While the firm today is best known for our residential homes, in the 1980s and ’90s much of our work focused on urban restoration and design in Boston. One project with particular meaning is The Columbia Building on Church Street in Boston’s Bay Village.

A corner building designed in the Art Moderne style, 45 Church Street was built in the early 1950s as Columbia Pictures’ Boston headquarters. (At the time, Bay Village was a hotbed for independent films and movie production.) In the early 1990s, our client acquired what was then an empty building and its raw aluminum window frames and curvilinear shape made it aesthetically unique and interesting. The goal was to convert the building to residential condominiums and bring a historically meaningful building back to life.

With its curvilinear shape, The Columbia Building was once home to Columbia Pictures’ Boston headquarters.

To pay homage to the building’s history, we restored the original Art Moderne façade, maintained the raw aluminum window trim details, and named the restored architecture The Columbia. Inside, we added a floor to the building, created loft-like modern 50s interiors, and upon completion, added a backlit, individually lettered neon sign to the building (a nod to the popularity of neon in the ‘50s) which, when set against the curvilinear façade and recessed entryway, set the building apart.

The raw aluminum window detail was preserved in the building’s restoration.
Mini Cooper was a distinctly designed, iconic brand, like The Columbia.

Fun Fact: Recognizing this was a tight, urban setting (we designed parking in the building’s rear), the developers offered the first buyers a brand new Mini Cooper. Like The Columbia – Mini Cooper was an iconic brand with a distinct design and proved to be an excellent branding partner for the project.

This restoration project provided myriad lessons – most importantly, it reminded us of the importance of respecting a community’s history and the value of looking to and learning from the past when designing for the future. These are invaluable lessons that continue to guide our architecture decades later.

Another project we often reflect on is 54 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston’s Back Bay. Once the premier neighborhood of Boston’s wealthy land barons, the 1970s and 80s saw much of Back Bay in disrepair – even abandoned. At the time, this site was an empty parking lot, and we were able to design the first new townhouse built in Back Bay in over a century. We developed the architecture with a New York entryway, which steps down into the ground to a wonderful lobby, allowing us to add a floor to the building (and making the economics of the design more viable). The front façade was a cast stone to simulate limestone with rusticated blocking detail and the structure was designed with concrete, which made it notably quiet and highly desirable.

Designed in the 1980s, this was the first new townhouse built in Boston’s historic Back Bay in over 100 years.

A memorable part of this design journey was having the Back Bay Architectural Commission approve the project in one hearing. This experience – along with over 400 Back Bay projects – taught us how critical it is to have sound design ideas, how to present those ideas in a meaningful way, and the value of overly preparing for presentations. Additionally, and more importantly, these projects taught us the rewards of bringing life back into historic communities. The chance to reinvigorate a neighborhood, to bring back its original character and desirability, taught us the importance of the greater good theory, which guides all of our work today. Creating architecture is not about that single project; it is about how that architecture works within a neighborhood context to positively affect the community as a whole.

We look forward to an exciting year ahead where we will continue to reference these career lessons and learn from the past to create for the future.

Happy New Year to all!

‘Tis the Season for House Guests

‘Tis the Season for House Guests

The holidays are nearly here, and for many homeowners that means the pleasure of welcoming family and friends for extended visits. When hosting, we want to provide our guests with an environment that feels both welcoming and serene. And, during the hectic holiday season, it is especially important for guests – and hosts – to have private areas to relax and retreat between planned celebrations.

This carriage house includes guest quarters on the second floor.

When designing homes for our clients (particularly those who regularly entertain), we are frequently asked to create separate guest quarters for visitors within the property. This affords both the homeowner and their guests with a desirable level of privacy throughout the visit, ensuring that all parties feel together – but comfortably independent throughout the stay.

This structure looks like a detached one-story guest house when, in fact, this is the second floor. The first floor, accessed on the other side, functions as a carriage house.

Many of the homes we design include a carriage house, which today connotes a romantic image that belies its modest beginnings. In fact, the carriage house was originally the outbuilding that stored horse-drawn carriages and saddles down below, with second-floor living space to house hired groomsmen or property help above. Sometimes, the carriage house also served as shelter for the homeowner’s animals.

This free-standing carriage house features guest quarters on the second floor, ensuring privacy for everyone.
However, the carriage house remains convenient and accessible to the main house.

Carriage houses today typically house our current mode of transportation: automobiles. The second-floor area offers a wonderful opportunity for guest space that is entirely separate from the main household. With its own entrance, bath, and laundry facilities, a carriage house offers guests an environment that feels cozy and private and accommodates the needs of twenty-first-century living.

Upstairs, guests can enjoy their own private space. A small wet bar provides the necessities so guests don’t have to go to the house for a glass of water for example.

While separate guesthouses are certainly desirable, guest quarters attached to the main house can also feel wonderfully independent. Often, we attach these spaces or wings to the primary building through a one-story connector, like a mudroom, and include a separate outdoor entrance. This enables family and friends to feel close to the home’s epicenter while still providing the desired level of privacy for all.

A one-story connector gracefully joins this guesthouse wing to the main house.
Here, the guest quarters offer a kitchenette…
…and separate gathering area, providing visitors independence from the main household.

 

When hosting family and friends, we want them to feel as comfortable as possible throughout their stay. Offering guests a private, welcoming space – either separate or attached to the main house – ensures they have a cozy place to call “home” for the holidays.

Fireside Dining at Home

Fireside Dining at Home

One of New England’s great pleasures is cozying up to a fire on a chilly winter night. While many of us cherish this comfort in our living rooms and dens, the fireside experience need not be limited to those spaces.

Dining near a lit fire adds instant ambiance and warmth to the experience.

Some high-end restaurants tout fireside dining as a unique and desirable reason to visit. But, the truth is, it does not have to be a dining-out novelty. Incorporating (or designing) a fireplace within a home’s dining room is a wonderful way to add warmth and ambiance to the at-home dining experience.

This classic stone fireplace, which heats and serves as a functional divider to adjacent rooms, offers the homeowners comfortable fireside dining without ever leaving their home.

Dining by a fire was once the standard before boilers and furnaces warmed our homes. Today, while not a heating necessity, many of our clients appreciate the romance a fireplace adds to their dining room area. There is something marvelously appealing about lingering over dessert beside a fire’s warm glow. And, what better way to add a magical feel to a holiday dinner celebration?

From a design perspective, adding a fireplace to the dining room provides an instant focal point for the room. When designing a fireplace for our clients, we first consider the home’s character and what sort of statement it should make. As a decorative element, the fireplace often adds symmetry to a room and provides an opportunity to create a wall of millwork that supports the fit and finish of the house.

The fireplace, flanked by glass china cabinets, provides visual symmetry to the space.

Another important consideration is whether a gas or wood-burning fireplace is most appropriate for dining. While some homeowners still prefer the sensory experience of a wood fire, many of our clients choose the ease of gas. Because gas offers the flexibility to turn the fire on and off as needed, requires no stoking during dinner, and no “post-fire” cleanup, it is the favored design option for many dining rooms.

This gas fireplace allows the homeowners to easily adjust the temperature and requires no after-dinner cleanup.

Today, when designing a home, the fireplace is no longer viewed as a statement piece relegated to a home’s lounging areas. Including a fireplace within a home’s dining room adds character to the space, warms the atmosphere on cold nights, and encourages guests to linger over holiday meals.

Cheers to fireside dining!

Festive & Inviting Holiday Décor

Festive & Inviting Holiday Décor

Decorating for the holidays is a timeless tradition we anticipate and embrace each December. This week – with fresh snow blanketing New England – our attention quickly turns from this year’s late Thanksgiving to the magical season ahead. If you haven’t decorated yet, you’re among many who are feeling a little behind this year, so we gathered a few tips on where you should focus your holiday curb appeal.

A festive and elegant holiday home begins with the exterior. When designing our houses, we carefully choreograph the arrival sequence from the street up to the front door. This sequence draws one into the property and creates anticipation for what lies ahead. During the holidays, we have the chance to accentuate that sense of arrival with layers of decorations that welcome guests with seasonal cheer.

When decorating the exterior of a home, we consider ways to highlight different architectural features in meaningful combinations. The journey begins at the property’s edge, where seasonal garland strung from a fence helps define the property – and sets a festive tone. Similarly, adorning a post light or mailbox with small lights warmly marks the entrance and creates a beautiful, welcoming glow.

Including layers of light throughout the property introduces dimension and romance to the holiday experience. For instance, adding strings of white lights around larger trees helps create warmth to evening arrivals. If the trees are too tall to safely light alone, consider hiring a truck with a boom to help light them as a signature piece to the property. Likewise, trees framing smaller outbuildings can be lit to highlight charming moments along the arrival.

The tastefully lit trees framing this pool cabana add sparkle and holiday charm.
The use of soft lighting on the home’s façade and its lower foliage helps draw guests through the property.

If the home does not have “Christmas-like” trees, introducing seasonal, potted trees (which can be used elsewhere on the property come spring), is a wonderful alternative. These trees, when softly lit, can help can define a walkway or entryway with warmth and charm. We also like adding smaller, seasonal trees and greenery to a home’s window boxes. Including lights will help further animate the arrangement with a festive, three-dimensional quality.

Window boxes filled with seasonal greens help animate the home’s facade.

When we imagine a holiday arrival sequence, we always consider ways to accentuate a home’s architectural moments. We want the approach to resolve itself in a warm and welcoming manner. Soft up-lighting of primary features – or hanging a large holiday wreath – are wonderful ways to highlight meaningful focal points. Wrapping porch columns in garland and displaying a beautifully lit wreath on the entry door sets a spirited and welcoming tone. Lastly, a Christmas tree visible in the window offers a warm glimpse into the home’s interior – a final touch for the arrival sequence.

A Christmas tree can be spotted on the second floor from the entryway.
The lit wreath on this stone chimney helps highlight a major architectural feature of the home.

Dressing up your home’s exterior spreads holiday cheer to your guests – and those just passing by. So if you, like many, were caught off guard by this season’s late Thanksgiving, we hope you find these ideas helpful. And for those who are local to Boston, the annual Lighting of the Commonwealth Avenue Mall occurs tonight from 8 – 9 PM. Enjoy this beautiful season and happy decorating!

Thanksgiving Dining

Thanksgiving Dining

Today is Thanksgiving, a time we unite with friends and family to recognize a day rich in American history. While we welcome this time to give thanks and celebrate with loved ones, we also reflect on a holiday steeped in symbolism – harkening back to our country’s first Thanksgiving in 1621 when Colonists shared the original fall “feast” with members of the Wampanoag tribe in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Thanksgiving – which many consider the unofficial start of the holiday season – still celebrates that original fall harvest with a grand meal and communal gathering. While it is widely believed that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated as an “outdoor festival,” most of us now gather in the comforts of our indoor dining areas.

Formal dining rooms were once an architectural staple in many homes, but that standard has evolved over generations. Today, we create dining rooms in varying styles and spaces to enhance the way our clients want to live and entertain – on Thanksgiving and every day.

Traditionally, dining rooms have been one of the more formal rooms in the house.

 

The dining experience has evolved to complement the way people want to live and entertain, today.

Many of our clients prefer to integrate their dining room within the homes’ overall living space. This style of blending creates a desirable harmony and flow within the home – which works particularly well when entertaining. The open integration easily connects guests with adjacent seating areas and also provides convenient access to the home’s kitchen and bar space.

This dining area opens directly to the kitchen in one direction…
… and to the family room in the other direction, providing an easy, open flow when entertaining.
While this dining room is fully integrated with the adjacent great room and kitchen…
…it still maintains a formal tone.

Another option is to create a dining area within a home’s transitional space. This design alternative offers homeowners several advantages. Fully integrating the room within the home’s circulation space – perhaps in the breezeway or within the “spine” of the house – creates a natural flow and offers the flexibility to create a formal or informal tone. For example, the character of the space can remain open and casual, or the aesthetic can be instantly elevated by including a built-in china cabinet and detailed finishes.

This breezeway functions both as a dining room and comfortable circulation space.
A double sided fireplace separates the dining area from the family room.

While there are many creative options, some of our clients still favor having a separate, traditional dining room in their home. Typically, this clearly delineated space serves a distinct dining (non-circulating) function and is designed with a formality in mind – including highly detailed walls and ceilings. For these homeowners, having a separate dining room encourages a true “dining” experience, where celebratory meals served on formal china over lingering conversation makes a holiday special.

The carefully crafted details in this dining room – including a coffered ceiling and detailed paneling – exudes a feeling of richness and formality.
The homeowners are able to display their formal china in the built-in cabinets.
This dining room is accessed through a wide cased opening with pocket doors that can be closed when the space is in use.

Today, as we gather to give thanks, we wish you all a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving in your special dining spaces. Enjoy the celebration!

The Improved Kitchen Experience

The Improved Kitchen Experience

With Thanksgiving just a week away, many of us are setting our sights on the kitchen. We are assessing our prep and storage spaces, reviewing recipes, and appreciating – or longing for – those new appliances that help optimize our kitchen experience during this busy holiday season.

It is said that “invention is the mother of necessity,” and today’s kitchen appliance and design trends are great examples of these innovations. With people pressed for time more than ever, creating efficiency in the kitchen is a key consideration for many of our clients. That means creating thoughtful kitchen storage and workspaces, as well as exploring faster – and healthier – cooking options.

Steam ovens are at the forefront of today’s appliance trends. By using pressurized steam rather than conventional heat, food is cooked much more quickly and maintains its moisture content without adding typical cooking oils. (Learn more about the steam oven in the video below.) However, because browning food is difficult with steam ovens, we often design a kitchen with either a combination steam-convection oven or include a separate steam drawer, giving clients the best of both cooking worlds. We also use drawers to more fully integrate microwaves into the kitchen cabinetry design. This storage option keeps the appliance handy, but pleasingly out of sight.

Refrigerators represent another key design consideration. Today, brands like Sub-Zero offer appliances sized in one-inch increments so we can carefully customize their integration within the kitchen. This flexibility, along with beautifully paneled door fronts, enables us to offer design solutions tailored to our homeowner’s needs. For example, clients with large families may require both a full-size refrigerator and full-size freezer within the kitchen. In this case – whether we design them side-by-side, with an oven in between, or with storage up above – the appliances remain space-efficient and fully integrated within the kitchen’s cabinetry design.

This kitchen features a full-size refrigerator and full-size freezer side-by-side.
This kitchen features two Sub-Zero over-under refrigerator/freezers separated by a workstation with a farmhouse sink.

Alternately, for clients with smaller households, a single, full-sized refrigerator may suffice for everyday use – while a secondary refrigerator/freezer drawer within an island or nearby pantry provides additional space when entertaining. For families large or small, this ancillary refrigeration space is especially helpful over the holidays for storing prepared sides or hors d’oeuvres, or providing self-serving beverage options for family and guests.

This smaller kitchen features a pantry close by with additional refrigeration and dishwasher drawers.

Over the holidays, meal preparation is always top of mind. Early prep is completed long before guests arrive, but last-minute prep inevitably occurs with a house full of people. For this reason, we are increasingly adding a second island to our kitchens, rather than designing a single, large island. Having two islands allows homeowners to control the space, ensuring each serves a distinct function: one provides a separate “work” or prep space, while the other is free to serve as a buffet or gathering area for guests.

These dual islands serve separate but equally important roles in the kitchen.

With preparation comes the impending kitchen clean up. While this task may be daunting, there are creative options – and appliances – to help make clean up more efficient. Today, we design most of our homes with two dishwashers – an enormous time-saver, particularly with holiday entertaining. For example, installing a full-size dishwasher in the kitchen, along with a second, single or double set of drawers for stemware (we like Fisher & Paykel) will help cut cleaning time in half, while ensuring barware and other items stay separated for quicker organizing and storage.

This island includes a microwave door, a dishwasher drawer, and two refrigerator drawers.
Optional paneling allows the appliances to blend in with the cabinetry.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, we welcome family, friendships, and holiday traditions – and embrace efficient design solutions that optimize our time in the kitchen.

Reclaimed Wooden Beams

Reclaimed Wooden Beams

We often discuss the importance of developing a storyline when creating or re-imagining a historic home. Doing so provides a creative script for our design team (and our clients) and helps us communicate the romance, character, and stories of that home. One way we bring that script to life is by introducing authentic architectural elements such as reclaimed wooden beams into our home designs. These beams provide a direct connection with the past while telling a wonderful story of their own.

The wooden beams in this master study date back to 1682.

Reclaimed wooden beams are just that – beams claimed from a previous lifetime. Most reclaimed wood is salvaged from centuries-old barns or homes where it underwent years of extensive weathering. The original timber had to carry the weight of structures built by settlers developing our farming industry hundreds of years ago. Many of these felled trees were already 200-300 years old – but considered “virgin growth” because they had never been cut before. Today, many trees are genetically augmented to grow more quickly, but at that time, trees grew at slower pace creating tighter growth rings and a denser consistency, which enhanced the overall markings and character.

The three most common types of reclaimed wooden beams are hand-hewn, rough sawn, and re-sawn beams. These styles serve varying design rolls and are differentiated by the process used to square the wood. Before the mid-1800s, sawmills were uncommon in rural areas, so hand-hewn beams (the most labor intensive) were cut and shaped by the blows of an axe. Hand-hewn beams often display unique tool markings within the wood, and because of their rich authenticity, we often use them to add rustic character when re-imagining historic homes.

Here, the beams picture frame the ceiling shape to provide a structured appearance. The flat stock bordering the rough sawn timber lends a more tailored look.

With the rise of machinery, saws eventually replaced the work of axes, and beams were cut and shaped with large, circular blades. Reclaimed rough sawn beams often display the original teeth marks from the blade, and, like hand-hewn beams, they are historically desirable in classic restoration. Lastly, reclaimed re-sawn wood beams provide a more finished design option; having been deliberately shaped over the years to show fewer markings, they offer a more refined look.

In this kitchen, the reclaimed antique beam is inserted to the underside of a cased beam to give the ceiling more vertical depth.

Centuries ago, wooden beams were strictly used for structural support within a building. Today, we introduce them as an architectural detail that adds age and patina to a space. They can picture frame the shape of the ceiling, giving it a more structured appearance while adding rhythm and scale that might otherwise not exist. While they work particularly well in dens, studies, and kitchens reclaimed beams can also add warmth and history to bedrooms and transitional spaces.

This master bedroom’s antique-wooden beams add to the rustic theme of this reimagined fisherman’s home.

When creating a storyline, we imagine how certain parts of a home were added on to or reconfigured as families grew over generations. For example, when designing a particular home on Martha’s Vineyard, our script said that, in the early 1800s, the midshipman’s barn was carefully attached to the original 1790’s main house. When re-imagining that space from a barn into a family room, we introduced a trussed ceiling using reclaimed beams to provide an authentic structural appearance while adding texture and character into the space.

In the barn vernacular, the space allows for a trussed ceiling that appears more structural than decorative.

Reclaimed wooden beams represent an important design element that directly connects us with the past by infusing a space with warmth and history. The character and imperfections of the wood provide us with tangible, visual hints of years gone by, reminding us of the craftsmanship, romance, and stories the beams could tell if they were able.

The Arrival Sequence

The Arrival Sequence

The approach to a home – or arrival sequence – is made up of memorable moments that create a sense of anticipation for what lies ahead. The sequence occurs from varying points from the street to the home’s front door, drawing one into the property with meaningful, visual moments both subtle or grand.

A carefully choreographed arrival sequence begins at the drive portal where one enters the private road. There are several ways to define this portal depending on the home’s aesthetic and whether one enters by foot or automobile. Often, we mark our client’s drive portal with stone pillars or a beautiful gate. This clearly denotes the transition between public and private space – evoking emotional anticipation as one enters the property.

Stone pillars mark a clear transition into the property.
A charming post and rail gate marks the entrance to this property.

A pedestrian archway through a garage or guesthouse is another example of an entry portal that effectively separates the public and private realm. The building through which one walks serves as a foil, creating privacy from the street, while the archway visually draws one through the property.

The pedestrian archway aligns with the front door of this Greek Revival farmhouse…
…drawing you into the property.

When creating a home’s arrival sequence, our goal is to create a meaningful ensemble of buildings. By breaking up the program – particularly if it is very large – we create moments of delight along the way. Dividing up the architecture also helps from a practical standpoint if we are designing a program on a tighter or more challenging site.

To help frame the arrival, we often design a sequence where smaller architectural elements are presented first, followed by the largest element, the main house. Seeing the home in the distance – whether a glimpse of the front door or a portion of the façade – helps to increase the overall level of anticipation.

The freestanding carriage house acts like a gatehouse as one arrives on the property.

After the portal, we next consider the corridor, which is the space between the entry and the motor court. Its design is influenced by the home’s level of formality, the neighborhood, and its geographic location.

This tree-lined grand allée creates arrival anticipation while the grass between the cobblestones softens the entry’s hardscape.

If, for example, we are designing a homeowner’s second, seasonal home on Martha’s Vineyard, conservation issues and practicality come into play. Here, where zoning often dictates design, we may choose to create a corridor made of classic pea stone. With its water-permeable surface, it is environmentally friendly (meeting conservation requirements) and requires less year-round maintenance than asphalt (no resurfacing or repair or weathered cracks). For some homeowners, pea stone also provides an added sensory benefit: the unique sound the gravel makes when entering the driveway feels distinctly comforting. Adding a cobblestone apron or edging can help define the border in a countrified, seaside manner.

This pea stone drive corridor is designed with classic cobblestone edging.

Alternately, if we are designing a year-round home where it snows, creating an asphalt drive corridor, or one made with aggregate pea stone (the pea stone is “rolled” into the asphalt) is the more practical choice for plowing purposes. Another benefit of asphalt is the ability to embed a heating system within the driveway, making snow removal that much easier.

Thoughtful landscaping, including carefully designed plantings and New England fieldstone walls, add to the visual texture of an arrival experience.

The carefully designed drive corridor ultimately leads to the motor court, which brings cars to the home’s front entrance. Depending on the property’s aesthetic, we may mark this entrance with additional pillars, or even design a covered motor entrance or porte cochere – creating a grand and timeless arrival.

When we design an arrival sequence, we think about human emotions and the anticipation that comes with entering a property. A thoughtfully choreographed arrival plays on those emotions by generating excitement and creating memorable moments of surprise and delight along the way.

Architecture at MV Food & Wine Festival

Architecture at Martha’s Vineyard Food & Wine Festival

Last weekend marked the eighth year we’ve enthusiastically supported the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival, a wonderful autumn event held in the village of Edgartown. Described as a “festival with a mission,” this annual celebration takes place over four days, attracts 1,500 worldwide visitors, and financially benefits important organizations like Island Grown Schools and Agricultural Society’s Farmer’s Program.

The first of our two engagements took place on Friday at Edgartown’s historic Harborview Hotel, where we spoke to a distinguished audience gathered for Perspectives on Architecture, sponsored by the Boston Design Center. Here, we shared the story of our early years in Edgartown and how our love of this seaside village evolved into thirty years of passionate work, helping to enhance and revitalize the town’s architectural aesthetic. We, along with designers Peter Niemitz and Rachel Reider, shared our perspectives to an audience of architecture enthusiasts, decorators, builders, and brokers who afterward enjoyed a lively reception filled with conversations about the many noteworthy ongoing and recently completed Island design projects.

The view from the Harborview Hotel.

Our next event, a guided Walking Tour of Edgartown, took place the following morning with spectacular weather and a spirited group of attendees. The walk began at Edgartown’s Rosewater Café and proceeded down historic South Water Street along Edgartown’s harbor. Here – where we have completed over 200 projects from grand restorations to careful reimaginings of Captain’s homes – we shared the history of Martha’s Vineyard architecture and how the village of Edgartown has evolved over the years.

Saturday morning, we began the Walking Tour with coffee at Rosewater.
On our way to South Water Street on a beautiful fall day.

Our first tour stop was at a harborside compound – sometimes called the James Cagney House – which epitomizes urban island village living. The original Greek Revival house, built in the 1920s, suffered significant neglect and was reconstructed on the existing footprint to preserve the original character and scale. While touring this significant project, we had the chance to discuss the design philosophy behind the new carriage house and visit the restored boathouse with its magnificent, spar-varnished mahogany bar.

Tour attendees file in the first house on the tour – a re-imagined Captain’s house and carefully restored boathouse that opens onto the edge of Edgartown’s harbor.
After walking through the house, we gathered outside on the bluestone pool terrace.
Tour-goers asking questions while others continue to explore the property.
Ahearn discussing the careful restoration of another historic Captain’s home on Edgartown harbor.
Heading down the cobblestone drive towards the water to see the rear.
Ahearn shares the history and challenges associated with this project.
Ahearn directs the tour-goers’ attention to point out specific elements on the home.

With a highly engaged audience (some of whom traveled from Minnesota and California), the conversation was lively, and the questions were astute. We were even lucky enough to have one of our clients on the tour who graciously offered an impromptu visit to her home, the historic Captain Rufus Pease House while sharing some creative details about its significant restoration.

Next stop, a house built for the island’s first blacksmith in 1682.
Ahearn shares the design direction of the restoration as well as the challenges.
Last stop on the tour was a home built in 1938 for Captain Rufus Pease.
The homeowner joins Ahearn in presenting her home to the attendees.

The walking tour concluded at The Carnegie, a historic landmark and village gem we had the honor to recently restore. The 112-year-old building, once the town library and now owned and operated by Vineyard Trust, is now a heritage center that showcases the Trust’s 20 historic Island properties. During the reception, our guests had the opportunity to mingle, sip Prosecco and learn more about the Trust’s mission and Island-wide properties. Before leaving, each attendee received a copy of our book, Timeless, as a parting gift.

The newly restored, historic Carnegie building on North Water Street in Edgartown.
The newly restored, historic Carnegie building on North Water Street in Edgartown.

We were thrilled to meet so many wonderful people at both of these sold-out weekend events and delighted to again help support the Festival in a meaningful way.