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Working from Home – We’re in it Together

Working from Home – We’re in it Together

As many of us navigate the nuances of remote work, we are discovering ways to create productive work areas within the confines of our personal living space. While some homeowners may already have a dedicated home office, others are discovering effective ways to create that work space, or use their existing office in a manner exclusive to “work.”

Given many company’s work-from-home mandate caused by COVID-19, home offices are being utilized now more than ever.

Before this current health crisis, remote work was already accelerating in the United States. In fact, according to the Federal Reserve, the share of the labor force that works from home has tripled in the last 15 years. Despite this recent growth (prior to the COVID-19 outbreak), most of us still regularly commuted to a separate workplace and are now acclimating to the new standard: working from home. Today, we will look at some ways to help inspire and encourage work productivity within our current physical surroundings.

One Gallup survey found that 43% of all Americans work from home occasionally — a statistic that has skyrocketed with the current health crisis.

With many of us are spending an exponential amount of time at home, we are likely paying a lot more attention to our physical space and perhaps experimenting with different work setups. Experts emphasize the importance of creating a consistent workspace and say, psychologically, that dedicating a space solely for work helps people successfully divide the tasks of work and family life. Working from a designated space also signals to other household members that we are prioritizing work and should not be disturbed.

When used consistently as a primary workspace, experts recommend that, if possible, one’s home office be used just for work—not for family socializing.
These pocket doors allow homeowners to close off their office for a quieter workspace — especially important with a house full of people.

While not everyone has an at-home office, there are creative, adaptable workspaces to discover within a home. For instance, an infrequently used dining room table could become a wonderful, quiet work refuge. Or, a kitchen island could offer a sleek, inviting space from which to set up each morning. For families with two adults working from home, one person may choose to use a desk nook or kitchen table, while the other creates a separate workspace in a quiet upstairs area.

Just beyond the kitchen is a built-in office nook and when breakfast is finished, this kitchen island could double as an additional inviting work area with ample counter space and lighting.
When working from home —particularly with young children — it’s easy for work and family life to overlap. To help delineate these lines, create a consistent space from which to work. Noise cancelling headphones are also a great investment.

In addition to adults working from home, the COVID-19 crisis means many families now have their school-aged children home around-the-clock. This new dynamic requires homeowners to find quiet work areas for their kids’ remote, on-line classes, as well as functional gathering space(s) to study or congregate with minimal disruption to other family members.

Children often find quiet comfort working in their own room. Here, a built-in desk and comfortable chair arranged by a window offers a private spot to concentrate.
With millions of school-aged kids now at home, a room that offers both a study area and lounging space is a popular option.

During these unprecedented workdays, there will be times when family members want to convene for a needed work or study break. That could mean a few minutes Skyping with an older relative, discussing recipe ideas, or talking through a work project. While having space to work independently at home can be invaluable, taking a break together in a communal area can help inspire productivity and companionship during this challenging time.

When working from home, sharing work and study breaks in a common space can foster productivity and connection for all family members.

Today, people can successfully work well as a remote team when they stay in touch. There are great options available for video-conferencing and screen sharing (GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Webex, to name a few) that not only help with daily internal communication, but also ensure that client presentations and design projects continue to run smoothly. As a daily touchpoint, we begin each day with a virtual team meeting, which, despite the lack of physical contact, allows our office communication and workflow to remain on track.

It’s impossible not to pay attention to our physical realm today as we work from home, together. And for those people who continue to work in hospitals, grocery stores and all essential places of business, we are eternally grateful for your service. We are living through extraordinary times and wish you all safety, inspiration and productivity while navigating this unprecedented period in work and life.

The 1950s: An Era of Inspiration

The 1950s: An Era of Inspiration

During this challenging time, most of us long for and appreciate simple moments of positivity and inspiration in our lives. These occasions may come as an unexpected piece of happy news or a moment of creative problem solving. Sometimes, this desire for positivity takes us to a place of self-reflection — perhaps to a period in our life and career that holds particular influence and excitement. For Patrick, that time of career inspiration was not a day or an event; it was an era: The 1950s.

When Patrick looks back and thinks about line and form, he recalls the automobiles of the 1950s; who he is as a person and designer was hugely influenced by the design world of the ‘50s.

Most anyone who knows Patrick is familiar with his unrivaled passion for cars, and the 1950s were, in his eyes, the era of the automobile. By the time he was five, he had thought he wanted to be a designer — not of buildings, but cars. When he looks back and thinks about line and form, he vividly remembers his father’s ’53 Ford Victoria with its curvaceous exterior and round chrome bezel clock on the dashboard. He loved washing his dad’s cars by hand because he could feel the shape and form and begin to understand line and proportion. Thinking back, Patrick feels these sensations were imbedded not just in his memory, but in his psyche as well. This was the start of his life-long love affair with design.

While Patrick loved the cars of the 1950s, he was also keenly influenced by what the world was like in America when these cars were built. He remembers this post-war era, marked by increased economic prosperity, as a time of simplicity and optimism. The interstate highway system was being designed, which gave people new and exciting mobility. People used to drive for pleasure! On Sundays, families would go out for a drive, not to get anywhere necessarily, but to be together.

Patrick felt there was a purity of design in the ‘50s. With little regulation in the auto industry at that time, new cars were designed each September with creative freedom and limited restrictions.

To Patrick, the 1950s were an exhilarating and influential cultural era. Product design was taking off. The black and white television, housed in a furniture cabinet, was now a staple in American households (in 1954, the first color version came to market, but it was a decade before it became popular). Fashion was new and exciting with pastel color schemes of turquoise, yellow, pink, and mint green (which translated to the world of cars). Modern Scandinavian furniture also came into vogue. Patrick, without realizing it at the time, was learning how design could influence people’s lives.

1950s House Beautiful editor Elizabeth Gordon called Scandinavian Design democratic, natural, intimate, and focused on home and family. © Tsvibrav | Dreamstime.com

Levittown, Long Island, Patrick’s childhood home, also profoundly influenced his design sensibility. Living in close proximity to others in the suburb outside of New York City awakened in him the importance of architecture and urban design and their ability to foster a sense of community. As he played with his favorite train set, he began designing little houses and villages around the track. Soon, he realized he had more fun designing the homes than running the trains — but was still unaware of what an architect was. That would soon change.

Patrick lived in the No. 1 Model
Patrick’s love for cars began when he (age 5) and his sister, Nancy, (age 3 on the right), would race each other in their pedal cars along Rim Lane, outside of their house in Levittown.

As we navigate these unprecedented times, we are grateful for moments of inspiration and delight. For Patrick, reflecting on the deeply influential and exciting era of the 1950s reminds him of the wonderful decade that ignited his design passion and continues to influence his architectural career today. Sending you all our positive wishes today, and each day moving forward.

Good Bones

Good Bones

Clients frequently ask us if a home they are looking at has what we consider “good bones.” We’ve all heard the term, which is often bandied about in the real estate and design worlds and can sometimes mean different things to different people. For us, a defining characteristic of a project with “good bones” is whether the house is original in its context.

When we restored this 1838 Edgartown home, affectionately known as The Yellow House, we salvaged and reinstalled the home’s original, single glazed-windows and its signature white fence.
We often reconfigure the interiors of historic homes along a series of spines, which open up the circulation patterns without sacrificing the fundamental antique character of the house. The “good bones” are preserved but thoughtfully updated.

Ideally, a home’s infrastructure should be relatively sound (e.g., the house is not sinking), but most importantly, in our eyes, a home with good bones has a recognizable history and personality. We believe it is important that the original intent of its design is intact, and there are both a language and story we can build upon.

This 1936 Royal Barry Wills home in Wellesley, Massachusetts has seen five sensitive additions, all of which were guided by the language, materials, and scale of the existing building.

In New England, we are fortunate to have a history of good architecture from different periods. When we assess whether a home has good bones, we first look at the original theme of the house: do the style and scale feel right? Are the exterior materials—the siding, roof shape, and windows—accurate or the right proportion? These things help provide the contextual cues that often lead our restoration projects. That is not to say we cannot find the common design denominator of a house that’s experienced multiple (not necessarily good) generational additions and bring it back to its original intent. In these instances, we might need to look at archival records as a guide, if much of the original exterior and interior detail had been modified beyond recognition.

Before its restoration in historic Edgartown, only the basic massing of this late 1800s, clapboard-fronted captain’s home remained intact. However, we found archival photos that led to the visual language of its restoration.

As a firm, we do not consider ourselves pure preservationists, but we do feel it is important to maintain original, meaningful details when possible. Many older homes often have warren-like configurations of rooms, which make for constrained, disjointed circulation patterns. So, when we’ve decided a home has good bones and is a candidate for restoration, we may recommend carefully modifying the floorplan but preserving and relocating a lovely, original staircase. Or, we may open up the ceilings in an attic to create a story-and-a-half-space and make the dormers clerestory windows, while still being respectful of the house’s original intent. Our primary goal is to maintain the scale and character of the home while creating an innovative, modern approach to space that allows clients to live the way people want to live today.

Like many older homes, this house had an inconveniently placed staircase. We relocated it to the foyer, finishing it with a period-appropriate newel post and antique chestnuts treads.

Recently, a former client asked us to look at a house in Connecticut and help him decide if the home had “good bones.” In addition to assessing if the home was original in its context, we suggested it was also important to consider if the house fit the scale (height and size) and character of the neighborhood. Evaluating how a home sits on a lot—as compared to the neighboring houses—and comparing its exterior materials and features to ensure they are consistent with the surrounding homes are also important factors worth studying. The home, a late 1920s Cape with charming dormers and a wonderful chimney, passed all of the “good bones” tests and is currently under agreement.

To some, what defines if a home has “good bones” may feel personal or subjective. However, when guiding our clients, we believe—first and foremost—the original intent of a home’s design must be intact. With that language to work with, we can honor its original theme and bring to life its historic character in a modern and meaningful way.

The Newport Casino

The Newport Casino

We are often asked what buildings influence our design work, as well as the architects from whom we find inspiration. While there are many extraordinary buildings throughout the world that provide creative inspiration, there is one — right here in New England — that holds particular meaning for us. The building is The Newport Casino, located in historic Newport, Rhode Island. Similarly, the firm that designed the building, McKim, Mead & White, has provided us with far-reaching design inspiration with their sensitive use of materials and scale.

Despite its name, The Newport Casino was never a gambling destination; the word casino originates from the Italian word “casa,” meaning a small country villa or social club. Here, we see the original grass courts out back.

The Newport Casino, which houses the International Tennis Hall of Fame, opened in 1880 as a social club for Newport’s turn of the century “summer society.” Although the Newport Casino was never a gaming site, it is said, ironically, that the building’s roots involve a betting story. The legend goes that its founder, New York Herald Publisher James Gordon Bennett, Jr., bet his polo partner, Captain Henry Augustus Candy, to ride his horse up onto the porch of an exclusive men’s club (The Newport Reading Room) of which he was a member at the time. Candy took the bet — after which his guest membership was promptly revoked. Soon after, Bennett decided to purchase nearby land and build a club of his own. He hired McKim, Mead & White, the premier firm of that time, to design the club with both private and public areas. When the Newport Casino opened in the summer of 1880 it immediately became the epicenter of Newport’s social elite.

The Newport Casino’s front façade, with its weathered shingles and green awnings, faces the bustling, village streetscape. Daniel Case / CC BY-SA

Today, The Newport Casino is considered a premier example of American Shingle Style architecture and in 1987 was designated a National Historic Landmark. Designed with shingle, brick, and stone, it was largely inspired by the architects’ extensive travels throughout Europe. During this period—which followed our country’s 1876 Centennial celebration— the Shingle Style combined English influence with renewed interest in Colonial American architecture. Architects such as McKim and his partners adopted the weathered, shingled facades of colonial buildings, and celebrated the use of beautiful, simple materials in an architectural way.

The Isaac Bell House, owned by Isaac Bell Jr., brother-in-law of Newport Casino founder James Gordon Bennett Jr., was also designed by Charles McKim and remains a superb example of Shingle Style architecture in America.

The structure of The Newport Casino included a horizontal street-facing façade with restaurants and storefronts on the first floor, and billiards, club and reading rooms on the second and third floors. Tall chimneys and gables added vertical rhythm to the exterior while several open porches provided easy outdoor access, adding to the overall aesthetic.

John Phelan / CC BY-SA

Over one hundred years later, the romantic design of The Newport Casino was the source of inspiration for The Boathouse and Atlantic, an important design project for us in another New England village setting. Located on Main Street in historic Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard (similar to The Newport Casino’s commercial location in Newport) the architecture replaced a tired, 1960’s building with a Shingle Style structure housing a private club (The Boathouse) upstairs and a public space (Atlantic restaurant) at street level. With its gables, weathered shingles and awnings, the building’s exterior reflects the wonderful character, scale, and materials of The Newport Casino. Similarly, retail space on the ground floor effectively animates the streetscape, while public access to the harbor around the building (a critical component of the design), helped make this project a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown Edgartown.

The use of awnings and a wooden storefront on the building were among the architectural features reminiscent of the Newport Casino

We remain inspired in the extraordinary work of McKim, Mead & White and take cues from their sensitive use of materials, scale and romantic architectural language. If you have the opportunity, visit the Newport Casino and Tennis Hall of Fame. The building —and its history—will not disappoint.

Enchanting Balconies

Enchanting Balconies

“But Soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”
– William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

On this Valentine’s eve, we are inspired by one of the most iconic images in romantic literature: Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene. We can envision Juliet, framed within her bedroom window, listening to Romeo’s heartfelt professions. That grand image, which looms large in romantic prose, belies the intimate scale of the “Juliet” balcony it made famous.

Fun fact: Tourists who visit what is said to be Juliet’s 14th century home in Verona, Italy (the setting for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”) often leave love letters on the wall—a tradition rumored to make their love “everlasting.”

Historians believe the earliest exterior balconies date back thousands of years to Ancient Greece and were used as functional architectural adornments to help increase air circulation and introduce natural light to the building’s interior. The precise time when balconies transitioned from a practical to “decorative” adornment is uncertain, but it is clear that in the 18th and 19th centuries, European architects adopted balconies as a central exterior feature. They believed balconies were an integral part of a building’s façade and were desirable both because they made buildings appear more “grandiose,” and because they provided a beautiful aesthetic to passersby.

In many European cities, these small, Juliet-style balconies are considered central to the city’s tone and character.
These full-length doors open to allow optimum air circulation and provide a suggestion of outdoor space.

Today, depending on the homeowner’s objectives, we introduce small balconies as both exterior and interior design elements. As an exterior feature on a second or third floor, balconies create a desirable link between the inside and the outside of a home. While there are several architectural versions of a Juliet balcony, they typically surround French or double doors, are shallow in depth and provide a suggestion of outdoor space without actually leaving the house.

Juliet-style balconies add character to a building’s façade and introduce natural light to the abutting interior space.

As an interior design feature, small balconies on a second floor (sometimes called overlooks) create an open, architectural dialogue between the two stories. From the upper floor, the balcony engages both levels and allows us to experience the space from an elevated podium. From below, it gives us a hint of the space above, where there would typically be a wall, creating a sense of seamless continuity.

This second-floor balcony enables the homeowners to experience the first- and second-floor space from a unique, elevated position.
And the view from the second floor.

Centuries after Shakespeare’s famous courtship of Romeo and Juliet, the balcony remains an enchanting and enduring architectural feature. We wish you all a Happy Valentines Day filled with romantic inspiration!

Home Design with Dogs in Mind

Home Design with Dogs in Mind

In the last several decades, pet ownership in the United States has grown exponentially. In fact, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), there are now almost 90 million dogs owned by families in the U.S. For many of us, these four-legged friends are family — so it comes as no surprise when clients ask us to incorporate dog-friendly ideas into their home design.

Meet Finn, our brand new addition to the PA office!
Many of our clients consider their pets family members and appreciate the benefits of designing a home with a dog in mind.

While we love our furry friends, we do not love the mud or debris they sometimes track through the house. One creative solution is to incorporate a pet “station” near their primary entryway. We typically design these within a transition space, such as a mudroom or designated area off the garage, where a muddy dog can be cleaned up before entering the main part of the house. The design can be as simple as a space with a small sink, bench, and storage hooks. Or, it can be designed as a comprehensive animal mudroom, complete with a tiled dog shower, radiant heat, and drawers for supplies and toys.

In this design, we incorporated a tiled dog-wash station and kennel off the garage, making cleanup convenient for all.

Inside the home’s main living areas, there are also dog-friendly design solutions to consider. One practical feature worth pursuing is a convenient feeding zone within the kitchen. A low, pullout drawer is a great option because it eliminates the chance of tripping over food bowls when cooking or navigating the kitchen. Once a pet’s meal is finished, the feeding drawer can be closed, and the bowls hidden away (just be sure there is water available in another area). A convenient alternative is creating a feeding nook built within the end of a kitchen island. Like the drawer, this option keeps bowls out of the way, while seamlessly integrating the feeding space into the kitchen design.

It is important to have water available to your dog at all times, but no one likes tripping over a water bowl. Here, we designed a convenient water station for dogs to access adjacent to the mudroom.

Sometimes pets have the run of the house, but there are occasions when it is helpful to keep them within a given room or area. Designing a tasteful divider, such as a pocket gate that retracts into the wall, is a wonderful solution for creating these barriers. These dividers, often made with mesh or vertical baluster, are similar to baby gates but are user-friendly and decidedly more convenient. Another consideration is deciding where your pet will go to relax. Animal experts recommend that owners provide a safe, comfortable space for their dogs to retreat or sleep. With this in mind, we often design a little den or hideaway—perhaps in the space under a stairwell—for our clients’ dogs to call their own.

A quiet retreat from the household’s hectic pace.

Lastly, a trending discussion we’re having with homeowners is the electronic pet door. There was a time when people worried that a “doggie door” could provide home access to unwanted creatures. But, with today’s smart technology, these doors are controlled electronically from a pet’s collar and will only unlock and open when the collared animal approaches. Additionally, owners can program the hours when the door will operate so they know exactly when their pet is venturing out.

 

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With the boom in pet ownership, we will continue to incorporate creative, dog-friendly concepts into our home designs. We treasure our four-legged friends, and being mindful of their needs, along with our own, ensures a peaceful environment for all.

Double Height Living Space

Double Height Living Space

Few architectural features offer the elegance or impact of double-height spaces. In the language of architects, a double-height space is when the ceiling is roughly twice as high as the ceilings in the other rooms, providing homeowners with soaring, open space and striking natural light.

The abundant windows in this double-height room floods the area with natural light and visually connects the room to the outdoors.

Double-height spaces have come in and out of American vogue over the past several decades. In Pre-World War II, a large number of homes had high ceilings—if not double-height—certainly taller than the standard eight feet. Then, in the 1960s and ’70s, many U.S. homeowners abandoned the idea of high ceilings, likely because they were more challenging to heat. In the late 1980s and ’90s, the double-height trend returned and people were once again drawn to the open space and volume. Some attribute the “revival,” in part, to the historic preservation of prewar, high-ceilinged apartment buildings in cities throughout the country at that time. Additionally, during that same period, countless industrial buildings were re-imagined into offices with open, loft-like space and light. Many people who worked in these new, airy spaces liked the openness so much, they wanted to translate that same feel to their homes.

Fun Fact: Fast Company reported that high ceilings “promote a mindset of creativity” and are tied to a psychological “sense of freedom.”

The design of these double-height foyers adds depth to the entry space and reinforces the connection between the first and second floors.
While double-height ceilings are often reserved for foyers and great rooms, they offer open and pleasing tranquility to bedrooms as well.

Today, there are many reasons we introduce double-height space to our clients’ homes. Sometimes, the design decision is based on the scale of the space. If, for example, we create a room that is 30 feet long, a standard eight-foot ceiling would feel rather low—and the space could appear overly vertical or top-heavy. Creating additional volume brings bring depth and dimension to the area, and introduces a scale that feels visually appealing.

The ceiling height in this large gathering room enhances the dramatic scale, while the statement lighting adds to the elegant, cottage aesthetic.

Other times, our designs for double-height space are client-driven. Some people appreciate the impact a double-height ceiling adds to an entry foyer, while others are drawn to the flowing space and natural light of a double-height great room. Some homeowners also recognize that the ceiling height of these rooms offer interesting design options and versatility. If, for instance, we choose to enhance a rustic, country tone, we may introduce reclaimed wooden beams to the room’s ceiling design. Or, to reinforce a beachside, cottage aesthetic, we may include beadboard paneling to add warmth and character to the space.

The dormer windows in this great room create an airy, tranquil space with beautiful natural light.

As we move into this new decade, the double-height room remains a coveted architectural design feature. Whether it’s the flowing, open space, or the wonderful, abundant natural light — for many of us, these rooms represent the height of elegance.

The Roaring Twenties – Timeless Inspiration

The Roaring Twenties – Timeless Inspiration

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

We are often asked if there is a period in history that inspires our design style or philosophy. While many eras provide creative influence, we draw particular inspiration from the period referred to as the Jazz Age or “Roaring Twenties.” Remarkably, 2020 marks 100 years since this pivotal time in American history, characterized by vibrant economic prosperity and carefree post-war self-expression.

Still standing, Hempstead House is a Tudor-style mansion with 40 rooms and enormous vaulted ceilings that “incarnates the opulence and glamour of the roaring 1920s.”

In the 1920s, many of Long Island’s estates—along with similar homes built in communities like Newport, RI and Palm Beach, FL—were designed by architects who’s own design inspiration came from Europe. American architects like Addison Mizner, known as one who “epitomized the society architect,” or the great David Adler, would travel to Europe to study its historic buildings, and then return to the US to reinterpret that European model of classical architecture. In the 1920s, the architecture of Europe became the architecture of American success.

Historic Winfield Hall, also known as the Woolworth Estate, is an Italian Renaissance style home designed in 1917 by architect C.P. H. Gilbert. http://www.goldcoastmansions.com/ [Public domain]
Growing up on Long Island in the 1950s and ’60s, Patrick often drove to the nearby North Shore—known as the Gold Coast—to view the magnificent, abandoned mansions, many of which were built in the 1920s. Sometimes, he would walk the property to more closely study these edifices, which, though empty and overgrown, spoke volumes of a time when people “motored” to and from their stately homes and grand, outdoor lawn parties were the order of the day.

Built for John Shaffer Phipps between 1903-1906, Old Westbury Gardens is an English manor designed to resemble his wife Margarita’s estate, Battle Abby, in England. DeBevoise, C. Manley, (1862 – 1963) Old Westbury Gardens, the residence of Mr. and Mrs. John S. Phipps. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America.

When visiting these properties, he could easily imagine the lifestyle depicted in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel The Great Gatsby inspired during his visits to the very same Gold Coast. Studying the architecture and surrounding grounds, he could envision the wonderful parties those buildings once hosted, where guests arrived in exotic cars down curated, manicured drives. These homes were built to entertain, and that sense of indoor-outdoor living—along with their impactful arrival sequence—made a lifelong design impression.

The arrival sequence of this home on Martha’s Vineyard slowly unfolds as one moves down the long, wooded driveway and through the carriage house.

Throughout Patrick’s career, he continues to been inspired by the 1920s: the architecture, music, and clothes all celebrated an expression of the good life. Today, we draw from that era to help our clients celebrate things that enhance their own life experience. We talk with them to find and interpret those positive elements and design their homes with those features in mind. Whether they entertain frequently or simply want to enjoy a private oasis, important architectural features of the 1920s, like indoor-outdoor living spaces and meaningful arrival sequences, remain a critical part of our design process.

This oasis of indoor-outdoor living space provides ample opportunities for hosting grand or intimate gatherings.

“A style does not go out of style as long as it adapts itself to its period. When there is an incompatibility between the style and a certain state of mind, it is never the style that triumphs.”

― Coco Chanel

We believe that careful study of the past is crucial when designing for the future. The influence of the Roaring Twenties—a time when European architecture was recreated in the American idiom—continues to impact and inform our work a century later.

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!