Summer is the time for alfresco entertaining and is the season we use our outdoor living space to its fullest. Whether it’s a large affair on the grill or a small, informal gathering, there is a special ease to outdoor entertaining that we treasure during these fleeting months of summer.
We frequently discuss the importance of easy indoor-outdoor living with our clients and detail various design solutions in our book, Timeless. Many of our clients want homes that feel intimate, yet are ready to entertain large groups year-round – especially in the summertime.
Creating an easy transition from indoors to out makes alfresco entertaining seamless for homeowners. We regularly activate ground floors by connecting them directly to the home’s outdoor living spaces. A first-floor room may open directly to a covered porch which transitions effortlessly to a pool terrace – becoming an outdoor dining room of its own.
Depending on the program, we often create layers of outdoor spaces that offer homeowners lively, multifunctional gathering options. Sometimes that means designing an outdoor kitchen and fireplace alongside a large dining area, while also creating more intimate, hidden seating spaces to enjoy with smaller groups.
Some of our clients wish to integrate lawn games into their outdoor entertaining repertoire. In such cases, we like to create an easy connection between the lawn area and the grilling, beverage, and dining spaces.
When summer evening temperatures drop, that does not mean that outdoor entertaining must come to an end. Warm and inviting flames from an outdoor fireplace (or fire pit) offer a wonderful place to congregate. Homeowners can encourage guests to linger by bringing blankets outside or toasting marshmallows over the fire. Candlelit tables and outdoor lighting also enhance the inviting ambiance.
Well-designed outdoor entertaining areas can be as comfortable and inviting as their indoor counterparts. With layered spaces and easy access to grilling and entertaining, outdoor living areas provide boundless opportunities for alfresco fun.
With August in full swing, many of us are enjoying our outdoor living spaces as much as possible. Last week, we discussed the ways in which a homeowner’s pool area serves as a focal point for outdoor living and entertaining. This week, we will focus on the pool’s essential companion – the wonderful and functional cabana.
Pool cabanas serve multiple roles within the outside living area. As a separate, nearby building, they offer convenient privacy and protection from the sun for swimmers (and loungers).
Additionally, they afford homeowners with easy, accessible storage and changing space for bathing suits and towels. This means fewer wet towels making their way into the house – and for people with young families, an end to wet kids running inside in search of dry towels.
We design our cabanas as small buildings that work in harmony with the main house and other outbuildings. Some are beautifully simple with limited adornment, while others are more detailed, mirroring specific architectural details of the main home.
The cabana’s interior layout and amenities are dictated by the individual needs of each homeowner. Some cabanas are designed with classic, cozy sitting areas and folding glass doors to create a seamless progression to the outdoors, while others include more elaborate amenities such as kitchenettes, fireplaces and half baths for convenient indoor-outdoor entertaining. No matter the layout, careful attention to details ensures that the cabana remains connected to the tone and history of the house, and effortlessly transitions to the outdoor living space.
While some New England cabanas are used strictly in the summer months, many homeowners take advantage of this inviting outdoor destination year-round. With a cozy fireplace and comfortable seating, where better to warm up after a winter hike?
Pool cabanas represent a wonderful marriage between beauty and versatility. Whether rustic or refined, the cabana is a relaxing poolside retreat offering protection from the sun and a harmonious connection between indoor and outdoor living.
With New England’s recent heatwave, residential swimming pools have been a topical subject among our friends and clients. Not only do they offer convenient, inviting relief from the summer heat, they also provide homeowners with a focal point for outdoor living and entertaining.
There are myriad options for pool design, and we take our cues from several sources. Because the pool is an extension of the home, we first consider the building’s architectural character. We then look at the outdoor topography for any space restrictions, and whether the area lends itself to a certain shape or design. If we envision a more organic feel, the pool may take on a free-form shape to blend with the outdoor environment. Alternately, if the space calls for a more traditional or sleek look, we may recommend a rectangular design.
When appropriate, we may also include an infinity design where the water flows freely over the edges. These vanishing edges give the visual impression that the pool has no boundaries – or is magically connected to the nearby ocean.
If the homeowner has an extended family with children or grandparents, we often design the pool with a wide entry and gentle pitch for easy access.
For all designs, we recommend using gunite for its exceptional versatility. Gunite is a mixture of sand and cement shot through a hose and does not produce seams like traditional, poured concrete.
No matter the size or shape of the pool, it is important to create an inviting common gathering space to be enjoyed day or night. That means judicious consideration of hardscaping, lighting, and congregation areas. To merge the indoor and outdoor living space, we use bluestone edges or coping to blend in with the adjacent patio or terrace.
We also carefully select the pool’s lighting, which sets an important tone, particularly in the evening. Including fun and welcoming gathering spots – such as hot tubs and fire pits – helps transform the pool area into the optimal summer gathering space.
Water features are also meaningful elements – both aesthetically and from a functional standpoint. For example, within an urban setting or dense courtyard, the soothing sounds of waterfalls or jet sprays help create a sense of relaxation and privacy.
A well-designed pool area can transform any outdoor living space into a summer oasis. Whether lounging our entertaining, a pool and its surrounding outdoor space provide homeowners with a wonderful sensory experience – and a welcome relief from the summer heat.
Some things effortlessly match the feeling and lifestyle of their environment. Case in point: the Moke. It is the ideal little vehicle for island living. Stylish and beachy, it’s the car you may have seen on vacation and wondered about. Moke is the perfect package of laid back, wrapped-in-fun, tied with an emissions-free ribbon. It immediately says: “summertime.”
We recently purchased an e-Moke for getting around the village of Edgartown. Not only is it fun and uncomplicated, it’s electric – a wonderful bonus. When designing or restoring homes, we often look for environmentally sound, green options, so finding this sporty, electric Moke was great. Charge the battery overnight, and it will run for around 40 miles. That means no stops at the gas station heading to job sites or the office. And, it doesn’t require any cumbersome hook-up; just plug it into any household outlet and you’re good to go.
The British Motor Corporation (BMR) first produced the Moke in the late 1950s as a portable military vehicle, and in 1963 a civilian version was launched in the UK. It eventually became a cult favorite in areas like the Caribbean and Australia as a beach cruiser. The Moke seats four, and because it’s small and customizable, it can be easily designed to fit your needs. Add a Bimini top or a surf rack and hit the waves.
The Moke is a street-legal, which means it is approved by the NHTSA and conforms to all government requirements. Considered a Low Speed Vehicle (LSV), the Moke is perfect for short commutes, quick errands, or beach drop-offs. Low to the ground with a maximum speed of 25, this is a no-rush, enjoy-the-ride car.
We look forward to our summertime commute in this no-emission vehicle that fits perfectly with Vineyard living. Maybe we will see you around town.
A building’s exterior shutters were originally designed for functionality. Today, however, their role is most often visual – like an accessory for the home. When shutters are designed as part of the overall exterior, they play an important role in establishing the correct solid to void relationship on each façade. The shutters are considered part of the window ensemble – another layer of information to the home’s façade and an architectural detail that pulls everything together.
Originally, shutters were designed to control light, provide privacy, and help protect a home from the outside elements. Historians believe shutters were first used in Ancient Greece and were constructed of marble with fixed louvers. The use of shutters quickly spread, and the material of choice became wood.
Solid paneled shutters were called “shutters” and the louvered shutters we see today with angled horizontal slats were called “blinds.” In the late 1700s, louvered shutters came into use and were particularly favored in warmer climates. Operable with functional hinges, they could easily swing closed to minimize heat, while still allowing air to circulate into the house. Louvers added another layer of functionality: by pointing downward, they help shed water away from the home during rainstorms.
By the early 1800s, many windows were fitted with exterior shutters, which were typically painted either dark green, or a shade of green that weathered to a deeper hue. Shutters were opened and closed daily to provide shade or to protect from oncoming storms (storm windows had not yet been invented). When closed, these shutters fully covered the window and were as important then as window screens are today.
Today, shutters remain a classic fixture in historic homes and are considered an integral part of many window designs. Since shutters are rarely used for their original function, many homes have turned to decorative, inoperable shutters. We strongly believe in using operable shutters for historical accuracy. Based on traditional architecture, we typically size our shutters to fully cover and accept the window opening and match the vertical dimension of the window’s frame.
Exterior shutter hardware – including proper pins and holdbacks – provides aesthetic authenticity to operable shutters. We use functional hinges (typically New York Style) and appropriate holdbacks (shutter dogs) on all of our shutter installations. In addition to authenticity, mounting the shutters away from the siding builds space and dimension for visually appealing shadow lines.
Exterior shutters have evolved over the centuries – both in function and materials. Today, PVC shutters are accepted because they are durable, easy to maintain, and appear historically accurate. While shutters no longer play the functional role they once did, they continue to provide another layer of information to the façade of each home: they are a classic accent that matters.
“It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade….with illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” John Adams to his wife Abigail of the Declaration of Independence.
Today marks our country’s 243rd birthday, and we will celebrate with fanfare and family fun. Many of us will attend parades, host cookouts, and watch beautiful fireworks displays. It is a wonderful time for Americans to commemorate our country’s freedom – and what better place to celebrate than Cape Cod and the Islands?
While we are partial to Martha’s Vineyard (our second office is located here), celebrations on Cape Cod and Nantucket are wonderfully festive and perennially well attended. Though we can’t cover them all, we will highlight a few events and fun facts for this special holiday.
If you are visiting the Upper Cape, you may be interested to know that Falmouth is the hometown of Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote, “America the Beautiful.” Falmouth is also a great place to watch the fireworks; in fact, it was voted one of the 10 best fireworks displays in the country by Travel and Leisure Magazine. Their display goes off over Falmouth Heights Beach at Dusk.
Fun fact: In 1781, Massachusetts was the first state to recognize Independence Day as a holiday.
If you are celebrating on the Lower or Outer Cape, from Wellfleet to Chatham, there are several fabulous parades to choose from. One of our favorites is Chatham. In addition to its village charm, Chatham happens to have one of the oldest Independence Day Parades in the United States attracting over 20,000 people each year. This year’s parade starts at 9:30 AM on Main Street. In the evening, Wequassett Resort & Golf Club presents a spectacular fireworks display from a barge in Pleasant Bay (shared with the private golf course, Eastward Ho! Country Club). Their Family Gala celebration offers “family-friendly waterfront dining on the terraces and lawn with great music, dancing, and a sumptuous buffet.” For those looking for a more intimate setting, you’ll find the best seats are from the water as hundreds of boats line the horizon to watch the show.
Fun fact: Our flag’s current design was chosen in 1960 (only the number of stars have changed in our flag’s design history).
If Osterville is your destination, you will have many options for local parades and fireworks to enjoy. Parades in surrounding villages are staggered beginning at 9 AM in Barnstable, 10 AM in Centerville, 11 AM in Cotuit and Hyannisport, finishing at 2 PM with the Hyannis Inner Harbor Boat Parade. A favorite area fireworks display is in Hyannis beginning at 9 PM over the harbor. If you miss that one and have a boat, you can enjoy Oyster Harbors Club’s fireworks from the water on July 5th.
Finally, if you’re lucky enough to be on Martha’s Vineyard celebrating July 4th, you can expect fantastic weather and boundless holiday festivities. Starting at 2 PM, Vineyard Trust will host concerts and a clambake on Main Street in Edgartown. The iconic afternoon parade featuring marching bands and classic cars takes place at 5 PM, followed by a magnificent fireworks display on the harbor at 9 PM. Fireworks are launched from the water between Chappaquiddick and Edgartown so find some space at Fuller Beach, on a dock along the harbor – or better yet, on a boat – and enjoy this amazing show.
Each year, the traditions of July 4th bring us together with others to create rich and meaningful rhythms in our lives. We are grateful for all the men and women who have helped keep America the land of the free, and we wish you all a safe and spectacular holiday.
The Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill Tour & Soirée 2019
Rain-or-shine… and it was shine!
For the second year in a row, we’ve had the pleasure of sponsoring the Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill Tour & Soirée. This is the largest and most important fundraiser for The Beacon Hill Garden Club, and this year marked its 91st tour. While this spring was unseasonably wet and chilly, the Tour and evening Soirée enjoyed rare days of glorious sunshine – making the experience all the more wonderful.
The Beacon Hill Garden Club has a long and storied history. In 1928, twenty Beacon Hill residents who shared a love of their neighborhood and a passion for horticulture formed the Beacon Hill Garden Club. Their goal was simple: they wanted to improve their beloved Boston niche. During this period following the great depression, described as “the Golden Age of postwar exuberance,” Beacon Hill was rejuvenated as a desirable neighborhood, and many families arrived or returned to purchase and restore area homes.
One of the features many of these homes shared was a walled outdoor area once used as a “laundry yard.” When restoring their own, outdated laundry yards, Club founders, including Gertrude Beals Bourne (described as the moving force in the club’s founding) discovered the joy and beauty a garden could bring to their outdoor living space. The following year they hosted the first tour of the Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill.
Today, the Beacon Hill Garden Club enjoys a thriving membership of 60+ neighborhood residents who own and maintain a hidden outdoor garden. Members agree to show their gardens every 3 to 5 years, which keeps the tour interesting and fresh for the roughly 2,000 visitors who attend each year.
We chatted with club president, Kate Enroth, about what makes the club so enduring, and what keeps it so relevant within the Beacon Hill community. She explained that, because space in Beacon Hill is a premium, these gardens “become special rooms for the homeowners.” The gardens not only enable people to maximize their space, but they also provide an opportunity for individual, creative expression, which club members love sharing with tour attendees. Local shops also welcome the chance to have tourists in the neighborhood and sometimes offer store discounts to tour-goers – another example of the neighborhood community coming together for this special event.
By sharing their gardens with the public, Beacon Hill Garden Club members bring together a wide spectrum of people. Some are serious, well-versed horticulturists, while others – perhaps without a green thumb – come to explore and appreciate the gardens and history of Beacon Hill. All attendees have one thing in common: by attending the tour, they are supporting a significant number of local non-profits. Each year, the funds raised from the tour are donated to approximately 40 Boston area organizations including The Rose Kennedy Greenway, The Esplanade Association, The Food Project, The Boston Nature Center, and Friends of the Public Garden, among others. These grants range from $500-$15,000 and represent important, meaningful contributions for all.
More images from the Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill Tour & Soirée 2019
Vineyard Trust is the hidden treasure of Martha’s Vineyard. The Trust owns and oversees 20 historic properties on the island, referred to as “landmarks for life.” These landmarks are not just preserved for people to look at from afar, they are historic sites used and loved by islanders and visitors from all over the world.Vineyard Trust’s flagship venue, The Carnegie, originally called the Carnegie Library, was named for philanthropist and summer resident Andrew Carnegie who funded the library’s construction in 1904. The library was built on land donated by Caroline Osborn Warren, a member of the prominent Osborn whaling family, and remained the town’s public library until 2016 when the property was sold to Vineyard Trust for $1.
Paramount to Vineyard Trust’s mission is to ensure the properties they revitalize and maintain are central to the island community – and continue to serve their originally intended use. In preserving the Carnegie, the library’s original learning function was both maintained and celebrated.
After an exciting restoration we were honored to lead, The Carnegie now serves as an island visitor center with reading rooms, galleries, and a permanent exhibition, Living Landmarks, which “illustrates the story of Martha’s Vineyard through the lens of the 20 landmarks in Vineyard Trust’s care.”
In addition to the beautiful interior learning space where events are hosted from April to October, The Trust also offers two separate walking tours that explore Martha’s Vineyard’s architectural and maritime history.
This week marks Vineyard Trust’s most important annual fundraiser, Taste of the Vineyard. This much anticipated two-night event raises money to restore and maintain all of the Trust’s historic landmarks. The first night is the lively Gourmet Stroll, and the second night is the upscale Patrons’ Party and Auction. (Side note: If you’re reading this before 5 pm on Saturday, June 15th, you are still eligible to bid on a 1965 Mustang – a highlight in this year’s auction. See auction link for details).
Like all Vineyard Trust properties, the Carnegie is of the island, for the island. It is a beautiful landmark both inside and out, preserved for future generations to engage and learn about the important past, present, and future of Martha’s Vineyard.
What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?
Here in New England, we’ve had a long winter and chilly spring – and the start of June has followed suit. But, we New Englanders are a resilient bunch, familiar with this unpredictable prelude to summer. We find ways to connect our indoor and outdoor living space as much as possible – even when the weather doesn’t always cooperate. In fact, a particularly cool spring may inspire us to use our outdoor areas even more frequently.
Today, we will share some of our favorite ways to connect the comfort of indoors to our outdoor living spaces during June’s cooler evenings and throughout the months ahead.
When we design a home, we like to encourage easy indoor-outdoor living. There are several ways to create and expand a homeowner’s living space including light-filled, three season rooms, intimate covered porches and richly appointed outdoor entertaining areas.
The three season room – sometimes referred to a sunroom – is typically enclosed in glass and provides an immediate visual connection to the outdoors. It is weather resistant (not weather proof) and provides a wonderful, gradual transition from the house to the outdoors. In warmer weather, the glass can be removed and replaced with screens, allowing summer air to circulate throughout.
Covered porches represent another continuation of a home’s living space and provide an outdoor retreat where homeowners can relax and entertain al fresco. Depending on our client’s program, we often include a fireplace in this space to create an inviting and cozy outdoor oasis.
Some of our homes include both an outdoor fireplace and fire pit, which provide social seating areas for multiple guests or generations. With the fires’ light and added warmth, homeowners can enjoy these outdoor spaces in cooler weather – and later into the evenings.
Outdoor entertaining has never been more popular, and for many clients, the backyard living space is the new seasonal living room. Therefore, our design goal is to create an inviting retreat that offers not just one experience, but rather numerous opportunities for passive and active outdoor living. By using the home’s topography, we create multiple levels of outdoor enjoyment – from porches and gardens to fireside seating – which homeowners can use throughout the seasons.
We all appreciate that wonderful connection to the outdoors, even when the weather is brisk. So enjoy your special gathering spots – before long the heat of summer will be at our doorstep.
It’s no secret – we treasure the island of Martha’s Vineyard. People often ask us to describe what it is that makes the island so special. Is it the natural beauty, the culture, the unique, local businesses? The answer is yes, all of this and more.While each season is lovely, summer is an especially magical time on the island. With warm weather on the horizon, we want to give you an inside look at the places we recommend our friends and clients explore when they first come to the Vineyard. These are some of our favorite spots to eat, learn, unwind, and soak in all that makes the island unique and endearing. We provided links for more information and see below a map listing all of the locations.
After arriving by airplane or ferry, the first stop is Edgartown – a village steeped in history and classic architecture. There are many stellar lodging options and we especially like the Hob Knob Hotel, the newly redesigned Harbor View Hotel and The Sydney, a boutique inn we recently finished. If guests prefer renting a house, a great real estate resource is Point B Realty on Winter Street in Edgartown.
If yours is an early arrival, we suggest stopping at Rosewater Market for a cup of coffee and pastry. From there, walk to The Carnegie, a restored Vineyard Trust property which we recently just helped transform into a visitor’s center with a Living Legends exhibit showcasing The Trust’s 20 working island properties. Next, head to Edgartown Lighthouse, a magnificent and historic working lighthouse that marks the entrance to Edgartown Harbor. If you’re an art lover, walk to the nearby Eisenhauer Gallery and North Water Gallery to see some fabulous local and contemporary artwork.
By now it’s time for lunch. If you prefer to eat on the go, the Quarterdeck on Dock Street is a great option. Or, for something more leisurely, try the Atlantic Fish & Chophouse, which offers terrific food and harbor views. After an energizing lunch, we recommend a walking tour through Edgartown’s historic district, which dates back to 1641. Be sure to check out the Old Whaling Church, one of the “finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in New England.” More walking may call for an ice-cream break – in which case we recommend stopping at Mad Martha’s.
After unwinding back at the hotel, a favorite choice for dinner is Alchemy where the food is delicious and the environment is high-energy fun. Alchemy is a great spot to end your first day in Edgartown, and it’s also walking distance – always a bonus.
There is much to do and see outside of Edgartown, so we highly recommend exploring the unique beauty offered throughout the island. Heading up-island is a must. The term up-island dates back to the Vineyard’s whaling days and refers to the western parts of the island including West Tisbury, Chilmark, Menemsha, and Aquinnah. When you go, be sure to stop at the island’s oldest retail business, Alley’s General Store, the “purveyors in almost everything.” Then make your way up to Aquinnah for breathtaking views of the clay cliffs and historic Gay Head Lighthouse. If you’re a beach-goer, visit Lobsterville Beach while you’re there. (Sidenote: there are many stunning beaches up-island, but most require a town sticker, so plan accordingly.)
Next, head to Menemsha harbor for a fabulous sunset. If you like seafood, pick up lobster and steamers at Larsen’s for a beach picnic you’ll never forget.
Oak Bluffs is another great area of the island to explore. We love showing people the colorful nineteenth-century gingerbread cottages on the Martha’s Vineyard Campground. With whimsically painted filigree trim, they’ve been called an “immaculate dollhouse village conjured from a childhood fantasy.” If you’re visiting the island on August 14th, head to the annual Illumination Night to see the cottages beautifully lit with Chinese lanterns. Across the way is the beloved Flying Horses Carousel, the country’ oldest working carousel, and always a favorite stop for both young and old.
Boating is also a big part of summer life on the Vineyard, so we highly recommend getting out on the water. You can stay local and explore the inner and outer harbors or Edgartown with Catboat Charters, or choose a more adventurous day trip over to Nantucket on the Inter-Island Ferry from Oaks Bluffs to Nantucket. Being on the water is always a good choice. After all, “it’s only an island if you look at it from the water.” (Chief Martin Brody, Jaws)
Martha’s Vineyard offers endless culture and beauty – and thankfully remains unspoiled in many important ways. There are no chain stores, traffic lights or parking meters. There are miles of walking trails and pristine beaches. We could, of course, go on with other favorite views and haunts, but we will save those for another time. For now, this is a great insider’s start to exploring the culture, beauty, and diversity of Martha’s Vineyard. We hope you find it as endearing as we do.