Designing Upside-Down Homes on Atlantic Drive, Edgartown


South Beach, located in the Katama region of Edgartown, is one of the most spectacular and scenic beaches on Martha’s Vineyard. Situated on the southern side of the island, South (or Katama) Beach is a three-mile barrier beach with surf on one side and a protected salt pond on the other. It directly faces the Atlantic Ocean and represents a picturesque view for visitors and homeowners. Running parallel to South Beach is magnificent Atlantic Drive, which begins and ends at points often referred to as the “left” and “right” forks of South Beach. We have had the pleasure of designing several homes along Atlantic Drive, all of which presented similar location challenges. The shared objective for each similarly scaled program was to maximize ocean views, and the common challenge was adhering to strict, 30-foot height restrictions. This was particularly demanding given that each property was separated from the ocean by the drive as well as tall, rambling sand dunes.

To overcome this challenge and capture water views from as many primary rooms as possible, we designed each of these homes with an “upside down” layout. Sometimes referred to as “reverse living,” an upside-down house positions the main living areas such as the kitchen, dining and family rooms, along with the Master suite, on the top floor. These upper-level rooms all enjoy exceptional water views and continuous coastal breezes. To harmoniously connect the upper living areas to the pool and outdoor spaces, we introduced full-length decks and hidden outdoor stairways.

Although the first-floor living spaces of these upside down homes do not access ocean views, we were careful to seamlessly integrate them into the home’s overall functionality and vertical living style. Open floor plans with easy outdoor access and inviting stairways to the upper levels ensure that the space is vibrant, inviting and fully connected.

Each of the homes we designed on Atlantic Drive shared similar programs and objectives, and it was extremely important to us that each had a unique and independent solution. We looked to McKim, Mead & White as a historical reference for the first home we built, and for each of the following four we created a specific script and storyline. Additionally, we made certain that each home had optimal sunset views to the west and was carefully situated as not to obstruct another’s view.

This home is the first of the firm’s five “upside-down” houses on Atlantic Drive. The master suite occupies the third floor and its large Nantucket dormer takes advantages of long water views. See the full project, South Beach Retreat.
Sited parallel to the coast, the carriage house and master suite wing projects at an angle capturing the sunset views out to the cliffs of Aquinnah, without causing residents to look into the neighboring house. See the full project, Atlantic Drive.
For the third home on Atlantic Drive, the owners also requested a design referencing their residence in Vermont. Gambrel roofs and floor joists sunk into foundations increase ceiling heights, accommodating the tall clients’ stature without sacrificing the home’s intimate character and balanced proportions. See the full project, Atlantic Drive 2.
Atlantic Drive Double Gable makes up of the fourth and fifth upside down homes on Atlantic Drive. A staircase is hidden in the main house within one of the twinned water-facing bays connecting the primary living spaces on the second floor down to the pool, pergolas, cabana, and outdoor kitchen. See the full project, Atlantic Drive Double Gable.

When building near the water, a non-traditional, upside down layout can effectively optimize distant views that might otherwise be missed. On Atlantic Drive, our inverted home designs creatively solved our design challenges while enhancing our clients’ visual and living experiences.