A Martha’s Vineyard Home Designed by Hutker Architects
May 24, 2022
A Martha’s Vineyard home takes a gentle approach to honoring the property’s past and ensuring its future.
Text by Paula M. Bodah Photography by Michael J. Lee
It was no easy feat to convince the Martha’s Vineyard Commission that a new house would be an improvement over the one that currently occupied the Aquinnah hillside. The wise people of the tiny town at the Vineyard’s western edge place a premium on keeping their piece of the island from the ravages of overdevelopment, and it took months, recalls Philip Regan, a principal at Hutker Architects, to get approval for the plan he and project architect Tom Shockey proposed.
“This property is very visible,” he explains. “We took photos from various vantage points and compared it to existing photos to show the commission that the new house would stand out less than the structure that was already there, which had more height and a lot of white paint.”
The clients, who owned a nearby property and had long coveted this spot, were equally determined that their new home not mar the land’s natural beauty or disrespect its history as home to the Wampanoag people who had lived here for some 10,000 years before Europeans came long. “We wanted to honor the land,” the husband says. “We didn’t want a property that was intrusive to the eye.”
Scale, proportion, and sustainability were top of everyone’s mind, says Shockey. “The property has 270-degree views of rolling hills, water, woodland, and the lighthouse,” he says, referring to the iconic Gay Head Light. “Our clients wanted to let the natural landscape dominate.”
The scheme that finally won over the commission consists of a series of low-profile buildings with contemporary silhouettes but with curved rooflines that suggest the longhouses often built by native peoples.
This is the owners’ primary residence, so they wanted a house that was small enough to feel cozy through the long Vineyard winters but spacious enough to welcome their adult children and the grandchildren the couple hope will come along one day. The architects’ clever scheme is a compound with a main house and a detached three-bedroom guest quarters. “It’s a very site-responsive approach, much like the traditional camps,” Regan says. “The space between buildings becomes interactive.”
Zinc-coated copper roofs and weathered-wood siding help the buildings nestle unobtrusively into the site, an effect furthered by Horiuchi Solien’s restrained landscape design that emphasizes low plantings of native materials to anchor and soften the buildings.
From the flat-roofed garage, a boardwalk leads to a breezeway-like entrance with glass doors at either end for a view through to the water. “Phil and Tom created this experience where you’re really in the landscape,” the wife says. “I love pulling up to the house and seeing the ocean through the windows.”
A right turn from here leads to the main house, a modest 2,800 square feet or so that feels much more spacious thanks to its open floor plan and floor-to-ceiling windows in all the public areas.
Working with interior designers Mika Durrell (who has since left the Hutker firm) and Stacey Sarber, the couple outfitted the house with contemporary furnishings in a neutral palette, keeping the focus on the views outside and their treasured collection of contemporary art within.
Besides the commission and the homeowners, Regan and Shockey had to keep the neighbors happy, too. When Colin Whyte and his crew at Martha’s Vineyard Construction Company were building the house, Regan recalls, they wrapped it in orange weather shield. “For a bit, it stood out like a pumpkin on a hillside, and people were upset,” he says with a chuckle. “Now that it’s complete, you almost don’t know it’s there.”
And that’s just the way the happy homeowners like it.