Martha's Vineyard Home & Design : South Mountain Company
South Mountain Company
Their Final House
Our clients married in 1986, and are lawyers whose careers alternated between the public and private sectors. In the 1990s they retired, gave up their New York apartment, moved full-time to Martha's Vineyard and began the new small-town life they had chosen. Over time they became profoundly enmeshed in the life and affairs of their adopted hometown--inextricably tied to the land, the water, and the people. At the same time they watched the south shore in front of their oceanfront house gradually (and sometimes not so gradually) disappear. They realized they were "... literally living on an eroding asset." Time to move to higher ground.
They contacted us and said they were selling their house, looking for land, and wanted my company, South Mountain Company (SMC) to design and build their final house. They wanted their "Final House" to combine Japanese, Frank Lloyd Wright, Greene and Greene, and Arts and Crafts influences with the best of high performance green building, low environmental impact, and appropriate aging-in-place design concepts. Their house was sold, they found new property, and SMC was hired.
The project exemplifies the integration of the complete range of South Mountain services: planning, architecture, building, energy services, and interior design and furnishing. Ryan Bushey, a young architect who is SMC's newest owner, became the primary designer and South Mountain's design and interiors group collaborated with him and our new clients to bring our collective experience and creativity to the project. Says Ryan: "The design process took several paths before the right approach emerged. The journey of inquiry inspired one of the primary themes: Procession. The sequences of approaching, entering, transitioning from there to here and back again were all carefully considered. Changes in volume, transitions of materials, variations in light, and exposures to views were designed to enhance the experience of going home. Leaving home. Being at home."
The sense of procession unfolds as one enters the house and moves through it, experiencing the prominent East-West axis which leads to the spectacular views to the village of Menemsha and Lobsterville beyond and the North-South axis with its long interior views which culminate with the master bedroom to the south and a screened porch off the kitchen to the north. A primary consideration was the integration of highly crafted South Mountain timberwork and cabinet work with the collection of furniture and artifacts that our clients had accumulated.
The performance of the house begins with the super energy-efficient and meticulously air-sealed building envelope. This allows new technology (for the U.S.) air-source heat pumps effectively to heat and cool the space while providing a high level of comfort and control. A heat recovery ventilation system provides continuous fresh air with little energy penalty. Energy demands are minimized with good daylighting and efficient appliances and fixtures, and are partially offset by a 4.2 kilowatt grid-tied solar electric system on the garage roof. Most materials in the building are reclaimed, procured from natural sources, and easily recycled. They are chosen with timelessness in mind; they will not need replacement as fashions change. Each material has its own story (which we can tell), and many local artisans created pieces especially for this house. The exterior uses high-quality materials and no paint to insure that there will be little or no maintenance required during our client's lifetimes. The interiors are handicapped-accessible, sized to accommodate a wheel chair if such were to become necessary in the future.
During construction, our clients visited the site at least once a day. They know not only every nook and cranny of their house, but every wrinkle in the process. They know each and every person's investment of craft, skill, wisdom, and stories that comprised the outcome. Passionate involvement and commitment to quality shaped the process resulting in a home that feeds the soul and will resist the elements through the ages. Their Final House.
photos courtesy of South Mountain Company