From the classic back-neighborhood bungalow in Vineyard Haven to the old saltbox timber frame in Chilmark — Kristen Ellsworth and William Wing do it all.
Kristen is an interior designer who specializes in artfully curating spaces through use of texture, form, light, color, finish, furniture, and pattern. Will is architecturally trained and seasoned in carpentry; he specializes in defining homes through thoughtful design conceived with a technically creative approach. They both graduated from the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston and together, they are Worth & Wing — a husband-wife duo that tackles anything from residential renovations, restorations, and additions, to interior elevations and renderings, to retail staging, landscape design, and absolutely everything in between.
“When we have a new project — and I believe this to my core — the interior is an extension of the architecture,” Will said. “It’s a holistic experience,” Kristen continued. “The exterior to the interior, down to the final details.” And Kristen and Will can be there every step of the way.
“Every project has a different criteria. Every project has a different personality,” Will said. “It’s about bringing a project from what we illustrate to a built reality.” Projects can begin anywhere. They can begin from scratch, with an empty lot. They can begin with a shell of a home or an outdated bathroom. They can begin with a color palette or an idea. “It’s about leading people through the process,” Kristen said. “Through permitting, planning, zoning, anything.”
And they’ve become personally acquainted with that process. “We just went through it ourselves,” Kristen said.
Since the launch of their business in 2014, Kristen and Will worked out of their home office. “It got tight,” Will said. “Especially when we hired a third person.” And with baby Wing on the way, Will and Kristen knew they needed more space. They began building a studio, and 15 months later, the Gambrel addition is nearly complete.
“We gained so much empathy for our clients and the people who work in the trade,” Kristen said. “The one thing I tell everyone now is, Do not live in it,” Will laughed. “Unless you’re ok with a jackhammer at your bedroom door at 7 am.”
Projects can call for just Will, just Kristen, or a medley of both skills. The bulk of their work tends to be restoration, renovation, “and preserving a lot of the Vineyard vibe,” Kristen said. The couple agreed that their favorite projects are ones they can tag-team and see through from the very beginning. They also agreed their favorite room in the house is the combo-dining room, living room, kitchen — or the “gathering space.”
“Although powder rooms are a close second,” Kristen said. “You can push them a little. It can be really fun to go with a super dark color or a huge piece of art. Or go with something totally out of scale. It doesn’t necessarily need to tie in with anything else in the house.”
Will and Kristen also veer towards tradition, and love working with the old and the new. “You’re touching on a language that’s already in place,” Will said. “You’re making an existing building better. It’s kind of like what Nantucket does, which they’re restricted to do, where you can’t tear down a house. You have to rebuild it or renovate it. You have to save some of it. We feel that’s where the Vineyard is going. It’s also what we love doing. Recreating what’s already been created.”
“We love bringing that old soul into new spaces,” Kristen said. “We’re sort of old soul people,” Will added.
Speaking of tradition, Worth & Wing is unique in that projects always begin with hand drawings.
“You can create projects really quickly on AutoCad [a commercial, computer-aided designing software],” Kristen said. “And we do work in AutoCad, but there’s something really beautiful about starting with hand drawings.” “It traditionally was the only way,” Will said. “In schooling nowadays, there’s this rush to get everything done and to get it done in 3D computer form, but that’s causing people to lose the skill of being able to translate thought through hand.”
Which is a skill they learned through their training and experiences here on the Island. When Will and Kristen first arrived in 2009, they interned for Peter Breese of Breese Architects.
“We learned a lot from Peter,” Will said. “We owe him a lot for the way we design and the way that we work because it’s truly a resemblance of how he modeled us to be. He saw the interior, exterior, fixtures, furniture — you name it — as one thing.”
Today, Worth & Wing partners with a number of builders, contractors, architects, landscapers, and plantsmen. “It’s part of the game,” Will said. “If you don’t collaborate, you’re cutting yourself out. The designers and people of the trades around here are world class. We’re pretty fortunate to work with the people we work with.”
Worth & Wing let The Local check out one of their ongoing projects — one they build on every year. It checks all their ideal boxes: old, historic, indoor-exterior, tag-team, and from beginning to end. The historic down-Island home had to be gutted after significant flooding and water damage. The new homeowner wanted to “bring it back to life,” Will said. With the help of Martha’s Vineyard Construction, Teles Landscaping, and plantsman Keith Kurman, the property underwent three landscape and five interior design pushes, and one huge interior renovation since the project began in 2013.
“Every summer there’s been a new phase,” Kristen said. “I think that’s also part of the dream project. One that’s ever-evolving. A house is never really finished.”