Martha’s Vineyard has long been a summer haven for a couple of American ex-pats, who moved from California to London 14 years ago. Its location off the Massachusetts coast proved an ideal middle-distance destination when they wanted to connect with friends and family in the Midwest.
While on vacation there one rainy day in July 2014, the couple decided on a whim to go house hunting. “We weren’t really looking,” says the wife. They toured a sprawling Cape-style house in Edgartown and were smitten. “We went out and immediately loved that house. I’d never wanted something so much.”
Built in 1958, the house has many traditional features. In particular, the couple were drawn to the living room and its decorative arched window. They also liked that the backyard’s thick privet hedges afforded plenty of privacy, giving the space a sense of sanctuary despite its proximity to Edgartown’s bustling center.
By early 2015, they had purchased the property and began thinking about adding what they thought would be a small pool house, with guest quarters, for the existing pool. They wanted it to be an extension of the house so their three children, ages 3, 5, and 7, could move freely between spaces and their many houseguests would have a comfortable, but connected, place to stay.
They hired architect James Moffatt of Hutker Architects, which has offices in Boston, Vineyard Haven, and Falmouth, Massachusetts, to help them with their plan. As issues were identified, the project grew in scope. “The pool house was the spirit of the project,” says Moffatt, “but as we started moving, the renovation part grew and grew.”
The original house had 3,498 square feet on two levels with a total of four bedrooms — two upstairs and two downstairs. With the addition of the pool house and master suite, the square footage grew to approximately 5,600 square feet and the bedrooms to six. The pool house guest room can accommodate a family of four or five.
The husband’s desire for modern influences was tempered only by the wife’s desire to maintain the charm of the house, which in 2016 became part of Edgartown’s historic district. In addition to contemporary design, the husband wanted maximum natural light, which meant lots of glass. “If he could live in a glass house,” says the wife, “he might.”
Planning was a collaborative effort between Moffatt, the homeowners, and interior designers Liz Stiving-Nichols and Liane Thomas of Martha’s Vineyard Interior Design in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. Their synergy (Stiving-Nichols was a designer at Hutker for seven years before founding MVID) combined with the craftsmanship of Serpa Construction of Edgartown resulted in an aggressive nine-month project.
To keep the pool house connected to, yet autonomous from, the house, Moffatt designed a 6-foot-wide corridor that runs the full length of the main house through to the new space. To achieve a clear path from the front door to the addition, he shifted the entry to the left, putting it in line with the pool house entrance at the opposite end of the house. “The first sketches were of this giant hallway that did everything,” says Moffatt. “It gave you circulation, it gave you the moved entryway, and it gave you the connection directly to the pool house.”
With the door moved, the entryway would open into what would become the dining room. “We designed the entry room first,” says Thomas. “We pulled furniture and design schemes together before the house was done.”
Stiving-Nichols and Thomas developed a cohesive mix of materials and styles for the corridor that speak to the modern aesthetic of the pool house and the traditional aspects of the original structure. “James was responsible for the big idea, which was the modern intervention into the classic, traditional home,” says Thomas. “We riffed on it.”
Flooring in the corridor is Neolith porcelain panels that resemble concrete conjoined with quarter-sawn, 6-inch-wide white oak planks. “We use oak a lot in our work because it’s indigenous to the island and New England,” says Moffatt. “We experiment a lot with finishes, which oak takes easily. This is an oil finish, pigmented white.” The same oak runs the length of the corridor ceiling and replaced the original dark 12-inch-wide pine board flooring throughout the first floor.
The white-on-white color scheme brings the homeowners’ vision for a washed-out beach atmosphere to life while showcasing the unique details of the traditional interior. “The simplicity of what’s happening here requires a neutral canvas for all of these things to be highlighted,” says Stiving-Nichols. “It’s more about the architecture.”
The wife curated almost all the art, with many pieces by British artists. The collection informed color and design choices. The perfectly positioned 8-foot-long abstract by Victor Pasmore in the dining area demonstrates the consideration given. “The proportion of the artwork directed our selections of the lighting and the proportions of the table,” says Stiving-Nichols. “The scale needed to have an understanding or balance with the art.”
The husband gets credit for the playful sneaker art in the mudroom, which was added by the front entryway as part of the 16-foot master bedroom addition at the front of the house. In the pool house, a Steve McPherson marine plastics montage features items washed up on British beaches and framed bathing suits belonging to the homeowners’ children add whimsy and emotion. “I’d rather have blank walls than have things that don’t mean something to us,” says the wife.
The pool house with its 17-foot-high ceiling, five-panel telescoping glass doors, oversize outdoor shower, sleeping quarters, and funky half-bath with floating, cast concrete sink, and bright orange Vola faucet completes this retreat.
“It was wonderful because from the first meeting it was apparent that [Hutker and Martha’s Vineyard Interior Design] worked so well together and were in step,” says the wife. “They would already be on the same page when they came to me. There was never a time when we weren’t seeing eye to eye.”
See more photos of the pool house: