New Wave Designs: City Dwellers Spread Out, Go Green

Two architects build an eco-conscious Vineyard com-pound around their very own miniature town common.

There’s truth in the saying that doctors make terrible patients; architects, likewise, can be their own worst clients. (When you view every decision as absolutely critical—and good architects do—it can take years just to find the perfect door hardware, in the meantime leaving holes where the handles would go.) But because husband-and-wife architects Ken MacLean and Stephanie Mashek, principals of the Boston/Oak Bluffs–based firm Amsler Mashek MacLean, shared a clear aesthetic, collaborating on the design of their Martha’s Vineyard getaway was a relatively painless endeavor. Both wanted a contemporary house that reflected the traditional character of the Vineyard, an airy but compact space that would be the opposite of those ever multiplying McMansions. Something simple, yet warm and inviting.

[sidebar]Inspired by the way that Oak Bluffs’ colorful Victorian gingerbread cottages border the village’s Trinity Park, MacLean and Mashek divided their 1-acre property into three distinct bungalows and arranged them around a verdant, English-style garden. The centerpiece is the main house, grand and open, comprising a master suite at one end, a modest living room at the other, and a spacious combined dining room and kitchen in between. The building to the right of the courtyard is a guesthouse featuring an outdoor shower; the one opposite houses a one-car garage and workshop. To link the disparate structures, the couple lined every interior with honey-colored eastern white pine.

MacLean and Mashek, who married in 1998 and moved permanently to the Vineyard in 2004, did all the design and landscaping—and some of the construction—themselves. They painted the latticework fuchsia and purple, installed the tongue-and-groove walls and ceilings, and painted the plywood floors pale green. The couple also intentionally kept most of their living spaces small in scale—and therefore easier to heat—to minimize fossil fuel consumption. Another earth-friendly decision was choosing to orient the cottages to the south to save on lighting costs during the long New England winter. “In every other house we’ve lived in, we’ve had to adapt to the environment, rather than the other way around,” says MacLean. “That’s the nice thing about living in a house you designed yourself. Everything has its place.”