The Blog

Chilmark Project

Our first Blog entry is a house renovation in Chilmark On Martha’s Vineyard. The site has commanding views to the north and south over Menemsha Pond and the open ocean. We were hired, amongst other chores, to replace the existing crumbling foundations and winterize the 1957 vintage ranch house. There will be a new kitchen and 4 bathrooms all Within the limitations of restrictions placed on the property by the Trustees of Reservations.


The pictures show the initial excavations and demolition that are currently underway. The rough framing begins next week just in time for a new installment of our Blog! Stay tuned……

Paris and Ménerbes – France

Since none of us are able to travel, we thought it might be fun to share some pictures of our neighborhood in Paris and our village in the south of France. The stone cottage in Mènerbes was built in the twelfth century, and photographs of it appear in our portfolio. The Paris apartment is on the left bank surrounded by these sights.

Chilmark Project Continued

Progress is being made at our Signal Hill project in Chilmark, Massachusetts. The foundation and drainage work are almost complete, and we are preparing the house to be insulated and tighten up before the winter storms. Construction will continue through the winter and we will update you from time to time. Please take note of the remarkable site which this house occupies, directly next door to the Kennedy/Onassis property.

A Walk In Paris

We recently received an email from the owners of the Hancock Inn in  Southern New Hampshire. It spoke of how they were carrying on in a most uncertain time. The note was thoughtful and included handsome pictures of the natural beauty and animal life that surrounds them. A “ Blog” worth visiting- atmospheric, reflective and hopeful. If only a similar version could be crafted by an architecture firm…….we do after all  deal in the realm of dreams imagined and with good fortune realized.

Unfortunately, our first entry of building projects does not rise to the level of our friends postings from the Monadnock. Therefore, we have decided to intersperse “chapters” on other design related topics. Life in Paris and the South of France, people and places that have been memorable and stories of projects past and present. With any luck it will be of interest……..and more importantly make you want to read more. To that end please watch this video that takes you past our home of almost forty years. 25 Rue de Verneuil in Paris. Serge Gainsbourgh and his graffiti laden house are featured . He was an interesting neighbor.

This is the environment from which so much of Judge Skelton Smith’s work has been born.

Please go to the Youtube link provided here:

Enjoy your walk through our neighborhood!

Chilmark Continued

Our project in Chilmark continues to make great progress as can be seen in these recent photos. The foundation work is completed and the‘backfilling’  of earth as well as the installation of a complex drainage system are almost done. Remarkable speed and workmanship……. Kudos to everyone on the crew for a job well done.

The interior spaces of the house which total almost 3000 square feet are being prepared for insulation and of course we are waiting for all the new custom double hung  windows to be fabricated . The plumber and electrician are busy despite the cold weather and lack of heat . They are truly hearty souls.

Quawk Cottage

The next installment will walk you through our Hines Point commission before work begins. The house  was built in the late 19th century and given the name ‘Quawk’ cottage in response to the sounds made by flocks of   Canada Geese that used to inhabit the Point at the time the house was built. It promises to be a complete transformation. Watch for updated drawings!

Emily Post

A sudden snow storm can lead to many discoveries. It is a brief period of time when everything goes quiet and is the perfect time to think about doing a bit of light housekeeping. Housekeeping is an all to seldom event in our office and tends to produce “finds”such as the one that occurred yesterday while going through the contents of an old desk drawer .

Some Architects keep cocktail napkin sketches and envelopes covered in notes as well as ,in this particular instance ,an old postcard purchased at a yard sale of Emily Post’s front door in Edgartown. Mrs. Post was a Society standard setter as well as a designer of houses, interiors and traditional New England  gardens. She was extraordinary.

Her books on Etiquette are legendary…..but her books on colonial revival design , although lesser known , are filled with the same thoughtful reflection she brought to the world of good manners. Some could argue they are the same subject with the same outcome.

We enclose a series of old photographs from her book entitled “The Personality of a House” in hope that it will spark curiosity from our readers to explore this aspect of Mrs Post’s career in greater depth. She remains an inspiration to us at Judge Skelton Smith on a daily basis.

As an aside …..Emily  surely would not have been an advocate of what today is commonly referred to as an “open concept” floor plan. She certainly would not have cooked dinner in the Living Room as current designers now promote! She is a woman after our own heart in this regard here at 16 Joy Street. We build houses with good manners and good humor at their  core…..we are certain Emily would approve!

Home for the Holidays

Imagine the surprise when we opened our Holiday mail to see this watercolor like photograph of a recently completed project in Marion Massachusetts . As most of our readers know we typically send cards of this variety at this time of year . How interesting to receive one ourselves from old friends and clients! The owners have captured the true essence of their waterfront house and its newly built ‘guest cottage’. The picture says home for the Holidays no matter what the season. As a reminder  our Annual New Year letter will arrive soon.  With  any luck it will measure up to this one visually.

The following is a brief description of the project : We were originally called upon to perform major renovations to the existing turn of the last century summer house  ( pictured here in the foreground of the card).Subsequent work included the thoughtful placement of a swimming pool and subtle design changes to the  entrance drive and garages. The guest house ( in the background) is independent and connected to the main house by covered walkways. It is the latest addition to what has become  a family compound. It is what New England seaside architecture should be…… Understated and appropriate.

Madams Garden

Springtime is early in the South of France. By March the Luberon Valley where we live is in full bloom. Now that Winter has arrived in Boston it is good to look ahead a few months to a time when we are able to return home . Our 12th century house once part of the ancient wall that surrounds our village of Ménerbes will be once again laden with Honeysuckle, roses and bright purple Wallflowers. The village notable as one the most beautiful in France is known for its cliff side terraced gardens . Menerbes is not alone in the region for its noteworthy residents and famous Paysagistes.

In truth the area contains some of the most spectacular contemporary garden designs in the country……. many of which are open to the public. One such garden is located in the neighboring town of Bonnieux. The property consists of a large old house with a landscape designed by Nicole de Vasian. She had no formal training in plant materials or horticulture but she did have an artists eye for color , shape and proportion. Judith Pillsbury a noted ‘American in Paris ‘ employed her to finish the remarkable plantings she had begun years before. Mme de Vesian added a swimming pool ( pictured here) as well as several Parterre elements fashioned only in heat resistant materials.

The Pillsbury Garden is shown here in photographs taken during a recent visit. We include a professional video of the property that tells the story of Mme de Vesian and her extraordinary talent.

Hope you enjoy your virtual tour! You can almost smell the lavender……