Beacon Hill

Judge Skelton Smith was conceived in a tiny two room Garrett on Louisburg Square in 1982……three old friends combined youth, ambition and a remarkable desire to bring “traditional “ design back to Boston. It has been the best adventure we ever set out upon!

Indeed, Our most enduring projects, those of memory and merit, have been accomplished on Beacon Hill. We include a melange of photographs and sketches to show our progress in the long journey to accomplish our primary goal…….Tradition and contextual design.

At this moment it is proper to give credit to my dear long departed friend Mrs. E Sohier Welch who’s encouragement and top floor rooms gave rise to our four decade quest. Thank you “Fiora” you are never far from our thoughts.

Ames Library Competition

Architects are called upon from time to time to submit “entries “ in competitions. The competition for the Ames Library in North Easton , Massachusetts was especially meaningful to Mr Judge for it was a historic structure in his home town. The building was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and was very familiar and significant to all the residents. Indeed, Mr Judge’s great grandmother would have witnessed its construction.

Judge Skelton Smith architects adopted the style of later additions to the building by Richardsons successor firm Shepley Routan and Coolidge. In addition the property surrounding the new building was also reimagined as may be seen in the site plan that was submitted and reprinted here. Landscape Architect Frederick law Olmstead was channeled in the suggested “carriage drive” plan and an old Ames mansion complete with sunken Italian Gardens was also integrated into the final submission. The resulting composition represents some our finest preservation and design work to date.

Chilmark Modern

At times the only appropriate design solution to a complex problem is to “keep it simple”! We have always found that Modern architecture is well suited to the task of tying discordant houses together. The project mentioned here is a prime example of how this theory of simplicity can deliver unity from a house composed of mainly additions and alterations.

Set on a lush green lawn with mature plantings and distant views of the Ocean Judge Skelton Smith was called upon to unify a shingled house with a proper entry hall , an all weather carport and a studio and shop. Not an easy chore to perform.

The architects chose to compliment the existing structure with an economical flat roofed addition complete with an Asian inspired Atrium. The new front entrance hall will be sheathed in floor to ceiling glass and the new front door will be enhanced by a Thom Malley sculpture depicting Joy. The inspiration for this approach was from the work of Earl Flansburgh…… of the masters of mid century country houses here in New England.

As in our traditional work “all the old rules apply”. Stone paving, wood siding and in this case a small Coy Pool greet guests at the newly positioned front entrance. A series of three shallow terraced steps covered in Ivy and moss lead to the door. The inner courtyard , Asian inspired, will continue the theme of simplicity. In all , three spaces will benefit from this “looking inward” garden. The Hall, Kitchen and newly reconfigured old entrance space ( home office) will soon claim this calming view.
Sometimes the best design solutions are the hardest to market…….wish us well Earl!


We have been fortunate to have many clients use us for multiple projects. The duplex apartment pictured here is one such project. Parkside was completed for a professional couple that only a few years earlier had hired JSS to restore an abandoned town house on Beacon Street. The Back Bay house was open to the elements and being lived in by squatters and stray cats. Once the elegant residence of a prominent Boston family we were called upon to make it shine once again…….and we did.

One can only imagine our reaction when the call came in that they were contemplating moving to a new high rise on Boston Common!

The Penthouse floor was under construction and we were given a free hand in determining its final appearance. What resulted is a space that was opened from a concrete box to a dramatic two story light filled “Movie Set” interior. The pictures included here show the transformation better than a thousand words…….it remains a gathering place on New Years Eve and stands the test of time.

The “Oval Garden”

The “Oval Garden“ was designed to compliment the house we built in the Copeland Historic District of Martha’s Vineyard. The plant materials were selected in keeping with the neighboring Waban Park properties and in accordance with the Historic commission’s guidelines. The results are timeless:
Lavender and roses, day lilies, black eyed Susan’s ,ferns ,ivy and spring bulbs accented by an array of trees and shrubbery commonly associated with coastal New England villages. The entire composition is hedged with privet and punctuated by Dogwood and Rose of Sharon …….a distinctly early 20th century vocabulary reimagined with grace and restraint .
The photographs shown here were taken almost immediately after the yard was planted. In the years that have followed the garden has reached maturity and the vision has become reality.
We include , amongst others, a picture of Jim Skelton and Joy Thorely at the front door as if to say “Welcome Home”. It is appropriate to note that Judge Skelton Smith was responsible for every aspect of this house . The Architecture , gardens and interiors were all designed by us and the results ,to our eyes ,are therefore sympathetic and beautiful at any season of the year.

Oak Bluffs Cottage

Set on a small village lot bounded by Waban Park with distant Ocean views a writers aerie was designed and built. Martha’s Vineyard long the home for artists , journalists and theater people was to have yet another National figure join its ranks. We were privileged to receive the commission.

The house ,built on four levels ,was conceived and executed in the early 20th century style . Steep gambrel roofs ,Multiple stone fireplaces , weathered shingles and lattice windows are but a few of the buildings nods to the local vernacular.

The owners employed us to design the gardens as well as outfit the interiors……the results were seamless and in keeping with the Credos that Judge Skelton Smith has expressed over four decades of professional practice. Needless to say “Jack Ryan “ would have been happy here…….and indeed he was.

The Farm

The “Farm” as it is referred to in The Madanonock region of New Hampshire is being complimented with a new guest cottage. Over the years Judge Skelton Smith architects has been called upon to be a part of the changes that a property of this size and history sometimes require. The main task for us, as it is with every project, is to be sure that whatever is added is both timeless and seamless. Houses and the grounds that surround them are not frozen in time ……..and this one has had its share of fascinating changes since it was built in the 1840’s.
While not a working farm in the true sense it still provides “High Mowing” hay for its own stables and those of neighbors. The land crisscrossed by owner designed sensitively planned walking trails and opened distant mountain vistas is remarkable. We have been fortunate to advise on additions , interiors and landscapes over the course of time. The “Grey Cottage” ,as it will be called upon completion , is another building done by us added to the composition.
Please pause a few moments and see what a series of new “farm sheds “ with glass walls and outstanding views will be like. A contemporary take on a rustic simple form using only vernacular materials set on a windswept hillside that is reminiscent of a passage from Ethan Frome.

The Art Buchwald House

A few years ago we helped a potential client locate a large old house on Martha’s Vineyard. The place we found was brimming with charm and local history. It was also in need of a complete renovation.
Perched above Vineyard Haven Harbor on Main Street and designed in the shingle style it was perfect! Just what was requested and came with a rather proper Vineyard lineage. The house formerly owned by Art Buchwald and his wife had been the summertime gathering place for the literary and theater folk of the day. William and Rose Styron, Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, Dan Rather, and James Cagney were but a few of the names that crossed its now rather sorry threshold. Against this backdrop we were tasked with bringing the place back to life . Not an easy task!
Jim Skelton a well known and respected architectural preservationist handled the delicate dance of determining how to restore this “grand dame” to her proper place of prominence……while all the while respecting the original structure ….the results are truly remarkable.
The 1890’s were brought back to life supplanted by the addition of an airy interior complimented by beautifully reimagined gardens. its glamorous ghosts are by all accounts intact and happy .

Annisquam House

The original white clapboarded 1920’s Colonial revival summer cottage was the inspiration for all the additions Judge Skelton Smith architects has envisioned and completed over many years of involvement with the house and it’s family.
Annisquam , a charming seaside village in the town of Gloucester, is blessed with a picture postcard harbor surrounded by many antique houses. This house ,set on a rock bluff with commanding ocean views, maintains its small scale despite its increased size. As architects we took all our design “cues” from the little cottage with its broad porch , small paned shuttered windows, and local stone accents. Arguably The ultimate New England seaside vocabulary .
In the final analysis the secret to adding to a little jewel box is to make certain the things that we build at a later date do not overshadow that which we are trying to emulate ,preserve and protect. A balancing act , hard to accomplish , but on full view in the end result of this pristine example of Yankee restraint.
In addition ( as seen in these photographs), The garden design , stone walks and traditional fenced yards have been hallmarks of our office for over forty years. Those lessons are brought into clear focus in this cottage that defies time but accentuates place. Bravo to all that made it happen!

Cider House

Set in a snowy New Hampshire landscape in the shadow of an 18th century barn a new structure dubbed the Cider House is set to start construction in the Spring. The area long noted for its apple orchards and cider presses is responsible for its name. The Cider House will present the rules at the door in a nod to the local tradition of “hospitality within limits”.

Cider House will have guest rooms and a Chefs kitchen complete with an Aga Stove typical of an English country cottage. The main room or rather “The Lounge” is designed with two stone fireplaces and a charming Bay Window with built in seating.

The large porch and terrace will be ,like the rest of the house , outfitted with Cummington stone paved floors……. The entire composition is envisioned set in a landscape of native wild flowers and yellow roses. Honeysuckle , to be sure, will clamber up trellises around the front entrance and hand forged lanterns will light the way both inside and out.

At the moment the addition of an antique China Red “ Tea House “ is being contemplated ……It promises to be a focal point in the design scheme throughout the Seasons. Currier and Ives will need to make room for its Asian neighbor!