Wellesley

This house was designed to reflect a grouping of vernacular sheds. Unpretentious and simple from the street while complex and contemporary from all other aspects.

Built around a “reflecting pool” deep enough to be used for swimming the drawings show what can be achieved when weathered clapboarded side walls are paired with oversized shingled roofs and antique brick chimneys. The windows are large , the ceilings are high and the floors are mostly stone paved both inside and out.

The landscape and siting of all components was planned to maximize privacy with the open garage “shed” having its back turned to the road blocking the view to the street. A crushed stone entry drive meanders through the property giving an impression of a country idyll rather than its rather restricted suburban location.

An homage and nod to the late architect George Washington Wales Brewster…….

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……

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.

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!

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.