BARN RENOVATION, CHILMARK
One of the most satisfying aspects of this project was the material palette we were asked to work with. The existing barn – still largely in its original state when we started work on the project – was a wonderfully rich canvas to begin with. In addition, the client’s aspirations had as much to do with the desired character of the spaces as with the accommodation of certain activities within them. This character was, for him, closely tied to materials – their color, texture, and associations. As in many houses, these desired associations were not just specific to the Vineyard, but were engendered by a life’s worth of experiences in many places across the country and around the world. Thus the project became a way to acknowledge both these experiences and the site, and to make the house into the medium by which they were to be joined into a coherent whole.
These intentions were perhaps most clearly articulated in the details. The barn’s post and beam frame, including the original log rafters, became the ground against which all decisions about finishes were made. Choices of flooring, tiles, even the participation of cabinetmaker Ted Box, known for his driftwood furniture, were guided with an eye to coordinating the textural palette. In addition, the extensive restoration experience of contractors Geoff Patterson and Chris Holley allowed for the solution of technical problems without damage to the integrity of the whole.
This process relied a great deal on serendipity and, at times, an almost improvisational spirit in the detailing of parts. This was, for me, a great pleasure, and one not often afforded in the normally deliberate process of making architecture. This was particularly the case in the design of the interior trim. We had ordered a truckload of recycled barn siding – including many pieces with traces of red paint still evident – to finish out the interior, which had been an uninsulated shell. Each of these pieces was sorted by size, color, and texture, and assigned a particular spot in the house. Wider boards were made into doors for closets and vanities; a few especially wide, especially weathered specimens became the skirting for a window seat and a raised tub in the Master Bath. Two or three short, feathery cutoffs became medicine cabinet doors. In the kitchen and around several important windows Ted Box artfully bridged between the patina of these older materials and the crispness of new construction. Through these opportunities the house took on a spirit that perhaps even the finest drawings could not envision.
(Photos: Robert Gothard; second photo: Charles Utes)