Outdoor Patio Design: Cape Cod

Cape Cod—or to locals, “The Cape”—is renowned for summer beach days and nights filled with fire pits, barbecues and spending time with loved ones. Our clients, situated not too far from Old Silver Beach in North Falmouth, were like the many other residents of Cape Cod—they wanted a home where they could easily entertain guests and family outside.
Although outdoor patios may seem simple to design, they actually need much consideration. A patio is not an afterthought to a home; it is an integral part of the home and therefore needs to have a seamless transition in terms of use, themes, and aesthetics.
To begin the process, we spoke more in-depth with our clients to get their thoughts regarding how they wanted to use the space. We then designed a summer entertainment patio that married both interior and exterior areas.
We put a significant amount of thought into the area between the main house and the cabana, focusing on maximizing the space and incorporating how our clients would use it. Our solution included placing a zero-edge pool near the crest of the hill to take advantage of their spectacular location and views. A sunroom with floor to ceiling windows, a vaulted ceiling, and mahogany beams was also added off of the kitchen. To allow for easy movement between the sunroom and the pool, we implemented fold-away doors. The colonnade of tapered columns lining the sunroom also added to the elegance of the patio. A cabana was situated next to the main house and housed a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom loft that mirrors the main house with similar vocabulary, clean lines, and neutral colors.

Since our client is an accomplished chef, we designed an exterior fireplace with a custom pizza oven, reducing the bustling in and out of the interior kitchen to prepare food.

Mission accomplished! Our clients can entertain family and friends easily and take full advantage of the breathtaking ocean views from anywhere on their outdoor living space.

We were happy to be able to collaborate on this project with the talented landscape architect, Horiuchi Solien Inc., the builder extraordinaire, CH Newton Builders, Inc and the experienced photographer, Sam Gray.

Email John MacDonald to learn more about how we can help with your outdoor patio design needs.


The Dovetailing of Residential Architecture and Landscape Design

In the beautiful village of Marston Mills sat an outdated home overlooking the harbor. The house did not compliment the views or fulfill our clients’ needs, so they reached out to us looking for a complete overhaul. Together we decided to demolish the current home and build a new one from the ground up. Our client requested classic shingle-style Cape Cod architecture for their new home. Their other requests included maximizing the views, while also building a pool and pool house with kitchen, bathing and dressing rooms.
As always, we listened to our clients’ needs and incorporated their wishes and ideas into the entire property—not just the house. We developed a plan that seamlessly integrated architecture and landscape design. Everything needed to be cohesive. For this project, we carefully planned out where the house, pool house, and pool would sit on the property without compromising views.
In order to provide a graceful transition to the pool from the main house, we layered the terraces that led down to the pool to blend nicely with the rolling topography. We placed the pool house discreetly to the side, so each room in the main house had a clear view of the ocean. Doing this also allowed the pool house to become the foreground to the harbor when our clients were on the terrace or the pool deck. We also detailed the pool house to correspond with the house vocabulary ensuring design continuity.

We worked closely with the landscape architect, Sudbury Design Group, to marry the multiple layers of hardscape and indigenous plantings to create a dynamic end-product.

We were happy to be able to collaborate on this project with the talented Ally Coulter Designs, who made the interior of the house become a beach-themed haven and the Lagasse Group who crafted our designs into a beautiful home the family can enjoy year-round.

Read more about the interior of the house, specifically the creativity needed for the kids bedroom, in a previous blog post. To see the portfolio page on this lovely home visit this page.


Design Visa: Why MMA’s Clients Take Us Abroad

When initiating a new project for a vacation home or secluded getaway retreat, one of the first questions that come up is: should I hire a local architect or bring one architect with me?

It is a superb question, and several of our clients have asked themselves over the years.

Local or Remote—Which is Best?

The answer to this question is not as straightforward as one might imagine. There are certainly pros and cons and differing opinions. In this post, we will share several of them with you so that you can be more informed.

A primary reason why many homeowners choose to bring their design professionals with them to remote projects rather than work with local pros is that they already have a trusted and successful relationship with their architect. Many clients have invested time in establishing their so-called “Dream Team,” and the last thing they want to do is risk a new project, remote from their immediate control, on a brand new team that is untested.


A Boston client took MMA to Arizona for the design of its winter vacation home, where the firm infused classical Spanish Colonial detail and order into the remodel of golf community home in Scottsdale.
A counter-argument for hiring design professionals locally is that local professionals have an intimate knowledge of their environs, of available material sources, and experience dealing with local regulatory review processes. In the past, these three core reasons overpowered largely any rational argument for not hiring local professionals. However, in the 21st century, modern design practice is altering the strength of that common old argument.

The Diminishing Power of Boots on the Ground

Prior to the age of the Internet and tools like Google Earth, Open Street Map and an abundance of mobile “apps” on all matter of locality data, it was essential to have boots on the ground in order to get a head start on understanding a remote site for your client. However, now local weather, vegetation, culture, and vernacular architectural influences are all fully accessible to design professionals over the Internet and “app” resources. Along with this, tools such as Google Earth—a program that provides high-definition satellite-based imagery—enables architects to examine the details of both local and remote sites in ways that could not have been accomplished in person without the services of a helicopter. These technologies are so powerful and useful that we use them for our local projects as often as our remote projects—and so do the architects local to far-flung locations.

The Local Builder as Partner

While local design professionals have years of experience working with regional and local material resources, so too do the local building trades and general contractors. At Morehouse MacDonald, we learned early on the power we bring to the project by partnering with highly experienced, local general contractors who are familiar with regional materials and construction methods, and with organizations who are well-versed in working with a full complement of design professionals. For example, when we worked in Arizona a decade ago, we relied on RAM Construction’s expertise and valuable local resources to help us craft an extensive renovation for our Boston client’s southwest vacation home. RAM Construction introduced us to new window vendors and local artisans who had a significant effect on the success of the project. (see image above).


In the West Indies, MMA has partnered and leveraged multiple years of experience working with local general contractors who provide invaluable input on the design and construction process, while our growing experience with serving global clients remotely continues to advance.In each remote client case, Morehouse MacDonald starts the process early to establish a strong working relationship with the general contractor, who is an instrumental party in the design process. For example, today Morehouse MacDonald has years of experience working with the highly professional organization Bennett Hofford Construction, on numerous projects in South Carolina and in the West Indies.

Regulation Environments as Foreign Languages

Despite efforts across the globe to unify building codes, such as the increased adoption of the International Residential Building Code, each town, locality, and region has its own set of legal requirements. We actually experience major diversity on this just within the Boston metro region, as towns with more financial resources often create more bureaucratic permitting processes than towns without them. It is helpful for our clients to understand that design and zoning regulations – no matter where you are building in the world – are largely similar in their core structure, yet all unique in final details. In some ways, they are the foreign languages of architectural practice, and like foreign languages, the more languages you know the easier it becomes to quickly master new ones. As Morehouse MacDonald continues to accumulate project experiences in states as far as Utah and Arizona, the entire eastern seaboard and in foreign countries in the West Indies, we comprehend and respond to new regulations more quickly than the average firm.

We have also found in our remote work that our general contractor partners provide us, and the team, extensive support in the area of regulations and approvals, as they are nearly always handling the backside of the permitting approvals process.

Closing Thoughts

The question of should I hire a local architect or bring my architect with me is an important one for each client to consider. As an old Japanese proverb says, “even a sheet of paper has two sides.” The two sides of this decision involve a series of trade-offs between the argument for familiarity of location versus familiarity of the team. Even though local teams are more familiar with the landscape and environment, technology has allowed homeowners to use the design teams they trust to build all over the world.

Since all projects near or far inevitably have a few challenges, we believe it is better to find the solutions with the team you know and trust. That is why more of our clients continue to trust us to lead the design on their next vacation home.

Related Vacation Home Projects

Scottsdale House — Arizona

Tropic Retreat — Florida

Kiawah House — South Carolina

Caribbean Villa on Nevis — West Indies


Discovering History in Charleston

As you know from our previous blog post, we have been restoring the renowned and classic Charleston home—the Alfred Hutty Residence. We are in the process of demolition, framing and concrete work and found two discoveries that are of historical interest.

We discovered the first one after breaking down a deteriorating wall. Behind it was a façade with several long slits extending through the brick. As we inspected these cavities more, the intention behind them became very clear: these were used as gun ports during the Civil War. With this deliberate design in the architecture, residents could be protected while still having the ability to shoot their weapons. The muzzle of the gun could extend outside and with the slits funneling outward to the backside of the wall, residents were able to have a wider range of motion and better angles for their guns.


Then, as we were digging up the ground for concrete work and framing, we found this black earthen band running through the dirt. We immediately knew what caused it: a massive fire, also known as the great fire of 1861. This infamous fire started on December 11th, and when a cold front came through with high winds spreading it even further. In the process of trying to control it, fourteen houses on Queen Street were blown up to create a fire blockade to save the Roman Catholic Orphan House, the Marine and Roper hospitals and the Medical College.
Finally, a day later on December 12th, the fire slowed down and faded out. When it was all said and done, the fire had burned over 540 acres, 575 homes, businesses, and five churches. The City Market area and a large section of Meeting Street, as well as the north side of Queen, most of Broad, and the north side of Tradd Streets, were decimated.
The damages in property cost were estimated to be between $5 million and $8 million!


With a home situated in the heart of this old city, we can only imagine how many other discoveries will weave a story through history.


Boston Tower Penthouse: Custom Door Handles

Sitting aloft the city high above the hustle and bustle resides a beautiful, 3,000 square foot penthouse overlooking the twinkling lights of Boston. Our client suffers from arthritis that impacts day-to-day activities. Movement as simple as opening a door can be uncomfortable.

Typical door knobs and handles were not working, and our client was interested in a custom design to address this issue. We gladly offered our knowledge regarding this problem and designed custom ergonomic hardware to fit our client’s hand for more comfortable use.

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Our team took modeling clay, mocked up our intent and had our client hold it in his hand. We then had our metalsmith create custom door handles that perfectly fit his hand – from the curve of his thumb to the bending of his fingers and the shape of his palm. We also had to make sure the design matched the rest of the apartment renovations, design theme, and decor. We settled on a sleek, softly-rounded, polished, nickel handle. It paired perfectly with the birds-eye maple doors and limestone floors and walls.

As architects, our job is not just to design beautiful spaces, but to listen to our clients’ needs and incorporate them into the plan. Customizing everything from hardware to windows to mudrooms and more is a service we feel is critical to creating a home that works with our clients’ lifestyle. Learn more at our website.

The Alfred Hutty Residence: Restoring a Charleston Classic

Charleston, South Carolina brings to mind delicious food, southern charm, and historic homes. The latter being one of our specialties. Always wishing to work in this historic city, we were pleased when a former client asked us to restore a famous landmark there – the Alfred Hutty House.

The home was built in 1770 and the three-bedroom, three and one-half bath brick home boasts classic Federal-style architecture, is on the city’s historic tour and is often featured in movies—you may have seen it! However, this house wasn’t always so glamorous. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Tradd Street was a commercial thoroughfare. The first floor consisted of shops and the owners lived upstairs. In the 1920s, this house was almost torn down!  Fortunately, that never happened.


Our vision of a new bar, family room and sitting area reimagines modern life in the refurbished dependency structure. This was once the former kitchen structure.

The current architecture can be acclaimed to a renowned artist, Alfred Hutty. In 1927, he bought the house and began renovations. He tore down a store to the west of the main house to create a beautiful garden. He then took the multi-colored bricks from the store to build a wall and gateposts with a wide wooden gate. Due to a conservation easement signed, the side yard will stay untouched.

From there, Hutty then closed off the front entrance and moved it to the side facing the garden where he built a curved staircase up to the new doorway. Once installed, the typical, southern-style wrought iron balcony was placed over the door. The previously separated kitchen house was transformed into his studio.


The Hutty home fell into poor condition during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This view is from inside the property looking at the detached kitchen structure.

It is important to respect the original character of the home, so we are working closely with the Historic Charleston Foundation, an organization that oversees and protects city antiquity. We plan to restore the main structure by using original materials while also bolstering core structural components. As with most historic homes, systems require updating, and all structural issues will be addressed. Once the infrastructure is secure, a new kitchen and master bath will be positioned where the existing Kitchen “ell” is.
This new kitchen will then be linked to the free-standing studio structure and the studio – or dependency, as the locals call it – will be renovated to a great room, lounge area, and bar. We can imagine the entertaining and party possibilities already!
We are lucky to work extensively with a local architectural historian, Glenn Keyes; landscape architect, Sheila Wertimer; and Charleston interior designer, Amelia Handegan, to craft a design concept that brings this wonderful, historic home into the 21st century while maintaining the home’s architectural importance.
The drawings are complete, and all approvals have been secured. Demolition has begun, and the general contractor will be framing the house in a few weeks and is on the path for completion by late next summer. Stay tuned as we update you on the progress of this exceptional project!


From the moment you enter the front gate, your view of the grounds is serene and filled with undeniable southern charm. The dependency structure (former kitchen) is shown in the far deep right while the house proper is just edged into the right side of this view.

Creative Solutions at Buzzards Bay

The creative distinction between original designs and renovations is a curious area to explore. The focal points of both types of projects are clear; creativity and the client’s vision supersede much else. However, the degree of creativity taken on with a renovation is a sliding scale precariously placed on a litany of factors. How much of the original integrity of the space do we intend to preserve? How do we find a solution that marries our vision with the client’s needs into one happy union? How do we change a space to present an entirely transformed perspective and feel? Honestly, no two renovations are ever the same.
We are never looking for a gilded solution that does not completely transform our work into something novel. So when we approach a new renovation, the creative process must start fresh. The renovation related questions to consider come into play as we narrow down what it is that must be changed in order to achieve the desired outcome. For our extensive manor house renovation on Buzzards Bay, it was the general atmosphere of the space that needed enhancement. The space called for an open flow to complement the relaxed elegance that this seasonal home dictates. The next step was to decide the best place to target our change. We decided to hone in on the staircase and entryway.


Opening up the entry created not only a more gracious architectural statement, but created a much needed, laid back atmosphere to preface the sitting area. Not only did this create more space, but it better harmonized with the organic nature this home exudes. Opening up the staircase and living room as well, was a space unifier that gave the home a quiet and relaxed atmosphere.
Innovative solutions, while they often involve out of the box thinking, must steer clear of forcing a round peg into a square hole. When designing around a pre-existing space, it does no good to muscle through the existing towards the goal of creating new. Remaining conscientious about your beginnings can only give-way to a more organic completion; it takes a space and elevates it as opposed to stuffing it into a newer model. Keeping this procedure in mind with the South Dartmouth manor project gave birth to a space that truly reflected what the space needed to become to satisfy both our standards and the client’s desires.


How to Make a House a Home – The Importance of Creativity

What makes a house a home? Creativity and addressing a client’s needs with thoughtful solutions are part of the process. For the family involved in our Marston Mills project, the challenge—and the solution—came in the form of custom headboards and cabinetry for the kids’ bedrooms.

In this project, ingenuity stemmed from conflict: the client loved the beds positioned against the window wall, but did not want the headboards to block the stunning ocean view. We shied away from the easy solution of choosing between the headboards and the window, sure that there was a better way, one that did not force our client to compromise their dream home.

The solution: we designed custom cabinetry that pulls the headboards away from the wall, tucks the beds in cozy nooks, and incorporates built-in nightstands and a continuous countertop. For ease in making the beds, we angled the nightstands away from the bed frames. Streamlined, functional, and cohesive.

The happy client feels that the design is tailored to their needs, and that is always our goal in creating a unique house that truly feels like home—no matter the obstacle.