On the Boards: Designing around Conservation Constraints

We are currently working on a classic shingle-style home on a unique oceanfront property in Dennis, MA.  The land sits atop a north-facing bluff replete with ancient dunes, magnificent weathered scrub oaks and an understory of bayberry and beach plum.

Although the setting sounds like something out of a story book, designing this house has not been a simple process, as the property is protected by the conservation of eroding coastal dunes and indigenous flora and fauna. Along with the environmental constraints, our client had but one request for the home’s design: to be big enough to fit their growing family. They were initially a bit overwhelmed with the thought of building a house from the ground up, so we explained that our thorough design process will alleviate any stress or concerns.

Our main objective was to create a building footprint carefully thought out to maximize the clients’ wishes while respecting the fragile environment. Our team’s extensive experience building on and around the New England seacoast made solving the design challenges easier.

After developing the client’s extensive program, our team walked the property to better understand how to incorporate the home into its surroundings and develop a site analysis. To create the analysis we took note of the property’s characteristics, orientation and views, noise issues and adjacent neighbors. From this site analysis, we then generated a schematic that fits the site and satisfies the client’s program.

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Every schematic goes through a number of iterations to ensure the final design best suits the clients’ needs. During this stage of the design process, there is in-depth collaborative discussion around the architectural styles clients are interested in – such as shingle style, contemporary, arts and crafts, etc. – as these styles can influence much of the floor plan. Some styles need more formal layouts, while others may work better with a sinuous or flowing blueprint.  Location and precedent also play a role in defining an architectural vocabulary.

For this Dennis home, our clients preferred a design with neo-classic influence, which informed much of the layout and interior.

Currently, our Principal, John MacDonald and senior associate, Greg Graham, are working with general contractor, CH Newton, Inc., and landscape architect, Gregory Lombardi, to design this project and navigate the myriad local boards to gain approvals concurrent with project development.

We expect to break ground in early spring – stay tuned!

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