A Martha’s Vineyard Guest House Designed by Carrier & Company
August 20, 2021
A laid-back Martha’s Vineyard guesthouse and barn capture the many layers of island life.
Text by Erika Ayn Finch Photography by Read McKendree
“Low-maintenance” and “farm” aren’t synonymous. Neither are “barn” and “Martha’s Vineyard.” But a retired Chilmark couple knew what they wanted when they reached out to architectural designers Sherman + Associates and interior designers Carrier and Company, both of whom they had worked with on two previous projects.
In addition to a farmhouse-style guesthouse, the husband longed for an auxiliary barn “à la Bunny Williams,”he says, referencing the famed designer’s Connecticut estate. So a threshing barn estimated to have been built between 1810 and 1820 was disassembled in Vermont, shipped to the Vineyard, and reassembled on-site while the husband watched from his lawn chair, Diet Coke in hand.
“The barn was the passion of this project,” says architectural designer Tom Carberry. “The guesthouse was acontinuation of the barn.”
That continuation translates to a farmhouse aesthetic that jells with the homeowners’ style and the surrounding town of Chilmark, historically more agrarian than maritime. The couple enlisted Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller to convey provenance and ambience in the home’s interiors. Because this space serves as a guesthouse, primarily for the couple’s two adult children and their growing families, easygoing was key. “We didn’t want to have to hold our breath about who was doing what where,” says the wife.
A faux sisal carpet covers the living room floor, and the position of the sage-green island in the kitchen makes buffet-style dinners seamless. A “guest zone” between the kitchen and dining room boasts a wine refrigerator, small sink, and coffee station so visitors can help themselves without opening every cupboard in the kitchen, says Carrier.
Though the home was built in 2019, the design team’s thoughtful touches detract from its newness. A grasscloth wallcovering in the living room hearkens back to the farm that originally stood on the land, explains Carrier. Reclaimed old-growth yellow-pine floors convey timelessness. Sourced from Cataumet Sawmill, the floors purportedly originated from McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, during the time when the hospital treated some of its most famous patients. “Not everyone can say Sylvia Plath and James Taylor walked on their floors,” says the wife with a laugh.
The storytelling extends to the furnishings. Chappaquiddick woodworker Collins Heavener fabricated the dining room tabletop from two wood planks sourced from a sustainable forest in Suriname. RT Facts in Kent, Connecticut, custom designed the table’s base.
Most of the dining, however, happens on the screened porch, designed to be reconfigured at a moment’s notice depending on the occasion. The porch connects to both the kitchen and an outdoor deck with a barbecue. “It’s a very smart house in terms of the floor plan,” says Miller. “There’s a practicality to it along with some wow moments—it’s a modern, open concept that still feels timeless and vintage.”
The husband’s must-have barn, of course, epitomizes the vintage. It houses a Ping-Pong table and sitting area and has served as everything from a gender-reveal-party location to a kid’s rainy-day roller-skating rink. Making it even more poignant, the barn was the final project of Ken Epworth, owner of now-shuttered Vermont-based The Barn People, who passed away shortly after the rebuild was complete. Epworth sat right next to the husband in his own lawn chair and explained the ins and outs of the entire process during the reconstruction.
“The barn was a crazy, wonderful addition,” says the wife. “One look at it, and there’s no doubt you’re in farm country, not whaling country.”
Architectural design: Tom Carberry, Sam Sherman, Sherman + Associates
Interior design: Jesse Carrier, Mara Miller, Carrier and Company Interiors
Builder: Geoff Kontje, 41 Degrees North Construction
Landscape design: Jennifer Anderson Design & Development