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Design, orientation and sustainable features make for memorable vacations at this home

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Generally speaking, homes are designed to cope with a spectrum of seasonal conditions. However, when a second home is destined for use during warmer months only, the design can focus more specifically on lifestyle-enhancing benefits such as indoor-outdoor connections and keeping cool.

Such was the case with this vacation home, which was designed by Keith Moskow and Robert Linn from Moskow Architects. Comprised of two wings – one for sleeping and one for living – joined by covered walkways, this Martha's Vineyard home is a summer retreat designed for use by more than one family at a time.

"As a summer vacation home, we weren't too concerned with warmth in winter. What was important was that there was room for more than one family, which is why each of the two wings features a master bedroom," says Moskow.

"In summer's shoulder months, when the home is less likely to be used by many people at the same time, the bedroom above the living wing makes it possible to live on just one side."

The home sits on a scrub oak-covered, six-acre site, with each wing aligned parallel to the property's boundaries. A covered walkway provides access to the home from the parking area. Along this walkway, a stand-alone shower gives occupants a chance to wash off any sand accumulated while frolicking down at the nearby beach.

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"The approach to the house is along a driveway that hugs a natural treeline. The benefit of this is that you experience a view on the approach, then lose it in the trees. Upon reaching the home you can slip between the buildings and rediscover a wide, open view. The twin structures basically form bookends to the view," says Moskow.

The simple, unadorned home features clean, straight lines that are not typical of the region's traditional architecture.

"The materials and forms are of the place, but what differs is the arrangement," says Moskow.

"Fir is the primary exposed structural material, and is used for exterior decks, exterior trim, interior floors and ceilings. White cedar shingles clad the walls, lead-coated copper clads the roofs, while interior millwork is maple. The house's exterior has been designed to minimize the need for upkeep. And I've used durable and sustainable materials wherever possible."

As it is mainly a summer residence, the design works to reduce the impact of heat during the hottest times of the long summer days.

"A number of energy efficient features are integrated into the building. A highly insulated plenum space between the roof and ceiling acts as buffer against summer heat, while the deep roof overhangs protect the rooms' glass walls against direct solar gain."

Large overhanging eaves and porches extend the home's open-plan living areas and bedrooms out into the central grass area. Occupants can sit on the shaded steps, or follow the sun as it winds its way around the home. To reduce the build up of humidity, the home's orientation channels the prevailing ocean breezes to the center of the structures.

All the home's sleeping areas open out through double doors onto the central lawn, while small, high windows form a band around the back walls.

Perhaps the most noticeable features of the two structures are the rooftop light wells, which are orientated to allow soft morning light into the bedrooms and living area.

In each bedroom, built-in wardrobes and under-bed storage compartments provide ample storage for clothes and beach equipment. A separate outbuilding provides space for larger items.

First published date: 15 November 2006

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Credit List

Architect Keith Moskow AIA, Robert Linn, Moskow Architects (Boston, MA)
Builder Interior by McGrath Carpentry Services
Structural engineer John Queen
Kitchen manufacturer Dana Robes Wood Craftsman
Doors and windows Eagle Door and Window
Flooring Fir
Paints and varnishes Benjamin Moore; Sikkens
Lighting Flos, Canlet and Stonco fittings
Furniture Charles Webb
Kitchen cabinetry Maple
Countertops Camara Slate
Backsplash American Olean
Kitchen sink Kohler
Oven GE
Cooktop and ventilation Jenn-Air
Microwave, refrigerator and dishwasher General Electric
Basin, faucets and tub Kohler
Hot water system Rinnai On Demand
Shower fittings Kohler