A Student and Teacher Team Up on a Multi-Generational Martha’s Vineyard Abode
Aaron Schiller approached his former Yale professor, architect Alan Organschi of Gray Organschi Architecture, for mentorship and collaboration on the design and construction of a multigenerational residence for his family in Chilmark, Martha’s Vineyard, where they’ve lived since the 1950s. The resulting Chilmark House respects the town’s long agrarian heritage, and provides plenty of social and private spaces across 6,200 square feet for three generations of Schillers.
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Located on a former sheep-grazing meadow, the house overlooks Chilmark pond, spectacular views of the Atlantic to the south, and is fringed by a series of iconic, meandering Chilmark stone fences.
In deference to the site’s farming past, and to the area’s simple New England architectural heritage, Gray Organschi Architecture developed the residence as a pair of barns with low-pitched roofs—one containing the main house, and the other a studio—that sit quietly in the landscape.
"The two buildings form a series of courtyards and outdoor spaces, with varying degrees of privacy and views," says Organschi. "In a nod to New England’s bank barns, the long barn is set into the hillside, diminishing its scale from the north and creating direct connections to the outside from both upper and lower levels."
The form of the house resulted from a close study of Chilmark’s historic barns and from careful manipulation of those forms within the strictures of the area's zoning code. A long, canted gable creates a series of taller and lower spaces within the large barn.
"The sweeping Atlantic views are only experienced after a visitor enters the house; the northwest entry courtyard is edged by a mute, charred cedar wall with screened apertures, creating a private courtyard with views west over the rolling fields and stone fence," says Organschi.
Within, expanses of light wood create the base for the application of rich, colored textiles. These rugs were selected for their strict geometries that helped create clear definition of spaces, and a sense of welcoming warmth.
The high ceilings in the public areas drop to create a children’s sleeping loft high in the roof. In the lower level are a series of bedrooms with shared spaces that look into light wells landscaped with rocks and moss.
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On the upper floor are a series of open spaces for living, dining, and cooking, with a private master suite at the end. The lower floor contains several guest rooms that are all similar in size and layout.
A gym and family room provide casual social space that opens onto a covered outdoor space with hot tub and fireplace.
The ample built-in storage spaces are discreet and appear minimal. The lower hallway is lined with floor-to-ceiling closets for the family’s clothes. The armoires in the bedrooms, wrapped in Maharam fabric, provide storage that is both softly curving and functional, diminishing the bulk too often found in storage units within bedrooms.
Beneath the entry walkway, the architects carved out two deep, open-air gardens.
"We worked together to forge a design approach that is simultaneously modern—with large windows, natural ventilation, overlapping interior and exterior spaces—and respectful of the landscape's agrarian past," says Organschi. "Crafting our collaboration was both challenging and very rewarding."
Builder: Rosbeck Builders
Structural engineering: Jacobson Structures
Civil engineering: Schofield Barbini & Hoen
Landscape design: Contemporary Landscapes
Lighting design: Atelier Ten
Interior design: Schiller Projects
Cabinetry design: Dillon Creations
Carpentry: Richard Cantwell Woodworking