A Martha’s Vineyard Getaway
This light and bright vacation home has an open-door policy.
Everyone who builds a new house needs another voice to offer advice along the way. Sidney Marshman, a Darien-based landscape designer and interior designer, had her friend Wilson to consult with during the process of building a five-bedroom house for her family in Edgartown. As the house progressed on the Martha’s Vineyard site, Marshman would look to Wilson for comments, reassurance, even a yawn that might indicate approval.
But being a yellow Labrador, Wilson didn’t say so much as he conveyed, by look, his support. “Every week when I’d drive up to the site,” recalls Marshman, “I’d take my two dogs and they’d walk around with me to inspect the building.” Although Wilson has since gone to the big doghouse in the sky, Marshman stresses: “Dogs are a big part of our family. They get away with everything. They spend a lot of time in the mudroom we built; it’s where they eat most of their meals.”
Marshman and her family, which includes her husband and their two children in their twenties, have been going to Edgartown for years, renting a home, then later buying that property. While the location near Eel Pond was ideal, the existing house had aged. She hired Bo Malpass, owner of the Darien-based design/build firm Warrington Homes, to design a house she calls “neither Colonial nor Victorian, but a real mix of both.” What resulted is a classic Vineyard house, with cedar-shake siding, white trim, pillars, and multiple roof lines.
Apart from the architecture, though, the agenda Marshman set for herself was a home that would be “laid back, comfortable, with lots of windows, and so simple that the biggest activity might be working in my garden.” In keeping with what is, ultimately, a beach house, she chose a decidedly neutral palette. As she emphasizes, it’s the people in the rooms, the artworks, and the flowers she cuts from the yard that become the interior colors. “A neutral palette is so easy to deal with,” she says, “apart from the issue of the dogs, however.” Not surprisingly, Marshman used stainproof fabrics so that her dogs can feel at home anywhere.
Perhaps the room most welcoming to all creatures is the sunroom, a place Marshman describes as “where you go to hide. There is always someone asleep on the couch. On rainy days, it’s where we gather to do puzzles or watch TV.” While the three-story house encourages socializing—given the expansive formal dining room, living room with designated seating areas, and a full bar area with a concrete seating island—the floorplan is such that privacy can always be found. Her son’s bedroom on the third floor, for instance, features its own deck, while front and side porches elsewhere offer respites for others.
She and Malpass agreed that while it made sense to build a new house with layout changes, they also felt that replicating much of the old house that occupied the site made sense. That prior house had been perfectly sited to take in water and yard views, and various deck/porch areas were well positioned. “What worked before would work again,” says Marshman. “We have an open-door policy with this house, where people come and go, where my kids have friends over, and where we have family over.”
While the family typically eats together in the dining room, defined by a zinc and wood table designed by Marshman, there is an outdoor terrace where many meals are taken al fresco. Here, her expertise in shaping landscapes is most evident. The yard is edged with handsomely sculpted privet hedges, while the entrance is marked with a pair of granite pillars Marshman brought in from New Hampshire. “I wanted to have the sense of a gate there,” she explains. “I like the contrast between the structural hedges and the pillars and the messiness of the hydrangeas.”
Many designers can’t stop tinkering, but Marshman knew exactly how she wanted her home to look and function. “We just hang out here,” she says. “Isn’t that what a house away from your other home is supposed to be like?
The print version of this article appeared with the headline: Home Away from Home.