Landscape architect Kris Horiuchi is most proud of what she didn't do to the 15 acres surrounding this Martha's Vineyard, Mass., compound. The site was “pretty spectacular on its own,” Horiuchi says. To keep it that way, she limited the scope of her plan. Working closely with architect Mark Hutker, builder Colin Whyte, and the owners, Horiuchi devised a landscape plan that is more functional than decorative, evokes the agricultural heritage of the island, and occupies only 2 acres of precious coastal heathland.

The estate actually consists of two separate lots that, luckily for the owners, were being sold simultaneously. Local building codes restrict new construction to one house per lot, however, hindering the design team's intent to disturb only a small portion of the land near the road. Rather than change their plans, the team successfully petitioned to have lot lines redrawn. Doing so allows the main house, guesthouse, and garage to be clustered on one end of the coupled lots with nothing but native scrub vegetation lying between buildings and the Atlantic.

The 2 developed acres contain myriad outdoor spaces designed to accommodate an active, multigenerational family and their guests. “One of the issues,” says Horiuchi, “was to produce this fairly large program and not have it seem overwhelming or out of place on this island with a history of small agricultural buildings.” Architect Hutker spread 9,000 square feet of living space throughout three buildings. That gave Horiuchi the opportunity to similarly scatter outdoor spaces among the buildings while keeping them easily accessible from interior rooms. “Because indoor spaces are broken up into pieces,” she explains, “it made for a more integral plan between landscape and architecture.”

In devising her master plan, Horiuchi factored in wind and sun conditions and the time of day activities normally take place. “A screened porch just off the kitchen benefits from morning sun,” she offers as an example. The porch extends to a grilling terrace tucked into a leeward pocket of the house, where it's out of the wind but angled to capture good views. Also protected from ocean gusts is a contemporary kitchen herb garden that follows the bluestone entry path. The pool area, positioned to receive afternoon rays, lures occupants to gather later in the day for lounging and swimming. Relief from the sun can be found beneath rough-hewn cedar arbors that transform the public face of the garage into a quaint poolside shelter. One of the garage's three barn-door bays is reserved for indoor/outdoor activities such as a Ping-Pong table and canoe storage.

Despite the site's proximity to the ocean, “It was a challenge to capture water views on this flat site,” says Horiuchi. So she raised the building pads. The main house and pool deck sit 18 inches above grade, improving sightlines to the Atlantic and diminishing the visual impact of the required pool enclosure. Stone walls act as a plinth for the buildings and their outdoor spaces and also mark the boundary where manicured lawns end and the carefully preserved wilderness begins.

Project Credits
Martha's Vineyard Construction, West Tisbury, Mass.
Architect: Hutker Architects, Vineyard Haven, Mass.
Landscape architect: Horiuchi & Solien Landscape Architects, Falmouth, Mass.
Landscape contractor: Landscope, Edgartown, Mass.
Photographer: Brian Vanden Brink
Illustrator: Harry Whitver