Launch Slideshow

Storied Summers

Storied Summers

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Decades from now, tales of this Martha's Vineyard, Mass., vacation home will draw peals of laughter from the people who spent childhood summers there. That's what architect Mark Hutker had in mind when he designed the family compound. He was after more than aesthetics and function—he also wanted the owners, their three kids, and their extended family to have an emotional connection to this place that would resonate through the years.

And what better way to achieve that than with a touch of nostalgia, like, say, an outhouse? “We were after something funny … something that would create memories and stories for the kids,” Hutker laughs, explaining that there is actually a fully plumbed, white porcelain fixture hidden beneath the wood hopper of the outhouse. And while the outdoor loo is memorable and amusing, it's also practical. It prevents the passels of children who spend all day in the pool from having to run through the adjacent guest barn in wet bathing suits to use the bathroom.

The outdoor shower and toilet, in separate stalls, are on the private side of a massive granite fireplace. A sink carved out of a block of granite sits on a shelf next to the toilet. Its bronze faucet is plumbed right through the stone. Hutker admits that he needed patient trades to pull off a project like this one. “Anytime I can get a plumber enthused about working on something as detailed as this, I know it's going to be a fun project. This plumber got it,” he says.

On its more social side, the chimney and a low stone wall define a gathering place at the back edge of the pool deck. A trellis adds shape and shade to the outdoor room. Made of cedar timbers half lapped where they come together, the trellis is secured to the chimney and braced by crossing steel cables. “The simple detailing [of the trellis] lets the wood defer to the amazing stonework” of the fireplace, Hutker explains. Stonemason Ken Lane played with the scale of the stone, wedging cascades of small rocks in between big ones, to create a rustic monolith that echoes granite markers on the site.

The heroic mantelpiece is a fitting cap for the 4-foot-by-5-foot fireplace. The hearth is flush with the blue-stone deck to give a sense of sitting around the campfire when the fireplace is blazing. Niches carved out of the stone walls and lined with cedar provide built-in seating that is close enough to be warmed by the fire, but also useful for stretching out during the day for a nap in the sun. Tucked alongside the loggia is a spa, given privacy by more low granite walls. An outdoor kitchen is located near the main house for convenience.

Hutker chose rugged, beautiful, natural materials for this project: Stone, cedar, and bronze that “will resist the forces of nature and look better over time,” he explains. They should last at least as long as the memories.

Project Credits: Builder: Doyle Construction, Vineyard Haven, Mass.;

Architect: Hutker Architects, Vineyard Haven;

Landscape architect: Michael Van Valkenburg Associates, Cambridge, Mass.;

Interior designer: Twetten Design, Spencer, Iowa;

Photographer: Brian Vanden Brink;

Illustrator: Harry Whitver.