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The Architects’ Studio on Cape Cod

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The Architects’ Studio on Cape Cod

December 30, 2016

Excerpted from our new book Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces, here’s a look at one of our favorite photo shoots on Cape Cod.

The Wellfleet home of Boston-based architects Rodolfo Machado and Jorge Silvetti features a tree-covered promontory surrounded by salt grass and slow tides. The couple liked the spot so much they built a tiny house on it that does double duty as a workspace and guest lodgings. After that, all they had to do was revive the preexisting kitchen garden to create an outdoor wonderland that hews to the modest vernacular of the Cape.

N.B.: Order the Gardenista book here.

Photography by Matthew Williams.

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Above: The architects call it a folly, and their garden designer, Tim Callis, calls it a former chicken coop. But there’s no debate over the success of the office studio Machado and Silvetti built in 1995 on a spit of land jutting into a tidal salt marsh, complete with an ersatz dock known as the “runway.” Hardy cedar chairs accommodate loungers year-round.

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Above: Although the studio has a tiny footprint, it packs in two built-in desks, both with water views, and a loft bed reached by ladder. The architects made deliberate references to tree houses, using stripped trunks inside and out as structural elements. An Artemide Tolomeo lamp—the workhorse favorite of architects everywhere—provides targeted light when the wraparound windows don’t quite do the trick.

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Above: The house came with an aging, picket-fence-enclosed vegetable garden with southwestern exposure. Tim Callis, gardener to Silvetti and Machado (and Cape Cod neighbor John Derian), revived it with “a lot of soil amending” achieved largely through cow and horse manure and rich compost.

Perennial herbs line the picket fence, although “if the temperature goes below 10 degrees, the rosemary will croak,” says Callis. Straw is used to keep weeds out of garden pathways during the growing season and is raked over planter beds at the end of the season. A sprinkler, set next to a lead planter box, douses plants early in the morning to prepare for a full day of sun.

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Above: A pair of Chinese junipers creates a triumphal Cape Code–style archway over the entry gate (fortified against unwelcome visitors with hog wire) and sound-trapping yew hedge. Although the house is just off a main road, Callis says, “it’s shocking how quiet it is.”

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Above: A simple post-and-rail fence marks the boundary between the clamshell driveway (which gets a refresher layer every two to three years) and the yew hedge. The fence protects the hedge from wayward drivers and keeps it from looking too fancy. Throughout the property, deciduous trees mix it up with pines, creating dappled light and keeping temperatures pleasant during the summer months.

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Above: If you’re going to make your own fence and want it to last a while, consider a post-and-rail model.

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Above: Extra-tall tepees tied with garden twine support scarlet runner beans which, as they fill out, provide shade for a later summer seeding of lettuces. “It may look a little bit random,” says Callis, “but we do plan it out.” Just beyond, a stand of pitch pines provides a sun and wind break for flea market furniture. The chairs are from a 1930s design by Artur Lindqvist available from family-owned Swedish company Grythyttan; the Brewery Chair in white is 2,250 KR ($240.98).

For more of our favorite outbuildings, studios, and gardens, order the Gardenista book here or check out our Outbuildings of the Week posts on Gardenista.

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on October 12, 2016.

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