South Mountain Company of Martha’s Vineyard has the solution for dreaded writer’s block, and it’s not what you might expect. In a spirit reminiscent of Henry David Thoreau, South Mountain Company, an integrated design-build firm, believes that the key to a clear mind and clear thoughts is immersion in nature; it is a component of their mission statement and reflects their goal to emphasize the raw beauty of nature in every project. Sold in the “Houses on the Move” auction 16 years ago to benefit affordable housing on Martha’s Vineyard, the Writer’s Shack is a fully immersive, creative retreat that captures the spirit of its architects.
The 8’ x 14’ space is designed for one, with a single wood chair facing a window that reveals an expanse of ocean and sea grass—truly a sight for sore eyes or a tired mind. However, like most creative undertakings, the story is in the details. John Abrams, CEO and president of South Mountain Company, says that every material and component used in the shack’s construction was “grown, salvaged, rescued, or found on the Vineyard or in the company yard.” The roofing is made from used Vineyard Gazette printing plates, still readable through the skip sheathing. The windows are framed by redwood from the beer tanks of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Brewery. The flooring and sheathing were dismantled from an old dairy barn in Vermont.
If the walls could talk, Abrams is sure they’d tell quite a story. He imagines the owners of the shack “sitting and thinking [in the shack] on a foggy morning. Or writing furiously as the sun sets to get those next few lines down before heading inside for a late supper.” Thanks to the handiwork of skilled South Mountain Company artisans and craftsmen, this soulful space, with its warm hues of salvaged fir, serves as a not-so-distant getaway. “It’s sweet, but not saccharine,” Abrams says. “Crafted, but primitive. Whimsical, but classy. Furnished, but spare. Useful, but not strictly practical. That’s what we were going for.”