Real luxury frees you to live the life you want. From making bold creative choices, celebrating natural and historical beauty, to simply spending time with loved ones, Mark Hutker’s architectural and interior design philosophy fosters this luxurious freedom. With a focus on craftsmanship and inventive details, Hutker’s houses at once enhance and adapt to the coastal landscapes of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod. We caught up with Hutker about how the Cape and Islands have remained his environment of choice for three decades, and why quality and unique design decisions matter.
What brought you to Martha’s Vineyard, and what keeps you there?
I came for the residential architecture—the opportunity to create personal spaces for people in an area that is deeply connected to history, community, and nature.
Explain the balance between honoring the local architectural traditions and making daring or inventive decisions when designing houses on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.
Great question! First, we have a firm grasp on the history and architectural DNA of the region. Next, we balance that foundation with two important influences: the ever-changing sociology of the family, and the ever-evolving nature of technologies at our disposal.
We’d be regressive to continue with the exact same materials and space making concepts in use a century ago. It used to be that a protected parlor sharing a center fireplace was the heart of the home. Now it’s open concept, eat-in kitchens combining with living areas and entertainment sources. Now, both visually and experiencially, we tend to want to invite the outside in. You can accomplish these goals while speaking to the local and historical vernacular.
What is the role of restraint in the design of your homes?
I believe there is a trend of “anti-mcmansionism” going on right now. People are right-sizing a home, as opposed to designing for every possible contingency use. It allows us to build less square footage and concentrate more on quality and craft.
I often encourage clients to consider the goals for their homes with that in mind. There is a precedent in nature, which right-sizes everything by necessity. Aristotle put it best: “Nature does nothing in vain.”
The ethic that comes out of that is one of settling in gracefully versus standing out. It’s a handshake to the community and the neighborhood instead of saying, “Hey, look at me!”
What’s your biggest learning after three decades designing homes on the Cape and the islands?
My biggest learning is one that feels counterintuitive. The more “custom” you make a home, the more valuable it becomes, not just for one family but for future real estate appeal.
Most people think they have to check certain realtor’s boxes and are afraid of custom details and design gestures that may be important to them but could deter some unnamed potential buyer down the road. Ultimately though, custom elements are differentiators when done well. They set a house apart from a sea of others, inspire trends, and communicate the quality of craftsmanship and thought that went into the design.
It takes a lot of courage, as a client, to trust that some more “out of the box” thinking will both add personal value and have universal advantages. We are fortunate that our clients lead out – they are experimenting with ideas that will be the next decade’s modus operandi.
Was there a particular home that you felt was especially enjoyable to create?
Duin Huis was one of the most restricted and regulated proproperties we have ever worked on. It was also the smallest and perhaps among the most rewarding homes we ever designed. The owners allowed us to limit the material palette to four textures, concrete, driftwood, bronze and glass, inside and out. Without exceeding the height and square footage limits of a defined footprint, we were able to create a highly functioning space – one that lives bigger than its size would suggest – by responding carefully to these challenging parameters. The limitations were the inspiration, and the result was a more creative, open, connected series of spaces than many larger homes.
Who or what is inspiring you right now?
Architect Peter Bohlin’s work always inspires me. But right now I’m also drawn to work being created by some regional furniture makers like O&G studio in Rhode Island and new designs by Adam Rogers for Thos. Moser in Maine. There is something about the way they are making traditonal American craft fresh that resonates with me.
I also look to outdoor space makers. Landscape architects are working with an ever-changing set of circumstances. Growing, moving, living plants and hardscapes must endure and appeal across changes in season and weather. An architect’s spaces could be seen as static by comparison. However, I have come to see a corollary in the way we design for change of a different kind. The best homes have flexibility to accommodate changes in the lives and behaviors of their inhabitants. The ones that endure change foster long term enjoyment, generational gathering, and aging in place vs. having to trade-up or trade-out.
What is one thing you cannot live without?
Honestly? My wife, Carla. Best critic, sounding board, and all around pal.
I was recently asked to define luxury. For me, real luxury is about having time to spend with loved ones. In that sense, I can’t live without luxury. When designing houses, you have to step back and remember the function for the forms. It usually has to do with coming together.